The Q&A Archives: Fungus in Petunias

Question: My Wave Petunias are wilting and dying. My Nurseryman says that I have a fungus that can not be treated. Is there some other annual I can plant that will give me a mass of color like the petunias?

Answer: Different types (varieties) of petunias last for differing amounts of time. I have had some petunias that last well into October (the Wave series) and some that give out in mid-August. In general, in order for petunias to last a long time they need deadheading if they are the regular type and not Wave or Superpetunias that don't make seeds. You need to snip the stem that is just below the wilted flower, because the idea is to remove the developing seeds, not just the wilted flower. Every two weeks you should also snip 2 or 3 branches back by half. THis keeps the plants bushy and full, and encourages the new growth that has the most flowers. You should also either use a time-release fertilizer when you plant or fertilize them with a liquid feed every two or three weeks.

In regard to your plants wilting, it is more likely disease not insects. Plants that wither and die are usually either too wet or too dry - both can cause plants to show those symptoms. If the petunias are kept too wet they get root rot that is caused by a fungus, and it is possible to move from plant to plant (insects usually attack all plants at about the same time, rather then moving down a line) The other thing that can cause petunias to wither and die is mildew - a fungal disease that turns leaves grey and then they die. This fungus comes from the soil and the weather conditions (humid but little hard rainfall) cause the fungus to thrive. Some years a petunia might get mildew and some not. Other things that can cause this are if the plants are getting hit with hot water as it first comes out of the hose (plants get cooked) or if they get a leaf fungus from being frequently hit with water every day....water plants deeply less often instead of everyday, and let the water cool before watering the plants.

As for planting something other than petunias for masses of color, you might consider salvia, snapdragon, geranium, zinnia, cosmos, English daisy, sun coleus, plumed cockscomb, Dahlberg daisy, globe amaranth, portulaca, lantana, or verbena. Any of these annuals will show well in a sunny spot. To avoid diseases, try to water the soil, not the foliage. Best wishes with your plants!

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