Powdery mildew on ornamental plants
Fig 1. Powdery mildew fungal growth and spores on leaf surface.
Fungal spores produced on previously infected plant material are windblown in the spring to susceptible tissues. Spores landing on the surface of succulent leaf and stem tissues begin to grow and send small fungal structures into the epidermal layer of the leaf to act as anchors. After establishing itself, the fungus produces columns of spores capable of causing secondary infections (Fig. 1). Fungal growth and spores produced throughout the growing season give the leaf a white to light gray color (Fig. 2). The leaf may also appear powdery or dusty, since some of the spores can be rubbed off the plant tissue onto your fingers. Occasionally, leaves become puckered or may have necrotic (brown/dead) areas. Both temperature and relative humidity are important factors in initiation and disease development. Powdery mildew is most prevalent under conditions of cooler temperatures and high humidity. These conditions occur with poor air circulation or when cool night temperatures follow warm day temperatures. Consequently, in Minnesota we see increased levels of powdery mildew in the spring and fall of the year.
Since high relative humidity is an important factor favoring disease development, certain cultural practices can help prevent the disease or decrease its severity. Increase air circulation and light penetration. This can be accomplished by increasing ventilation and light intensity in greenhouses or homes. Trees and shrubs outside can be pruned and thinned to reduce overcrowding in the landscape. When planting new materials, select those which have resistance to powdery mildew and allow for adequate spacing of plants.
Fig 2. Powdery mildew on lilac.
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Revised by Chad Behrendt and Crystal Floyd 1999