I need a butterfly friendly fungicide for my zinnias

christie_sw_mo(Z6)July 7, 2012

I have a very large bed of zinnias (160+ plants) that I'm growing to attract butterflies and last year, many of them got brown crispy lower leaves. This year, I've only seen a couple brown leaves so far so I'm hoping there's still something I can do to prevent it that will not kill or repel butterflies. They're not blooming yet but almost, within the next couple days. I have lots of buds.

I've never had a mildew problem. This is something else. I'm pretty sure some kind of fungus, but possibly just nutritional.

My mistakes so far - I planted them in the same spot as last year, didn't clean up old plants very well, and I've been watering them overhead, almost every morning because they're small and we've had triple digit temps.

Someone in another forum mention powdered cinnamon for zinnias, but not sure if they meant for mildew or other diseases.

Whatever my zinnias had last year didn't kill them. They just looked terrible and of course didn't bloom as well as they should've so I don't think I need complete control.

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Your soil looks like it needs a ton of help. No soil should be bare like yours. You need organic mulch which will feed the soil and make it thrive with biological activity. This alone could help your plants better fend off the fungus, your plant's health is directly related to your soil's health, and your soil's health right now is severely lacking.

Bandaid solutions like fungicide should be put off until you have a functional soil system.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:54PM
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And yes, you're right, it might not even be fungus.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:55PM
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The person that suggested the cinnamon probably assumed you had Powdery Mildew, a common problem with Zinnias. If your plants have a light, whitish, hazy substance on the leaves they may well have Powdery Mildew. Other methods of control include a 50/50 mixture of fat free milk and water or mizxing 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda in 1 quart of water and spraying those on the plants, preferrably early in the day before the butterflies start to flit arouns.
While your soil does need attention PM on Zinnias can happen even on plants growing in a good, healthy soil although will less trouble.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 6:29AM
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lol Gribble. I live in the Ozarks. That IS improved. : ) I've added compost there, although I'm sure not enough. I do use mulch a lot but not in that area because I direct sowed the seeds.

I'm sure it's not powdery mildew. I'll try your suggestions Kimmsr and see if that will cut down on it a bit this year. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:48AM
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You should have a constant layer of organic mulch on your soil, without it your soil is suffering

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:07PM
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Powdery mildew seldom develops into brown, crispy foliage. Without seeing to confirm, I'd speculate the issue may be rust - likely one of the most difficult fungal diseases to control. It does not respond well to most fungicides, whether natural/organic or more chemically heavy duty.

If that is what the issue is, your best solution is to try to avoid the problem to begin with. A lot of modern hybrid zinnias tend to be resistant. And make sure you do a thorough clean-up this fall. Rotating your planting or plant in another area. Avoid any overhead watering. FWIW, gribble has th right idea - an organic mulch is an excellent thing to add to any planting area and especially one prone to disease issues. In most cases they will smother fungal spores or otherwise discourage their growth if not generating beneficial microorganisms that will devour any pathogens outright.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 3:53PM
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terrene(5b MA)

My Zinnias got those crispy leaves at the bottom last year, but the plants were so tall and bushy that you couldn't even see the bottom of the plants, and also I had Melampodium planted in front, so it wasn't noticeable.

I do plant the tall Zinnias in a new spot every year. The one year I didn't, they got terrible powdery mildew (could be a coincidence, or maybe not!).

Mulches are wonderful, except that I don't mulch areas where seeds are sowed or seedlings are planted until the plants get about 1 foot tall or so. Slugs are probably the number one hazard to my seedlings - and the mulch encourages the slugs.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 1:06AM
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