Got a sick plant? The doctors are in!


What do these weird bumps mean? What is that black stuff?
Why do these leaves look like that?

We may have the answers for you. Thanks to Timber Press,
Garden Rant is holding a plant clinic. The authors of What’s
Wrong With My Plant
, David Deardorff and Kathryn
, have agreed to assess and diagnose at least 10 (and possibly more)
plant problems sent in by Rant readers.

Deardorff and Wadsworth

What’s Wrong With My Plant has received encomiums like
“essential,” “a valuable and long overdue tool,” and “an answered prayer for
all gardeners,” by a wide range of respected gardeners/writers. It’s a
three-part system to help gardeners figure out what diseases or infestations
their plants might have, even if they don’t know the name of the plant. There
is an illustrated flow chart of problems and where they appear, vivid photography, and organic solutions.

All you have to do to participate in this is 

1. Submit a
link to a clear PICTURE of your plant problem with a written description (ideally this should be a blog post) in comments,
or 2. Email the same (picture and
description) to me at ealicata(at) include your email address,
in case the docs have questions for you.  If you can do a blog post, I will post links to it here. 

We’ll accept the submissions until
this Friday (4/23), 5 p.m. EST. Then, next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (4/26-28), I’ll be
posting the diagnoses here. 

Also, even if you email me the problem, you might want to
mention it in comments as well, so readers can get a sense of what people are submitting.
This will be fun. And maybe we'll all learn something.

Oh yes, and I will be giving away 1 copy of the book each day that I post the diagnoses next week, drawn from the comments to this post.

1. My submission: a wisteria problem. (It won't die from this or anything, I'm guessing, but what the heck.)

2. A swamp red currant issue.

3. Heather is worried about her tomatoes.

4. Chris C. wonders about some dud daffodils.

5. Here's an ailing dogwood.

6. A gardener in David, CA wonders about her Meyer lemon.

7. Some is cranky about her Otto laurels.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Hollyhock leaves have yellow/gold spots on them. Nothing else in the garden is infected. Plants still seem to grow and produce flowers.

  2. These knowledgeable authors spoke at the Idaho Horticulture Symposium in Boise in March. Happy to see they’ve made the pages of Rant!

  3. Oooo – I have this book on my wish list .. Running out now to find a plant with a problem. Shouldn’t be tough given my laissez-faire gardening methods.

  4. This is great! Some problems are easy to diagnose, but some are so complicated, it seems. I have some little bitty “bumps” on my snow peas right now, but it might just how they grow. It seems that even the baby peas have bumps…

  5. Suzanne that is Hollyhock rust. Plants can live quite a while with it but it can get to be quite unsightly which is why many people treat Hollyhocks as biennials and replace them regularly.

  6. Suzanne, Kaveh, I agree that it could be hollyhock rust.

    Easy step to dial down the spread of this (or any plant disease) is to remove the leaves with spots–the earlier the better. Any rain or a sprinkler will spread the disease to other leaves and other plants, so pulling leaves and tossing them in the trash (and not the compost) goes a long way.

    And since all plants evolved being grazed on by something–deer, cattle, giraffes–they will simply respond to your pruning by throwing out new and better looking foliage.

    Another benefit of this disease management method is that it can be done with one hand–while you carry an ice cold gin and tonic in the other. 🙂

    Frank Hyman
    Because it’s easier to enjoy your garden if you’re not enslaved by it.

  7. A recommended book on that topic sounds like a fantastic resource! I’m commenting to get added to the book give-away raffle. 🙂

    I don’t have any unknown problems in my garden at the moment, although many of my brassicas are being hit hard by flea beetles… I planted five different types of Asian greens for the first time this year, hoping to find one that the flea beetles wouldn’t bother, but no luck on that front. Fortunately they don’t seem to like the taste of my collards, toscano kale, or swiss chard!

Comments are closed.