Plant Problem Troubleshooting Guide–Part 2

Here is the next installment in the plant problem troubleshooting series.  I highly recommend that you check out Parts One and Two before digging in to Part Three–There are questions that were asked previously that get built upon in this segment, and the whole thing will make much more sense. 

For part 1, see here.

For part 3, see here.

For solutions to plant problems, see here.  (You will need to scroll down to the bottom of the page.)


9.  When did you first notice the problem (approximate date)?

  • Did the problem happen very quickly?
  • Did it happen gradually?
  • Is it getting worse?
  • Is it not getting worse?

(A bug can come in and decimate a plant overnight, while a disease is gradual and takes time to gain a foothold.)

10.  Has the plant ever had this problem before?  If yes, when?

11.  Are other plants in your landscape or garden similarly affected?  If yes, which ones and where are they located?

(Could be a pest related to one plant, or something like a slug that will eat damn near anything.)

12.  Which are the plant parts that are affected, and how are they affected:

  • Flowers: Are there spots, are they wilted, distorted, is there insect injury, or some other issue?
  • Fruit:  Are there blotches, it is dry or distored, is it rotten or mushy, or some other issue?
  • Leaves/needles:  Are there spots, are they wilted or rolled, do the leaves fall off, are they distorted, are they yellowish or brown, or some other issue?
  • Roots:  Are they brown (internally), are they rotted, are they chewed, are there few roots, or some other issue?
  • Twigs:  Are they dead, are there decayed areas, are they sticky/weepy, or some other issue?
  • Stems:  Are they dead, are there decayed areas, are they sticky/weepy, or some other issue?
  • Large branches:  Are they dead, are there decayed areas, are they sticky/weepy, or another issue?
  • Trunk:  Is it dead or losing bark, is there a decayed area, is it stucky/weepy or some other issue?
  • The whole plant:  Is it wilted, distorted, stunted, or some other issue?

13.  Have the base and/or roots of the plant been checked for signs of a problem or injury to the plant?  If so, what did you find?

(If roots get compacted, it can kill a plant.  This is seen often in trees where trucks and cars have repeatedly driven over the root zone.)

14.  How was the plant planted?

  • balled and burlapped?
  • plastic pot?
  • bare root?
  • pot/burlap removed from the root ball?
  • peat/manure/compost added to backfill?
  • peat/paper pot?
  • fertilizer applied at planting or right after planting?
  • planted by landscaper?
  • planted by previous owner?
  • other?

(Plants won’t grow well if the roots are constricted.)

15.  Is the plant mulched with:

  • nothing?
  • grass clippings?
  • bark mulch (what type of bark was used?)
  • other?

(Certain types of bark mulches can kill plants.)

16.  How is the plant watered?

  • hand watered?
  • sprinkler?
  • set sprinkler system?
  • drip/soaker hose/porous wall hose?

  Where is the water applied?

  • overhead watering?
  • individual emitter per plant?
  • watered whenever you water your lawn?
  • watered directly at base of plant?
  • watered at dripline?

  How often is plant watered?

  • how many times a week, and for how many minutes?
  • as needed with checking soil?
  • as needed without checking soil but relative to weather conditions?

(Overwatering or underwatering can stress a plant, killing it slowly or weakening it, making it more vulnerable to pest attack.)


Hope you are enjoying the series so far!  The final installment will be up soon.

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