The Q&A Archives: Mosaic on gladiolus

Question: Last year I had mosaic virus on my 150 gladiolus corms. I removed and destroyed them all, planting new corms. But this year the disease is back again. What should I do to successfully grow gladiolus in the same patch next year? Calvin Butler Cattaraugus, NY

Answer: You'll be glad to hear that the problem is not in your soil. Cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted from infected corms to healthy ones by sucking insects such as aphids. Either the corms you bought this year were infected already, or insects migrated from a nearby cucumber, melon or squash patch to infect your new corms, explains Gary Adams, owner of Pleasant Valley Glads and Dahlias, a grower of more than six acres of gladiolus in Agawam, Massachusetts. The symptoms of cucumber mosaic virus are white streaking on the leaves, stunted growth and flecked and discolored blossoms - if the plant flowers at all, notes Adams. I usually find it on corms older than four years. Unless the plants are removed immediately, it can spread throughout the patchin a single year. Start again by buying virus-free corms from a reputable dealer. If you receive corms with signs of the virus - lumpy and pitted, with black spots inside the pits - cut some open. If the interior flesh is brown-streaked, then theyhave mosaic. Return the corms immediately, ask for a refund and try another supplier, advises Adams. It is also a good idea to locate your gladiolus patch at least 200 feet away from any squash-family vegetables to reduce the exposure to insects, he adds. Check and destroy any infected plants as soon as you notice the symptoms of the virus. When digging corms in fall, pull out suspect corms. Some gladiolus varieties are less susceptible to cucumber mosaic virus. Try growing the Daydream, Fiesta orGoldstruck varieties, suggests Adams.

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