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'Black spot' or not...

Posted by almcclur 8b or 9a South Texas (My Page) on
Wed, May 11, 05 at 9:32

This is a really beginner question; I hope you'll forgive my ignorance. We just bought a new house and when I was looking over the grounds I noticed that 3 of the bushes in 2 different areas have black spots on their leaves, and some of the limbs seem not to be very healthy (wrong color, fewer leaves, occasionally just a bare branch).

My question is, is it possible these are just varieties of bushes that have speckled leaves and the unhealthy parts are just nature and age? Or are spots always a sign of trouble.

And then, what to do? I would really like to not put chemicals in my yard if possible, and money is tight for the moment, so something I could put together at home would be perfect.

Thanks in advance,
Amanda


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

The first thing to do is to figure out what kind of plants the bushes are :-). Could you describe them, or, even better, post a picture?


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Good thinkin! Why didn't that occur to me??

Here is the tree/bush thing... I didn't get any details from the previous owner, though I'm thinking about writing to them to ask a few questions.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

There is another tree/bush that is the same plant, but looks much more like a bush. I really think this wants to be a tree though because of the beautiful "trunk" that reminds me a lot of some of my favorite trees from Charleston, SC. The ground here is rock hard and desertlike, which is why I think this one is stunted. I don't know the name, but here's what the trunk looks like:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

And, the photo didn't turn out great, but here's one of the very affected leaves on this tree:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Here's the bush (the one in the middle):
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

And it's spots:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I hope the photos show up; this is my first time to try to post pictures here.
Thanks,
Amanda


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

The trees look like crepe myrtles to me.

The shrub also looks very familiar, and I ought to know what it is, but I don't -- sorry!


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

You've got 3 or 4 different shrubs going on there. Crepe myrtle (photos 1,2,3), red tip photina (photo 5), azalias, and what looks to be a pieris (photo 4). It's hard to see actually from the details in some of the pics. I hope the pieris and azalia are in shade. It's what they prefer. Don't worry about the crepe myrtles at all. The red tip should be removed. Different plant species have different disease that affect each one of them, and very few cross species lines. You're not getting "cross contamination" of the same disease on diffeent plants. You're just getting different diseases on different plants. Most are weather related and don't need to even be thought about. The red tip on the other hand will probably die soon, and it's best to get rid of it now and plan on planting something else there.

You really need a visit from a TX master gardener or someone in your area who knows plants and can clue you in on what you have in person as well as how to care for it. The alkaline conditions prevalent in lots of TX makes for a far more challenging environment than you or your plants may be used to.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

The crape looks a bit stressed- note the bare branch tips at the top. I'd try removing the grass around it and mulching a 6' or so ring around it. Add some water this summer.

The other shrub is not familiar to me, but if the old flower stalk in the picture is from it, it's not an azalea. I would remove all sick branches, and sick leaves, including any on the ground under the shrub. Clean out from under it very well and give it new mulch.

You might put down an inch or so of compost, then 2" of mulch on both. Don't pile the mulch up around the trunks.

See if there is an Extension office in your town. You can usually take a cutting or some sick leaves to them for help. Since you're not positive about the ID, I'd take the pictures as well. Some nurseries and garden centers have employees who do consults on the side- one of them may come to your house and ID your plants. A landscape designer may also be able to do that for you.

Good luck!


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Wed, May 11, 05 at 20:12

Hmm. Isn't #4 and #5 the same thing? But not a photinia?


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Yes, 4 and 5 are the same. They are supposed to have these pretty (red?) flowers that I only caught the dead end of, literally. I pinched off most of them because someone told me they would come back in the fall. Nice healthy looking bushes except for the spots. I feel so silly that the top one is a myrtle. I guess I've seen those all my life, but only really noticed how beautiful the trunk is when I saw some huge old ones in SC. I will try removing the grass and adding mulch around it. It can't hurt anyway.

I'm actually amazed anything grows in this yard besides grass. There are only 4 inches of soil (at most) that can harbor life. That soil is all imported. The native soil is about 1/2 rocks and 1/2 sand. I have not seen 1 worm since I began maintenance and planting 2 weeks ago, just ants and pill bugs (rolly pollies). Oh, and spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Usually I'm ok with spiders, but there's just something about the tarantulas that makes me hop around like a fool.

The extension agent sounds like a good idea. I'll call tomorrow. I would hate to lose any of these plants because it seems pretty hard to get things established here.

Amanda


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Wed, May 11, 05 at 22:36

As for #4 and #5 -- perhaps, Rhaphiolepis?


