Recognizing and treating fungus problems on your plants.

She asked, “What’s wrong with my plants? Should I spray them with liquid Sevin?”  We walked out to look at the leaves on the viburnum Davidii that lined one of the planting beds.

fungus damage on viburnum leaf

fungus damage on viburnum leaf

I said, “Liquid Sevin won’t help you here because it is an insecticide. The problem with these plants is not insect related but is fungus related instead.” I pointed to the holes in the leaves. “These are a sign of a fungus disease that is called ‘shot holes.’ The problem starts as a spot on the leaf and then grows outward in concentric circles. As the spot on the leaf kills the plant cells, it ends up looking like a hole that has been eaten by a worm or an insect. The dark brown end of the other leaf in the picture is a sign of another kind of fungus.”

We started walking around and looking at other plants. Some of the leaves on the dragon wing begonias were looking funny. The spots are fungus related as are the curly leaves. You will also notice a browning on the margins of the leaves.

fungus problem on dragon wing begonia leaf

fungus problem on dragon wing begonia leaf

The hosta plants are showing a lot of fungal damage. Some of this damage may be from getting too much sun, or the abundance of sun and the fungus are working together. The fungus attacks any weak spot in the leaf.

fungus damage on hosta leaf

fungus damage on hosta leaf

I frequently see the damage pictured below in acuba. Again, I think some of it is light related, but it seems to be mostly a fungus infection.

Fungus on acuba will eventually spread and kill the plant

Fungus on acuba will eventually spread and kill the plant

Here is fungus damage on a Knockout rose. Note the holes in the leaves and the damage on the leaf margins.

fungus damage on knockout rose leaf

fungus damage on knockout rose leaf

Paige and I discussed the fact that when something goes wrong with a plant, our first reaction is to water it more. Since fungus problems are moisture related diseases, this is the totally wrong thing to do. The begonia pictured below is a prime example of a plant that has been over watered. The leaves drop off or become spotted. The leaf margins die back, and there may be some kind or other of a powdery mildew that will attack the flowers.

indications of fungus disease on a begonia plant

indications of fungus disease on a begonia plant

Below is a plant that is probably beyond repair. One of the types of fungus is called ‘stem rot’ and is soil borne. This picture shows over- watering in its extremity.

advanced damage on plants from fungus

advanced damage on plants from fungus

I don’t know enough about the different names or kinds of fungi to be able to go into the subject and I don’t really think it is necessary. The main point is to be able to recognize a problem as fungus related instead of insect or otherwise related. The concept is the important thing.

Paige asked, “So how do I tell fungus damage from insect damage?” I replied, “If you just start looking at the problems you will see the difference. I have given you the concept and I define a concept as a collection of questions that I have never asked before.”

You can treat fungus problems on your plants. There are a number of fungicides on the market that will work. I am currently using Daconyl which gives me very good results. I think that one should have two different fungicides and alternate them. Sometimes one fungicide will kill a type of predatory fungus that works against another kind of fungus.

Daconyl, a very effective fungicide purchased at Home Depot

Daconyl, a very effective fungicide purchased at Home Depot

Your favorite nurseryman should have several kinds of fungicides to choose from. One of the best fungicides that I have found is Cleary’s 3336. This fungicide is systemic and helps control all sorts of fungus diseases, even going through the plant to reach the roots. You may find it at BT Grower’s supply online.

One of the things I like about Paige is that she asks well thought out questions—lots of them. When I told her that the fungus treatment would not get rid of the damage that had already occurred, but would prevent the damage from becoming worse, she asked, “Should one wait until the damage shows up, or should one spray to prevent the damage?”

I replied, “It is best to be proactive, but later is better than not at all.”

occasional treatment of plants with fungicide will enhance their growth and beauty

occasional treatment of plants with fungicide will enhance their growth and beauty

In the nurseries and greenhouses that produce our ornamental plants, the grower will maintain a strict fungicide program. I think that in your yard, it is satisfactory to be able to recognize the problem when it shows up. I also believe that if one were to spray the ornamentals about once a month with a fungicide, the quality of growth would improve greatly.

Remember:

Insecticide kills insects

Fungicide kills fungus.

You can decrease plant fungus problems by watering in the morning instead of at night.

And a Word from Our Sponsor:

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. These articles are sponsored by my book

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The illustrated guide to rooting begonia cuttings

 I’m going to need a lot of nice flowering plants. The Junior Service League garden tour is scheduled for April 28 and all of the urns and flower beds will have to look really good. I usually don’t even start the planting until the first of May because of the variable weather patterns in the North Georgia hills. Patsy’s going to love this.

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I have access to a greenhouse, however. Due to health and other issues, I haven’t used the greenhouse for the last couple of years but when I found out about the garden tour last October, I decided to clean up the greenhouse and to save a lot of Dragon Wing begonias that would have ordinarily gone to the trash pile. As we changed out annual color last year, I saved a number of the begonias and potted them up to use this spring. Last week (march 7), they looked like this: (if you are following these instructions at home, you don’t need a greenhouse, just a warm, well-lit area)

begonias saved from last year

begonias saved from last year

The situation is multi-faceted. I need about thirty really nice plants to plant in the urns around the pools and at doorways. I also need quite a few smaller plants to use in extensive flower bed plantings. My strategy will be to get the plants ready in the greenhouse and to do the planting at the last minute. The job is to clean up and prune the existing plants so that they will grow out big and to make some new ones. The two jobs go well together. We start with some careful cutting.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

I am cutting as a pruning process that will make the plant branch out and shape right, but I am also looking for just the right size of tips to root for new plants. A desirable tip will look like this:

begonia tip suitable for rooting

begonia tip suitable for rooting

To prepare the tip for rooting, pinch off any blooms and a lower leaf or two.

begonia tip prepared for cutting

begonia tip prepared for cutting

A rooting hormone is not a necessity, the cuttings will root without it, but using the hormone will provide quicker, healthier results. The main ingredient that I search the label for is “indole 3 butyric acid.” This is a growth hormone and it may be found in liquid or powdered formulations. I found it at a garden center.

rooting hormone gives good results

rooting hormone gives good results

We dip the cutting in the powder to coat the fresh cut end.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

The cuttings are then stuck in moist potting soil. I used Hyponex moisture control potting soil this time, but any other high quality preparation will do. You can actually use clean sand and get really good results.

