Blight attacks flowers and herbs

Backyard Q&A

August 02, 1998

Q. Some of the plants in my beautiful flower and herb garden (sage, coreopsis, thyme, salvia) are dying even though they are well-watered and fertilized. The stems turn black and they just PTC fold up. Is this a disease problem? What can I do about it?

A.Sounds like Southern blight, a significant soil-borne fungal disease of annuals and perennials that is encouraged by hot, humid weather. Affected lower stems turn brown or black, and foliage wilts and dies.

Tan-colored fungal fruiting bodies, the size of a small seed, may be seen on affected stems. In some cases, infected plants can be cut back to the ground and will regrow. However, the disease may kill crown and roots, in which case plants need to be removed.

There are no effective chemical controls for Southern blight. To minimize the problem, keep mulch away from plant stems; water plants in the morning; work in organic matter in the soil this fall; and space plants farther apart.

This Week's Checklist

* Avoid injuring tree trunks with a lawn mower by removing turf around trees or by hand-trimming the turf.

* Erect a simple string fence around your sweet corn planting to prevent the stalks from falling over in a thunderstorm.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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