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Same as jean001. Also called Indian Hawthorne.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Indian Hawthorn is prone to leaf spot diseases, but it can be controlled. Call your extension office for suggestions about fungicides. It's either Cercospora or Entomosporium leaf spot. They will know.

Crape myrtles just look like they are struggling...one of them is a pretty straggly specimen. The crape myrtles are the ones that will bloom in shades of red/pink/lavender or white. The Indian Hawthorn will either be pink or white.

The best thing you can do is mulch them properly. and apply conservative amounts of a general purpose fertilizer. All show signs of mineral deficiency. But please use any product sparingly. More is not better when it comes to fertilizer.

For a minute, I thought I was seeing completely different pictures! There aren't any azaleas, red tips or pieris.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Yes, the last two do match with pictures of Indian Hawthorne. I saw the extension agent today and brought samples of healthy parts and diseased parts. His diagnosis: fungus problems, carpenter ants, thrips, iron deficiency in the Hawthorne and some type of disease in both. He said the Indian Hawthorne should never have been planted here in the first place and myrtles get cotton root rot in this area and there's nothing you can do about that, though he said it didn't look like what I had.

Told me the names of 437 different sprays and chemicals to put on them, and when I asked for any organic options he said Safer Insecticidal Soap. I'm not trying to gripe. He seemed very knowledgeable and used lots of terms I didn't understand, so it's obviously my own fault, but I'm disappointed and feeling like the only real options are to rip them up or let them die on their own and then plant cactus.

I'd love to save the indian hawthorne especially. It looks like it could have a fighting chance since the diseased places are the only sad parts of the entire plant. Perhaps I'll regret the effort in 3 years, but I think I am going to follow all of your suggestions. I know it can't hurt, but there are also so many other areas of this yard that could use attention. I guess everyone else has the same complaint in that respect though.

Thanks.
Amanda


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Amanda, have you tried the Texas gardening forum? If you asked your questions there, emphasizing that you wanted organic solutions, they might be able to give you some ideas. Organic solutions are not typically what extension agents and master gardeners (who are, I believe, usually trained and certified by the extension service) are best at, though no doubt there are exceptions.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Hmmm, I'm wondering why Indian Hawthorn is on his bad list there? It thrives on sun, heat, and little care. It can be sprayed for the fungus disease....he was lazy in not mentioning something. Also lazy in not taking time to educate you in a manner that did not make you feel like this was your fault! SHAME on him. Really.

It's not your fault and you can bring these plants back with very little effort. You can go completely organic, too, though I wonder about your control of the leaf spot. Perhaps others can chime in on that.

Organic mulch, compost, organic mineral source with iron, etc. You can do it, and you'll be darned proud of yourself in just a few months when you begin to see the results.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

I sure wasn't looking very closely at those pics! And I don't grow Indian Hawthorne myself, but it's new reddish growth does give a superficial resemblence to photina. And I was looking at the spent bloom bracts on the other pic. Sure pays to have better eyes than me.

But I think your ag agent's comment about the hawthorne might have to do with it's preference for acidic soil conditions versus the alkaline conditons of a lot of TX. The least he could have done for you would have been to suggest a soil test to find out exactly what your pH is and what the nutrients are that are already present in your soil. Often, just correcting the pH will give a huge boost to the plants as it makes more nutrients available to them.


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Indian Hawthorne is prone to Fire Blight and minor leaf spot. The infected areas (fire blight) need to be pruned (properly to avoid spreading the desease) and there are other treatments you can use. Fire blight is very common in these plants and while it is unattractive, the plant is not in danger of imminent death. I've seen plants live with the blight for years. Indian Hawthorne likes good drainage and is mostly considered a desirable plant with few problems.

Work on improving your soil!

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic solutions for Fire Blight & leaf spot


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

Does alkaline mean high ph numbers? That's what he said we had here mostly. I asked about something to add to lower the ph and he said it would cost too much and wouldn't be worth the effort. The stores do sell a lot of Indian Hawthorne here, but there are no nurseries, so that may not mean much.

Thanks, though, for the optimism and motivation. I think I prefer to hope, even if it's misguided. OH, also thanks for the dirtdoctor link; I had forgotten about that great resource since we've only recently moved back to TX. I'll have to spend some serious time on that site.

Amanda


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RE: 'Black spot' or not...

I took your suggestions regarding the myrtle, and just wanted to share my success. So far, I've removed the grass around the base, added compost, and sprayed with a fungicide twice. Watered once a week, deeply, and here is the change after a month of this treatment (no chemicals):

BEFORE:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

AFTER:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Thanks so much. This board is a great resource!
Amanda


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