Containers provide controlled and healthy environments for plants and are far less problem prone than conventional gardens. Sometimes however, some of the same problems affecting conventional gardens take their toll on container gardens as well. Some of the common signs of plant problems include wilting foliage (particularly if the plant is regularly watered), discoloration of leaves, dead or dying leaves or growing tips, mis-shapen leaves, poor growth habits and failure to flower or set fruit.
Sometimes these symptoms are caused by basic gardening mistakes, like using the wrong kind of fertilizer, or having too much water or not enough light. These types of problems are easy to fix with a container garden because you can change its location and have more control over the amount of water or fertilizer that the plants receive. Because fertilizers provide well-rounded nutrient profiles, well-tended container gardens rarely suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
Other problems, involving pests and diseases, need more intervention. Read the section on Integrated Pest Management to understand a modern, environmentally sustainable approach to dealing with these issues.
Reproduced below is a useful chart of common problems and their solutions adapted from the Cornell University Container Gardening Guide:
Problems, Causes and Solutions:
|Plants wilt despite obtaining enough water
|Insufficient drainage and aeration
|Use lighter soil mix, increase number of drainage
holes, use mix with higher percent of organic matter
|Leaf edges die or “burn” turning dry and
|High salt content
|At regular intervals, leach container by watering until
water drains from drainage holes
|Plants “leggy”, spindly and unproductive
|Not enough light
Too much nitrogen
|Relocate plants to area receiving more light
Apply fertilizer less often and allow water to drain
through drainage holes
|Plants yellowing from bottom, lack vigor,
|Too much water
Not fertile enough
|Water less frequently and check for good drainage
Use fertilizer with higher level of nutrients
|Plant leaves with spots or powdery, rusty or
dead dried areas
|Grown at temperature that is too low
Low phosphate level
|Move container to a warmer area
Use fertilizer with higher concentration of phosphate
|Leaves with small holes or that are distorted in shape
|Use insecticide suited to the insect causing the
|Plant leaves with spots, dead dried areas,
or powdery or rusty areas
|Remove diseased portion of plant and use fungi
cide. If problem is severe, discard entire plant and
|Plants stunted in growth; sickly, purplish
|Relocate container to warmer area.
Increase phosphate level in base solution.
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