What's wrong with my plant?

By KIM COWHERD Extension Agent for Horticulture Published:

You are out in your yard, working away on your perennials, and you notice your Blue Maid Holly shrub has some browning leaves, some leaves are yellowing, and the twigs are turning black!

Or perhaps you have planted your vegetable garden, and a few of your pepper plants are curling from the tips, and the leaves are twisting in a strange way.

Or your neighbor has a tree with holes all along the sides, a sawdust substance is coming out of the holes, and the bark is falling off. What is wrong with your plant?

Sick, dead and dying plant material; unknown plants; unknown insect pests; and soil samples can all be brought to the Franklin County Extension Office for identification, diagnosis, and suggestions for treatment. This service is provided free of charge to the public (soil samples are $2.50 each).

Follow these steps, if you would like to use this beneficial service and bring your samples to us.

Diseased Plant Samples:

Provide plenty of freshly collected plant material that shows the symptoms. When possible send the entire plant, including roots with some soil, and top growth. Include twigs, leaves, bark, and fruit or seed, where applicable.

Provide lots of information, such as a description of the soil, nearby plants, pattern of symptoms in the lawn or landscape planting, and a history of the problem. Remember to include information about chemicals used, if any, to include fertilizers.

Include photos of the problem when possible.

Include enough plant material, to show all stages of the disease from healthy to very sick and dead.

Wrap specimens in paper towels or clean newspapers. Do not add moisture. Pack loosely in a sealed plastic bag to reduce drying.

Incomplete information or poorly selected specimens may result in an inaccurate diagnosis or inappropriate control recommendations.

Badly damaged specimens are often unidentifiable and additional sample requests can cause delays. Good quality photos may be emailed. Be sure to include close-ups of all diseased parts, and use a ruler in the photo or some indicator for the size of the specimen.

Insect Samples:

When possible, collect more than one insect for evaluation.

Place specimens in a small, clear, plastic or glass jar. Insects such as flies, aphids, ants (or any tiny insects), grubs and caterpillars must be preserved in glass or plastic vials containing enough rubbing alcohol to cover the samples. Insects such as beetles, wasps, crickets etc. may be packaged in layers of tissue paper and placed in a pill bottle or crush-proof container. Do not put specimens on tape. Do not add other types of liquid.

All moths and butterflies have scales on the wings that are needed for identification. They need to be kept dry. Do not crush.

Single insect specimens are often difficult to identify and the possibility of damage is great. Try to include more than one insect per submission. Crushed and damaged specimens are very difficult to identify.

Turf Identification

or Diseased Turf Samples:

Submit several approximately 4-inch plugs of grass cut as deeply as roots will hold soil. Plugs should show gradation from healthy to severely diseased.

Place only one sample each in a sealed plastic bag.

Be sure the samples are free from excess moisture. Do not add liquid.

Weed or other Plant

Identification Samples:

If possible, and where applicable, include leaves, flowers, fruit, stem, bark, roots. Include pictures of the plant growing if possible.

Be able to identify where the sample was found and under what growing conditions.

Place in a sealed plastic bag. Do not add liquid.

For all samples, be prepared to answer some questions regarding your submission. For all samples Where was this found and how long has it been there? Are there others in the same location?

For disease samples What soil or other weather or environmental conditions are affecting the plant; how long has the problem been going on, or how old is the planting? Is the same problem affecting other plants in the landscape? Have any chemicals been applied?

For additional information on submitting plant, insect and disease samples, call the Extension office and ask for Publication PPA9 or view it on the web at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ppa/ppa9/ppa9.htm. For submitting soil samples ask for Publication AGR-16 or on the web at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr16/agr16.pdf.

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