It’s been an unusually wet spring. April showers have continued into June and brought with them more than May flowers. Gardens are blooming with color but not all of it is floral. Colorful molds and leaf-spotting fungi are taking a toll on garden plants and shrubs. Leaf diseases thrive in wet weather, and this year’s soggy spring has provided them with optimal growing conditions. Once they get a toe-hold in your garden, fungal diseases can spread rapidly, infecting multiple plants.
Depending on the fungal disease, infected plant leaves may develop black or brown spots, turn yellow, start to curl or seem to pucker. Some diseases can cause plant stalks to become slimy and disintegrate into sodden mush. The constantly wet soil may also cause root rot in some plants and shrubs. Plants that don’t lose their foliage prematurely will give summer gardens an unsightly, sickly appearance. Many plants will still flower, but gardeners should expect displays to be stunted. Without the normal green background provided by healthy leaves, summer gardens are likely to take on a spindly and anemic appearance.
At this point, spraying plants with a fungicide may provide some relief but is not recommended by horticulturists. Because diseased plants do not exhibit symptoms immediately, many plants that still appear to be healthy may have already been infected by fungus. Garden experts recommend that gardeners monitor plants and remove those that die or become severely diseased to limit spreading the fungus. Despite the unsightly appearance they cause, horticulturists say most fungal diseases pose little threat to healthy, well-established plants. Spraying gardens with a broad-spectrum fungicide early next spring should eliminate the problem next year.
Next time: Identifying plant diseases