The Q&A Archives: White Patches On Bushes

Question: For the past 2 years, at about this time of the year (early to late fall), white spots have appeared on the bushes in our front yard. If the first frost is not early, the spots enlarge and a white powdery substance develops. Last year, we did not treat this problem and over the winter the white patches seemed to disappear. The bushes were fine over the summer but the patches have reappeared in the past few weeks. Moreover, I recently brought inside some Gerber daisies that were planted next to the bushes and a white furry film has developed over the soil in the pots. Is this some sort of fungus? How can I treat it in order to save the bushes, the daisies and my other house plants? Thanks for your help in this matter.

Answer: Based on your description I can't give you a definite answer about the bushes but it is possible they have been attacked by a fungus, possibly even mildew. You might want to take a sample to your County Extension (566-0673) for a more specific identification and possibly some suggestions for controlling it.

Fungus may appear on the surface of the soil in plant pots for a number of reasons, but the most common would be overly damp soil and/or poor air circulation and/or temperatures that are either too warm or too cool. In my experience things like this often occur when plants are brought inside with garden soil as opposed to plants grown in the relatively "clean" soilless potting mixes. Adjusting the growing conditions may stop it. You might also ask your County Extension about an appropriate fungicide for indoor use or try several light waterings with chamomile tea. It should not spread to your other plants as long as the overall conditions do not favor it and as long as you do not physically introduce it to the other plants by your hands or tools or other equipment.

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