Common Plant Diseases and Disorders

Find out how to recognize and treat wilt, scab, canker, blackspot and more.

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
  • Clematis Wilt is Fungus Disease

    Clematis wilt

    The fungus causes wilting and black foliage on large-flowered cultivars. Plant clematis 2-3 inches deeper than it was in the pot; cut stems to the base if the disease strikes.

  • Apple Scab is Fungal Disease Common in Damp Areas

    Apple scab

    Symptoms include brown leaf spots, leaf drop and scabby and cracked fruit. Cut off scabby shoots, remove fallen leaves and use a fungicide. Also grow resistant cultivars.

  • Cankers are Common Diseases of Apples and Pears

    Apple and pear canker

    Lesions appear on bark, and white fungus grows in summer on the wounds. Avoid growing plants on waterlogged soil. Cut out diseased wood and spray in autumn with a fungicide.

  • Blossom End Rot Indicates Irregular Watering

    Blossom end rot

    Dark patches on tomatoes are a symptom of calcium deficiency, caused by drought or irregular watering. Water more often and apply a tomato fertilizer every week after flowering.

  • Club Root Fungal Disease Causes Roots to Swell

    Club root

    This slime mold affects brassicas and causes swollen roots, pale, wilted foliage and poor crops. Infected soil or plants carry the spores. Plant a different crop on infected soil, or grow brassicas in pots.

  • Chocolate Spot Disease Shown as Red Brown Spots

    Chocolate spot

    A common fungal disease that affects broad beans. Brown spots appear on leaves, stems and pods, and yields are poor. Remove and destroy infected material. Improve soil drainage and air flow between plants.

  • Blackspot is Fugus Disease that Attacks Rose Shrub

    Rose blackspot

    Signs are yellowing leaves with black spots and sunken stem lesions. Pick off and burn infected and fallen leaves. Hard prune in late winter, then use a fungicide spray. Also, select disease-resistant roses.

  • Silver Leaf Disease in Fruit Trees


    Causes silver sheen on plum, cherry, rhododendron and rose leaves; affected stems may die. Prune in summer to minimize infection. Prune out and destroy affected wood. Feed to boost plants' vigor.

  • Black Bootlaces is Fatal Fungal Disease

    Honey fungus

    Toadstools appear in autumn at the base of trees or shrubs, with a white fungus that smells of mushrooms under the bark. Black \"bootlaces\" appear in the soil. There's no cure, so remove the plant and all the roots to prevent the spread of this fatal disease.

  • Gray Mold Attacks Wide Range of Plants

    Botrytis (gray mold)

    This fungal disease takes hold in humid conditions, especially on spring and autumn bedding plants, and in greenhouses. Flowers and leaves turn yellow or brown and may have a gray furry coating. Soft fruits and tomatoes also rot. Remove dead material, and injured stems and leaves promptly.

  • Powdery Mildew is Result of High Humidity

    Powdery mildew

    A white fungus appears on leaves and stems of crops and ornamental plants, especially those growing in pots and planters, or by fences and walls where air circulation may be limited. Susceptibility increases with lack of water and poor growing conditions. Water well, avoiding getting moisture on the foliage, then feed and mulch to boost resistance.

  • Potato Scab Forms if Tubers are Grown in Dry Soil

    Potato scab/blight

    Scab forms if tubers are grown in dry soil; add organic matter and water well to increase moisture. Blight is more serious in wet conditions. The foliage browns and wilts, and tubers rot. Destroy all affected plants and don't grow potatoes in the soil for three years.

  • Rust  Spores Increase in Wet Conditions


    A fungal disease that causes brown, orange or yellow pustules on the backs of leaves. The spores increase in humid conditions. Pick off and destroy affected growth. Look for resistant varieties.

  • Sooty Mold is Black Fungus Seen on Leaf Surface

    Sooty mold

    This black fungus is often seen on the upper leaf surfaces of evergreen shrubs. It grows on the sticky mess produced by sap-sucking insects. Kill the pests, and wash off the mold with mild soapy water.

  • Coral Spot is Fungal Disease of Woody Plants

    Coral spot

    The orange-pink fungus grows on dead wood but can also infect living tissue if plants are weak or poorly pruned. Cut out and destroy diseased wood. Feed and water plants well to boost their immunity.

  • Bud Blast Keeps Buds from Opening

    Rhododendron bud blast

    Buds on infected plants remain unopened and look silvery. In late spring they develop black bristles. Remove affected buds and take to a recycling center. There's no chemical treatment.

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

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