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Hibiscus sabdariffa root rot

Posted by greentiger87 Houston, TX - 9a (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 14, 12 at 15:24

Please help me ID the killer of my plant :/

So, I grew two Hibiscus sabdariffa (Roselle or Sorrel, used for Hibiscus tea) from seed this year. Both of them took off fantastically, despite one being cut in half when it was just a seedling. They were planted with okra, each at the end of a long bed with plants two feet apart.

One of them suddenly started declining, first with severe chlorosis from bottom up, and then severe wilt, progressing from one side of the plant to the other. The plant was totally wilted and dead within a week. The okra and other roselle appeared completely fine.. the other roselle was even getting too big to handle.

When I started to cull the plant, a very foul smell was extremely obvious. There was no obvious decay on any of the main stems, the crown/foot, or any sign of anything unusual above the soil line, except for the odor. Wilted stems I cut to help with identification appeared totally healthy in cross section. Peripheral lateral roots that I pulled up first had no obvious decay

The crown pulled out of the ground with extreme ease, and then the problem became obvious. The inside of the crown and down into primary root was completely dark brown/black, decayed from the inside out. A light brown gel or slime was apparent on one side.

Weather conditions were extremely wet in June and into July, but it's been very hot and humid with no rain for several weeks. Soil is a nutrient rich, slightly alkaline clay with a nice layer of organic matter. Drainage is relatively good, because of the grade, the raised bed, and a french drain.

My first thought was cotton root rot, but I don't think the symptoms quite fit. I'm going to apply Actinovate to the adjacent plants as a precaution, as I have some left over. I'd appreciate any help!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Hibiscus sabdariffa root rot

I really wish I had a pic to help you out.
The obvious answer is the drainage isn't as good as you think it is.
You thouroughly mixed the clay soil with the "organic matter" right? Did you use manure?
How far down did you dig and add manure and mix it in?
Did you just make the raised bed and stick the soil in it? Then add the cow manure? Over clay without digging and mixing the manure in first?
Hibiscus roots go real deep.
They rot real fast if the moisture doesn't drain real good.
Mabey since it was just the one plant, that is the lowest part of the raised bed and you just didn't realize it.
Water is a strange thing, it has a life of it's own, it's amazing how it moves and always seems to find the lowest point.

RE: Hibiscus sabdariffa root rot

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 9, 12 at 11:43

The first thing that comes to mind when you describe the slime and foul odor is bacterial wetwood or slimeflux, but hibiscus is also commonly infected with verticillium wilt, other wilt diseases, bacterial root infections, and root infections associated with the fungal group of damping off diseases, so you may never know for sure, but let's hope it's not discovered to be a recurrent issue.


RE: Hibiscus sabdariffa root rot

Sounds like your need to have your soil tested by your local extension agent. You might want to put the rotted root in a ziplock bag to help them identify your problem. I do hope you did cut the branches and are trying to get more starts.

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