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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Plant diseases--Control, Fungicides, Powdery mildew diseases, Integrated pest management, Dahlia

What can I do about powdery mildew on my dahlias? Should I throw the bulbs away, or does it only contaminate the plant above the ground? I have heard both too much water and not enough water cause this problem. Is either true?


The main thing you will need to do is destroy all the foliage affected by the mildew. The mildew can survive the winter on infected foliage, and then spread to new foliage.

Powdery mildew thrives where plants are crowded and there isn't enough air circulation, so give your plants space, a sunny site, and try watering in the morning, and watering from beneath the plants (not over the leaves) so they are able to dry off during the course of the day. As you indicated, too little water can also be a problem.

Here are two websites with additional information:
Univ. of California IPM Online Guide
Washington State University Extension Garden Tips

I did not come across any information specifically saying that powdery mildew will affect bulbs or tubers. I spoke to an experienced dahlia and begonia grower here who said that it should be all right to store and replant your tubers, as long as you thoroughly get rid of all the diseased foliage aboveground.

Some sources (such as The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, edited by Barbara Ellis, Rodale Press, 1996) suggest that a baking soda spray (1 tsp. per 1 quart of warm water, with a bit of dish soap) is protective or preventive, but Washington State University Extension professor Linda Chalker Scott disputes the efficacy of this method. She says that other methods work better:
"Other treatments have been more successful in powdery mildew control, including horticultural oils, potassium bicarbonate, potassium phosphate, sulfur, milk, and even water sprays. Probably the most field success has been found in combining SBC [sodium bicarbonate] with horticultural oils, including mineral and vegetable oils (see the Fall 2008 MasterGardener magazine). The mixtures are so effective that they've been successful even on serious powdery mildew epidemics."

Date 2017-08-08
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Rooting, Fungicides, Plant cuttings, Propagation

What is the purpose of the chemical in store-brand rooting hormone? I'd rather not use anything with chemicals when I'm propagating plants. Are there alternatives?


The chemical in rooting hormone (usually Indole-3-Butyric acid) acts as a growth stimulator. In commercial rooting hormone formulations, it may be combined with fungicide to prevent the development of fungus/fungal diseases during the rooting process, as is the case with a common brand, Rootone, which contains Thiram (a fungicide). The Environmental Protection Agency has more information about Indole-3-Butyric acid.

If you would rather not use synthetic rooting hormone, you can skip this stage altogether, or you can try making willow water to encourage rooting instead. Oregon State University explains how to make a rooting tonic using willow (page 2).

Date 2017-09-27
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August 01 2017 12:36:01