UACES Facebook Nematodes
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(July 2007)

QuestionI have hostas and hellebores in a corner shade garden that are not doing well. Every summer for the last 2-3 yr the hostas start to turn brown, and wilt, but do not die completely. I was going to replace them last fall, but the root ball looked ok. They came up this spring, but now they are wilting again. The hellebores in the same area are finicky. A number have died, and 2 plants look good. Could this be nematodes? Your publications talk about this with regards to crops, but not with garden ornamentals. I am thinking of simply digging up much of the soil in this area and replacing it.


AnswerNematodes can be in any soil and can affect ornamentals just like crops. Before you begin removing soil, why not take a soil sample with some of the hosta roots with it into your local county extension office. For a fee you can get the soil tested for nematodes, and then a recommendation for control. Here is a link to our website on how to take a sample for nematode testing. I do think that potentially there is something wrong with the site, since various unrelated plants are struggling. However, if the root system looked good on the hostas, then nematodes may not be the culprit. Nematodes feed on the root system of the plants and cause stunted and/or deformed roots. I would also suggest taking a regular soil sample in to your county extension office and see about the pH and nutrition levels. I would also consider taking one of the hostas that is struggling in to be sent to the disease diagnostic lab. This is a free service of our extension service. When we have problems in the garden, you have to be a detective and cover as many bases as possible to find out what is causing the plants to suffer.

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