Petunia diseases (again)

bonniet(Z6)June 24, 2008

Hi. I used to live in Pennsylvania and had a terrible time growing wave petunias, that would get what I think is phytophthera, wilting disease.

Well, last fall, we moved to Hampton, GA, just a little bit south of Atlanta. I was hoping my difficult petunia days were over, but it is not to be.

Most of the wave petunias in hanging baskets are doing fine, except one died of some kind of disease that made the bottom leaves turn dark gray and mushy. Eventually, the whole plant just suddenly wilts and collapses. One day, it will be fine, and the next--wilted and dying.

I don't know if this is the same disease as the one I had in Philly. It just doesn't look the same to me. In Philly, the disease would always start on one side of the plant and gradually spread to the other. Here, the plant just suddenly wilts and dies. When I pull up the plants, the roots are fine, and the stems look okay, but the leaves underneath are mush. I tried spraying my last remaining in-ground petunia with Chlorothalonil, but it rained a few hours later, washing it off. I tried again tonight, but the plant is already feeling a bit limp, though not quite wilting.

Does anyone have any idea what the disease is? Botrytis, maybe?

We have been in a drought situation for months, so too much rain isn'tthe culprit. We are allowed to water for 25 minutes, 3 times a week, which we do, with a soaker hose. And we have been getting some spotty rain, off and on, for the past month.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did you bring the same pots???

did you sterilize the pots if you did bring them with you???

are the pots in full sun .... if not.. is the shadier side where the problems always start???

what type of potting media are you using???

there are so many variables to finding a cause .... i cant even begin to surmise why you are having repeated problems...

but i have to tell you one thing... i would NEVER use chemicals..... i would simply move on to a new plant ... why are you repeatedly buying a plant that is so problematic for you????

there are at lest 100 plants i have given up on ... i can only beat my head on the side of the house for so long.. before it dawns on me that it really shouldnt be all that hard to grow a nice garden ... and i am no longer willing to expose myself to chemicals.. simply to try to prolong the head beating ...

the simplest solution is to find a new plant ... and new pots .. or clean everything in a 10% bleach solution before reuse ...

there ought to be a whole new world of regional plants available to you in your new location ... go for it ...

good luck


    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:21AM
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Try growing million bells and see if they work for you. I've had good luck with them this year.

I've also had good luck with a Petunia called "Supertunia."

Here is a link that might be useful: Supertunia

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:40AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Welcome to the Deep South, where you will have to learn to garden all over again (almost). :) Petunias do great as filler between pansy time and summer annual time. But, when the heat and humidity moves in about mid June, they will, for the most part, give up the fight and die. There are exceptions, but only up to a point.

On the other hand, the situation you describe doesn't sound like heat exhaustion. Usually petunias just begin to decline and over a couple weeks, dry up and turn brown. I don't know about what you describe. But my point is, you were fighting a losing battle anyway. Plant sweet potato vines in your pots for the rest of the summer. They love our heat, sun or shade.

Stay cool! By next year, you'll be used to it. :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 1:22PM
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1. I am no stranger to the deep South. I lived there for many years, before moving to Philly. I used to grow petunias there all the time, the "Cascade" kind, and never had trouble with them, except having to keep them trimmed, so they wouldn't get leggy.

2. I grew a few Wave petunias in pots in Philly, but I don't think they got sick; just the ones in the ground and only on one side of the garden. The ones in the pots did fine. Yes, I brought some pots with me, and yes, I sterilized them.

2. I would LOVE to find Supertunias. I grew them the very first year we were in Philly and loved them. They took over the whole annual garden we had out front. But I never saw them again after that, just the Wave ones. I think the Supertunias do better. I did see them down here--but not until long after I had planted the Wave ones.

3. I have two other Wave petunias in pots that are thriving. One is in full sun out front (where the other one was, that died, but it's in a different pot, which I also sterilized) and the other out back. But it's a newer plant. I have two others in pots out back that are okay, but straggly and not blooming well. I have fertilized them and they look a bit better. They don't get as much sun as the ones out front, with the nearby woods. But I have a lantana growing next to them, on the shepherd's crook and it is blooming its little heart out. And it likes sun as much as petunias. However, I may move the shepherd's crooks further into the yard. The petunias there aren't sick, just scraggly.

I am using regular, all-purpose potting soil, from bags, in the pots. And regular garden soil in the garden, where they died, supplemented with potting soil. However nearly everything else there is doing very well.

What are million bells? Never heard of them.

Now, if I could figure out what happened to three out of my four calibrachoas, in the wooden decorative wheelbarrow out front. I know, close kin to petunias. I had four planted there, with a geranium in the middle. The plants just all of a sudden wilted. No sign of rot in the roots, on stem, or leaves. So, I replaced them with one trailing verbena, and two zinnias. All are thriving. The one remaining calibrachoa is a double one and thriving, too. Weird.

Thanks for all your advice! I am learning what grows well down here and I guess if I want a nice, trailing plant, I should grow verbenas and lantanas--they're in the same family, I found out.

