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Problems with bedding plants

What is wrong with my bedding plants? They were beautiful when I planted them but after a few weeks they are just sitting there and they actually look bad. Many annual bedding plants such as impatiens and petunias may be declining. The deluge of rainfall earlier and the unusual weather patterns experienced over the past few weeks are major culprits. Unseasonable cooler temperatures earlier provided the perfect environment for root and stem rot diseases. Annuals planted a month ago may have fallen victim to both soil-borne root and stem rot.

Unfortunately, these fungi persist in the soil causing problems for both summer and cool season annuals. Below are strategies that will help reduce soil borne fungal diseases and improve bedding plant establishment. 

  • Improve drainage by raising beds 3-6 inches above grade.
  • Incorporate organic matter/ground bark into the soil to improve drainage in clay soils.
  • Apply systemic fungicides at planting in areas that have a history of fungal root problems.
  • Remove the entire plant including the soil around the roots before planting new bedding plants.
  • Inspect new bedding plant roots carefully and avoid plants with dark and discolored roots.
  • Remove the top three inches of soil in the planting area and replace with new soil.
  • Avoid planting the same bedding plants in the same location each year.
  • Avoid irrigation when rainy weather is forecast.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .

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