The Q&A Archives: Leaves on Marigolds Spotted and Wilting

Question: I grew marigolds under lights to get a start on the season. The plants were healthy until about 3 weeks before planting. At that time the leaves began turning a brownish, mottled color. Then eventually dried up completely. They were well watered and the root systems looked very healthy. The variety I planted are the "Three Great Ladies". I have grown this variety for years and never had this problem. What went wrong?

Answer: What a shame to lose your lovely ladies! It sounds to me like mites were the culprits here. They are common indoor plant pests, and cause mottling and browing of leaves. If they drink enough plant juices, they can kill plants. They're hard to see because they're so small - they resemble bits of soil or dust on the undersides of leaves. Not all mites produce webs, either, so often the first evidence you have of their presence is stippled leaves. To prevent the same scenario with your next batch of seedlings, check leaves of any houseplants in you home with a magnifying glass, and apply insecticidal soap or an organic, neem-based insecticide to eradicate them. Keep a close eye on your seedlings too, and see if your neem-based product is recommended as a repellent for mites as well. Best of luck next time!

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