Other plants that are doing well--pentas, zinnias (which did lousy in Philly), marigolds, and Madigascar periwinkles, though I did lose one of them. Oh, and impatiens and wax begonias, but the latter don't do as well down here as they did in Philly. I think they like cooler temps.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 7:28PM
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I looked onto the Supertunia site; and they look great. And are supposed to be heat tolerant, maybe more than the "Wave" petunia.

I think I did see "Supertunias" the last year in Philly, but again, it was later in the season, after I had already planted Wave Petunias, because they were the only ones I could find, that spread and don't need trimming. But I liked Supertunias much better; they spread more and didn't get sick when I grew them in Philly the first year. But maybe Wave wouldn't have been affected the first year, either. Who knows?

Next year, I will try calling a regular nursery to see if they carry Supertunias, instead of trying to get them from Lowe's or Home Depot or Wal-Mart. But all of the true nurseries around here are some distance away.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 8:02PM
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bunny6(7 AR)

Now I know it is not just me whose petunia are dying off. I have lost 12 wave petunia this year due to disease. They are fine one day and then the next they are wilted, so I replanted those plants. Then a flash flood came through and I lost 6 more plants. I guess the rain beat them to death. The petunia were located around the edge of my garden. I can't find anymore petunia in town to buy, so I am off to buy Vinca. Additionally, my friend has lost 4 petunia plants also. No more wave petunia for me!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 10:52PM
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Misery loves company, eh? :) You live in Arizona? Maybe it's too hot and dry for them there. it may be down in the Southeast, too, though the air is much more humid.
Next year, I am going to try to find Supertunias, that I first grew in Philly, that did so well. Maybe they are more heat tolerant and disease resistant than the Wave petunias. And if I do find and plant some, and they die too, then I give up. If I want something trailing with pretty flowers and that is heat and drought tolerant, I will plant verbena and lantana.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 12:12PM
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These are Wave petunia volunteers growing in the scant polymeric sand in the joints in my flagstone sidewalk! My originals were planted 2 years ago (in the bed, not the sidewalk) and seeded out. This is a southern and eastern exposure, protected from western afternoon sun. I've been amazed and have to keep my husband from plucking out the seedlings because he thinks they are weeds when young!

These are totally ignored by us in terms of care. I don't know why they do so well in sand, laying on top of flagstone that gets really hot on our 100+ degree days.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 10:13PM
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I would like to share my experience growing Supertunia Vista Bubblegum for the last few years. They grow well for me from the first of May until the first of July. Then one by one they just up and die and not from a lack of water. I emailed Proven Winners last year, to ask if they knew why the petunias were all dying on me. I planted them in the ground and they thought maybe it was a dog.

This year I finally figured it out. I was watering one of them a few days ago and noticed a lot of cloudy-smoky stuff coming out of the soil and right then I knew I was seeing fungal spores. I emailed Proven Winners and told them I now knew why my Supertunias were dying. I have had the same thing happen to a few of my Million Bells that I planted in the ground.

John, from Proven Winners emailed me back and said I was right and that it was Botrytis, a water borne fungus that makes clouds spores when disturbed by winds and water. He told me to plant the petunias on a mound and that this would help the crown of the plant stay high and dry. He said to water the soil and not the foilage and not to crowd the plants. He also said I could spray fungicides but he did not advise it.

I lost 5 plants last year and so far this year have thrown out 4. We have had a lot of rain this spring and now going into the summer. I have pretty much given up on trying to grow petunias. I am tired of spending $4 for one Supertunia--to have it up and die on me after 2 months. I find petunias to require too much babying for my soil, so I am not planting anymore of them. I do grow Million Bells in pots and they do pretty well. Some get long and stop blooming in August, but I just cut them back and they start blooming again.

Cameron, your petunias are beautiful. I will just enjoy the ones that others grow.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 8:37PM
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I don't think my petunias have botrytis. I haven't noticed any cloud of spores when I pull up the dead plants. The bottom leaves are wilted, and shrivel up and die, and the wilting moves up the stem, until the whole plant collapses. I have had this happen in petunias in hanging baskets, planted with sterile potting soil. I only have one petunia left, in a hanging basket out front. It faces south and gets sun most of the day and is bushy and very happy. The others were in the ground out front, or in baskets out back. The ones out back didn't get quite the sun the ones out front did,but I have lantana planted next to the petunials, in baskets, and they are blooming beautifully, so it can't be lack of sun.

I grew some wave petunias in a couple of baskets, as well as a callibrachoa in a hanging basket, the last full summer we were in Philly and both did well, didn't die. But they died in the ground. I think the ones in the ground died from a wilt disease, phytophthera. It's the same disease family that caused the late blight, that killed all the potatoes, causing the great famine in Ireland, in the 1840's.

I may still try the Supertunias next year, if I can find them, and grow them in hanging baskets. After sterilizing all my hanging baskets, of course. If I want a hanging type plant, in the ground, or in my other big planters, on our front porch, I will just grow verbena and lantanas--nothing bothers them and they like the heat and humidity here.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 8:29AM
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