Step 1 Identify the plant. By knowing the type of plant you can begin relating causes to symptoms seen on the plants.
Step 2 Survey the site. Is the problem occurring to one plant or a group of plants? Is it a local problem in your landscape only or are other plants of the same type throughout the neighborhood showing the same problem? What has been the recent weather pattern? Is the soil well drained or wet and boggy? Is there an open drain spout near the plant?
Step 3 Ask questions. Has there been anything unusual spilled or applied within the vicinity? Was fertilizer recently applied, how much, what kind? Has the plant been sprayed with pesticide?
Step 4 Examine the plant thoroughly. Look closely at the foliage. A magnifying glass is useful for detecting tiny pests such as spider mites. Flower thrips and mites can be detected by shaking a flower over a piece of white paper. Are leaves showing a tip burn or scorching (usually caused by environmental stress)? Are there distinct spots on the foliage (indicating a possible disease)? Do roots appear dark and decayed (possible fungus or too wet soil), or stubby (possible nematode problem) or white and healthy?
After careful inspection of the plant and site, if you’re still stumped, collect and bring samples to our next Plant Clinic.
The May plant clinic will be held Friday, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.
The plant clinic provides a place and time for people to bring in samples of plants for diagnosis including weeds for identification.
If you have a plant problem that you’d like diagnosed, bring a sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., to the clinic. The sample should be fresh and represent what is seen in the landscape. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc.
You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing. Use a clean shovel, trowel or soil probe to collect a representative sample by taking thin slices or cores of soil to a depth of six to eight inches from ten different spots throughout the plant bed, lawn or garden. Thoroughly mix all of the small soil slices/cores together in a clean bucket. Place one to two cups of this mixture in a closable plastic bag and bring to the clinic for testing.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, May 5, 2016