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

I like to use nursery flats to stick the cuttings in. I get 40 to 50 cuttings per tray. A flower pot will work well if you are only doing a few cuttings.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

As we take cuttings for new plants, we also clean any old stems and bad leaves from the larger plants. I want to encourage the new spring growth to come from the bottom of the plant. This will give much better shape and durability.

cleaning and pruning last year's begonias

cleaning and pruning last year’s begonias

After sticking a number of cuttings in the rooting medium, I use a gentle spray of water to wash the soil in around the base of the plants and to wet the leaves.

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

.The cuttings are fully prepared at this time. They should be placed in a bright location-but not in full sun. I suggest misting the plants lightly once or twice a day. Be careful not to over water them, though. Misting works best in the morning. The leaves should be dry at night to reduce the incidence of fungal infections. The rooted cuttings should be ready for pots in two or three weeks.

The plants that we will grow out for specimens have now been totally cleaned and they look like this:

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

You can use this method for rooting cuttings with many different plants. Geraniums, begonias, impatiens, and many more plants will respond readily.

 I hope you enjoyed the article. I’ll bet you will also enjoy my novel

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

 She said, “I want my yard to look like a landscaper lives here.”

I replied, “It does look like a landscaper lives here. Remember the cobbler’s shoes.”

 I plant a lot of flowers every spring.  Actually, I plant a lot of truckloads of flowers every spring.  This year was rather hectic because I had to plant flowers for all of my clients before our May 14 wedding which was followed by a two week honeymoon trip. When you consider the fact that I can’t really start planting until April 15, it looks like an impossible task.  I did it, though-mostly. Before leaving for two weeks, I placed all of my leftover plants in what I call my “hospital” and left instructions with my neighbor, Marilyn, to keep them watered.

 There is a flower bed in Dekie’s back yard that is in just the right place, separating the patio area from the rest of the yard. It was ugly, though, and grown over with all manner of iris, daylilies, poison ivy, and all manner of other stuff, including one calla lily plant which is a treasure. We dug out everything but the calla lily and mounded up lots of compost that I get from Mike Hutchins in Menlo, Ga. It looked like this:

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

The house was probably built during the late 1920s or 30s and has obviously been inhabited by numerous gardeners. Dekie said that when she moved in, she found rocks and bricks everywhere she looked or tried to dig. We decided that we would keep the tradition of the yard and use bricks and rocks that she had found for the borders. I had packed the back of the mini van with flowers and it looked like this:

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

I use the mounded compost for almost every flower bed installation.  It is quick, easy, and it “really, really works.” There’s just something about growing in a raised bed that I like. After the compost is piled up, the earthworms go to work, tilling the good dirt way down into the existing ground. I tell people they can stick pencils in this stuff and grow erasers. It is wonderful.

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

Dekie and Speck, the coon dog checked out all of the plants as they were unloaded. Speck had a wonderful time sniffing the fertilizer.

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Around the end of June, it is sometimes hard to find the material that you want for a flower bed. I was rather fortunate the day before to have a client complain that the dragon wing begonias in her window boxes were getting too big, so I took them out and replaced them with smaller plants.  I had cut the tops out of the dragon wings and they were ready to go into the bed for the background. I love dragon wing begonias. They are, in my opinion, one of the finest flowering plants to come along in a long time.

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Since the plants had been sitting around for well over a month, they had grown sort of tall and leggy. Dekie took on the careful task of pruning each plant so that it could branch out and strut its stuff.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

When we cleaned out the bed, we were very careful to avoid disturbing the calla lily.  My mother taught me about callas and they are one of my favorite plants.

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

We laid the dragon wing begonias out and tried to be very particular because they grow rapidly and become rather large. They will make a wonderful background for the bed.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I had saved a few plants of white and purple angelonia.  We thought that they would go well between the dragon wings and the fibrous rooted begonias. This will make a terraced effect that is so nice to have. Since the plants had been in their containers for so long, we had to break up the roots so they will spread.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

We set up an assembly line. I would dig the holes (which ain’t much trouble in that wonderful compost), Dekie would then drop in the time release fertilizer, and I would finish the planting. We were finished in very little time.

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

The planting was finished and my sweet wife was grinning. I will probably go back and mulch the bed with either cypress chips or pine straw, whichever gets left over first.

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, "Happy wife, Happy life" I'm listening

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, “Happy wife, Happy life” I’m listening

 It was time to clean up the pots for recycling and then to water the plants in. I planned to use my syphonex (which is a wonderful way to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose), but I thought this may just be a job for Sunday. I like to use liquid fertilizer along with the time release to “fine tune” the plants. I think I will introduce you to the syphonex next week. It is one of the best gardening tools I know of.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I've found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I’ve found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

We set up the wonderful flower bed sprinkler. It is built out of pvc pipe with rain bird irrigation nozzles. If you want one, you can read about how to build it here

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

I’m learning about this married life. I liked the flower bed all right, but more than that, I really liked the smile on Sweetie’s face as she said, “Well, that’s a start”

********

You may also wish to check my article which tells about what happens when you prune a plant. See “The basics of pruning”

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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