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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - October 12, 2005

From: Buena Vista, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders
Title: Smarty Plants on fungal attack
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have three plants that have been getting fungus on their soil and I've tried to get rid of it by scraping it off, watering it less and more sunlight. It's two coleus and a begonia. I don't know what else I can do to get rid of it. The fungus attacked the base of one of the plants, and I'd really like to be rid of it. Once I get rid of it, is there a way I can keep it away?

ANSWER:

Since both coleus and begonias (neither are native species) are easy to propagate by cuttings, I recommend that you do that. Just take some cuttings of healthy top-growth from your plants and start them in water or sterile rooting media in a warm window with bright, indirect sunlight.

Remove the diseased plants along with the top two inches or so of soil and replace with clean topsoil or potting media. Don't place discarded, diseased plants in compost, they should be thrown in the trash or burned. Otherwise, it sounds like you are taking the right steps to avoid most fungal problems. Before using any kind of fungicide, you should first positively identify the pathogen. Your county extension agent can assist you with that if you desire.

Here are a couple links that you might find useful. The first, House Plants: Proper Care and Problem Solving is an excellent information page of North Dakota State University. Another, Houseplant Diseases and Disorders is published by Clemson University Extension.

 

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