The Q&A Archives: Rot of Verbenas

Question: For three years in a row, my homestead verbena have developed wilt and then rot. It starts in the center of the plant and radiates outward. Do I need to remove these plants and start over?

Answer: It sounds like your plants are succumbing to a soil-borne fungus or bacteria. First, I would get rid of the plants and start over. Since you live in a warm climate, you can successfully solarize your soil to help eliminate the disease. This needs to be done in mid or late summer, so your bed will be out of commission for awhile. Once all plants are removed, cultivate the bed (a 10-foot square at a time). Add a 1-2 inch layer of fresh manure or slightly rotted manure and work it into the soil. Shape the bed so it's ready to plant. Dampen well and leave overnight. The next day, spread a sheet of heavy clear plastic over the area and bury the edges, leaving the plastic loose enough to allow it to puff up with excess steam. Tape up any tears or holes. Leave the area alone for 4-5 weeks. Then uncover and water and plant, without cultivating again. Hopefully, this will take care of your disease problem.

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