Top 10 Plant Problems and How to Fix Them
The diagnostic issues we see most
You’re not the first person to feel deflated by mysterious spots on your leaves. Take heart in knowing that growing is like life: unpredictable, never perfect, an exercise in futility trying to control it…but beautiful and so worthwhile when all’s said and done. So, let’s get busy doing what we love and taking things as they come.
You’ll get by with a little help from your plant friends. (That’s us!)
In the interest of simplifying things and getting to the good stuff, we pulled together a list of the most common insect and disease issues we see in the garden center and throughout Central Indiana, how to spot them and how to fix them. We’ll even recommend products (conventional and earth friendly) you can use to treat these issues and we’re working on making them all available for purchase online!
The best defense
A couple quick asides: the best defense is a strong offense. Pests and disease often strike when your plants are stressed (e.g. damage from winter, extreme moisture, extreme heat, etc.). So do what you can to maintain hardy, healthy plants.
You know those little tags that come on plants when you buy them? The ones with the name, recommended moisture, exposure, planting depth and more. Read them! There’s valuable information there that will help you choose the right plant for the right place, increasing the chances your plants will thrive in their natural habitat. You’ll also find information on susceptible diseases or conditions and what to watch for.
Let’s get to it.
The Top 10 Plant Problems and How to Fix Them
What are they? Very tiny (adults are less than 1/4 inch!), soft-bodied insects that can range in color from white to pink to brown and black. Adults and nymphs have long antennae and two short tubes (or cornicles) protruding from their bottoms. Most are wingless, but they can develop wings when food sources are depleted.
What are they? Bagworms are caterpillars that live inside highly camouflaged, cocoon-like bags spun of silken thread. As they feed, bagworms add bits of foliage to the bag, increasing its size up to two inches.
What are they? Wood-boring insects like certain beetles or moths lay their eggs on or inside trees. The larvae feed by tunneling through the bark, sapwood and heartwood of the tree, destroying water- and sap-conducting tissues.
What are they? Sap-sucking pests that attach themselves to leaves, fruits and branches of trees, shrubs and other perennials. Many species cover themselves in waxy or wooly substances as a protective cover. Unless the infestation is pervasive, they can be difficult to see.
What are they? A shell-less, nocturnal relative of snails that usually measure 1-2″ and can range in color from white to black. Generally harmless to humans, they can be counter-productive in the garden, eating plants faster than they can grow.
What are they? Insects less than 1mm in size and virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. Try holding a piece of white paper under a branch and shaking it. If infected, you’ll see small red or brown dots moving on the paper. Spider mites typically live on the undersides of leaves, often spinning protective silk webs and puncturing plant cells to feed.
What is it? A fungal disease that is used to describe a variety of diseases that cause foliar damage, and in extreme cases defoliation, in trees. It thrives in warm, moist conditions and because it can survive on plant debris, it spreads easily.
What is it? A common fungal infection that attacks the leaves and fruit of apples and crabapples. Initially an aesthetic problem, the untreated fungus can weaken a tree over time.
What is it? A distinctive fungal disease that is fairly easy to identify by its white powdery residue on leaves and stems. Powdery mildew thrives in high humidity and although it’s generally not fatal to a plant, it can spread up and down the length of the plant and decrease blooms/yield.
What is it? A fungal infection unique to maples, Tar Spot resembles dark droplets of tar on leaf surfaces. It’s rarely serious enough to threaten the health of your tree, but it can become unsightly and cause premature leaf drop.
If you’re still not sure what you’re dealing with, bag up a sample and/or bring in a photo or two and any of our yard and garden professionals can help you identify the problem and share recommended next steps.