How Do Your Plants Get Sick?

Written by Amir Tajer


Posted on June 05 2020

Plant diseases can frustrate the most experienced gardeners. Sick plants not only look bad, but they can negatively impact the plant health of your entire garden.

Using the right water soluble fertilizer can help boost disease resistance, as can some basic know-how about plant pathogens.

To help you keep plant diseases at bay, we've answered the most common questions about plant health.

What Does a Sick Plant Look Like?

What are symptoms of sick plants? wilted plants

The most common signs of disease in a plant is dry, wilting and discolored leaves. This can be a bit confusing for novice gardeners, since it can be difficult to know if the plant is sick, or if it just needs a good dose of water soluble fertilizer.

If the plant is well-hydrated and fertilized and it still has yellowing leaves, part of the plant suddenly dies off, or the plant is loose in the soil, chances are good the plant is diseased.

What Are Common Plant Diseases?

Root rot in plants root rot in potted plants plant diseases

There are dozens of common plant diseases that can be divided into two categories: abiotic (non-living), and biotic (linked to a pathogen).

Biotic diseases are caused by pathogens, while abiotic diseases are largely linked to environmental factors such as air population, under or over-fertilization, and poor growing conditions.

The most common diseases that impact plants include anthracnose, which turns green plant leaves yellow, then dark brown.

Root and stem rot are also common, and they lead to wilted leaves and brown or black colored roots that are noticeably soft.

Powdery mildew is also common, and it leads to a white, powdery growth on leaves that can eventually kill the entire plant.

How Do Pathogens Infect Plants?

Person watering a house plant on floor

Pathogens such as viruses, fungi and bacteria can infect plants through contaminated soil and water. Pathogens can also infect a plant when the disease-causing organism contacts the leaves of stems.

In order for a plant disease to develop, three factors need to exist:

  1. A vulnerable host plant
  2. A disease-causing pathogen
  3. The right environmental conditions

Many common plant diseases are specific to only a few species. For example, late blight can only infect tomato and potato plants, leaving neighboring plants unaffected.

Pathogens also need the right temperature and moisture conditions to thrive, which is why many plant pathogens are seasonal.

Generally speaking, indoor plants are less vulnerable to plant diseases than outdoor plants simply because the controlled indoor environment reduces the viability of many plant pathogens.

How Do Plant Diseases Transfer From One Plant to the Other?

Insects spread plant diseases

Infectious plant diseases can be spread from one plant to another by human contact, insects travelling between plants, the wind, and contaminated soil.

Non-infectious, or abiotic diseases, aren't transmittable between plants.

What Is the Best Way to Prevent Plants From Becoming Diseased?

There are some simple things you can do to minimize the risk of plant diseases threatening your garden.

Start by following good plant health hygiene practices, which includes using clean soil and water, and thoroughly cleaning plant pots and containers.

Boost plant health with a high-quality water soluble fertilizer, and if you're growing edible plants, practice crop rotation to prevent the build-up of pathogens.

When working with plants that show signs of distress, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching other plants, and isolate the diseased plants from the healthy ones whenever possible.

To learn more about how the right water soluble fertilizer can help combat fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes in your plants, visit our website.


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