Sick looking plants

Sick looking plants

Plants begin to look ill and rather unhappy for a variety of reasons. Diseases and viruses or simply malnutrition will turn your plants yellow, cause them to droop and the leaves to fall off. Most plant ailments can be minimised by having the right environment in which the plant will thrive.

Plants just like the rest of us, need a little nourishment, the best long term method is to add well rotted compost and or manure to your soil each year, to keep plants healthy and better able to withstand any bug or disease attack.

Nutrient deficiencies:

Plants cannot thrive if the soil is lacking enough food, the most common food deficiencies are shown below. If you want to add feed to the plants then a standard all round plant food will probably sort out most problems, but never be tempted to ‘beef up the solution’ to get your plants going faster – it only leaves them hungover! So always stick to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Diseases and viruses can also afflict your plants, this is not a comprehensive list of everything your plant could suffer from, but these are the more common problems.

Prevention is also the best cure, so ensure you clear away old debris and leaves from your plants, ensure good air circulation and enrich the soil. You will not be able to stop some of your plants getting diseases some of the time, but a good rich soil and healthy plant conditions will ensure that most of your plants can survive.  Some diseases are harder to control though, so if you need further advice get in touch with us.

Developing a healthy ecosystem in your garden is also a great way to minimise the effects of diseases and bug attacks. The garden finds it’s own balance between prey and predator. Disease are less destructive if the plants are strong, well fed and healthy. Developing a balanced ecosytem takes time, but it is well worth the effort. Your garden will be better looking more vibrant and full of life.

Download our free design – Bee Bistro. The Bees and Butterflies will love it! If you like this design – why not visit the shop, we’ve loads more great ideas for border designs and all use insect friendly flowers.

Read our articles on creating a more insect friendly and bio-diverse garden.

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What about the Bugs?

Common Diseases & Viruses:

Powdery and Downey Mildew:

powdery mildew

Prevention is better than cure here, so improve air circulation around the plants, clear away diseased leaves, mulch around the plant and water regularly.

Sooty Mould:

sooty mould

This is a secondary problem, the mould grows on the excretions of bugs such as whitefly and aphids. Deal with the bugs first and the mould will then disappear, or you can wash it off.

Black Spot: 

black spot

This is a fungal disease most common with roses. You can control with regular spraying, but it is hard to eradicate. Clear dead leaves away and dispose of (not in your compost bin though).  Prevention is again a better option, so good air circulation, use disease resistant roses and keep the plant well manured and watered.


blight on tomato

Blight rots plants and fruit, mainly tomatoes and potatoes. At the first sign of it, remove the plant and destroy and don’t compost the plant.



rust on garlic

This is another fungal disease, which is hard to eradicate if endemic in your area. Hollyhocks, Fuschias Alliums and Roses all suffer, so are best avoided if it is prevalent.


Honey Fungus:

honey fingus

Most fungus’ aren’t a problem, but this one is. It sprouts from rotting stumps and will kills many species of  shrubs and trees. You will need to use a soil steriliser like Armillatox to help control the spread and removal of infected soil helps too.



There are many types of virus , all of which make the plant look sickly. You can’t cure viruses by spraying, so best to remove the plant or infected parts and destroy. As viruses can spread, by contact, wash your hands and tools before gardening elsewhere.


clematis wilt

Clematis’ can be prone to a specific fungal infection which causes the plant to wilt and die. So if the tips start drooping and don’t recover when you water, remove the infected stem by cutting it below ground level. Then ensure you tie in new growth to prevent stem damage which will allow the spores back in.

Frost Damage:

frost damage

If the cold blackens the tips of plants, then remove them and consider some fleece protection for the coldest nights.


Over/Under Watering:

over under watering

Too much or too little can cause you plant to droop. So stick your finger into the soil if it is dry, then a good water is needed. If the compost has shrunk away from the edge of the pot, fill a bucket and immersed the whole pot in the water for a good 30 minutes to allow the compost to expand.

If the soil is soggy to the touch, then check the drainage. Make sure pots are lifted off the ground and drainage holes aren’t blocked. If the plant is in the ground and not thriving, then lift the plant and add plenty of grit to improve the drainage and replant, move the plant elsewhere or consider using a raised bed to help water drain away.