A little over a week ago, I went to my Mom-in-law’s high-rise apartment for supper. The fact that I was there turned into a opportunity to be helpful and I was immediately dragged out to diagnose a troubled plant. The three daughter-in-laws pot-scaped her balcony for Mother’s Day and there was trouble in paradise. One of the plants we’d chosen for her, a beautiful bi-color mandevilla, had developed spotty leaves and was losing them at a great rate, despite regular watering. Since I am hopeless at diagnosing plant illnesses, I suggested that she take a leaf to the local nursery and see what they made of it.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that. It cost her over forty dollars for the diagnosis of fungus. Well, not for the diagnosis, but for the bottle of chemical “treatment” they sold her. We’re both a little frustrated about that. But, while she’s away, I may try this home remedy I discovered using Baking Soda as a Fungicide. If’ I’ve cured Mr. Mandevilla by the time she gets back, she can return the expensive bottle and call me a genius. (In the Apple sense of the word.)
Cornell Plantations, a wonderful resource for gardeners, has done further research on this. I had the privilege of visiting their facility this week while visiting my brother in Ithaca, NY. Cornell’s researchers (AKA Dr. R. Kenneth Horst and many others) did some extensive studies on the use of Baking Soda for treatment of funguses on plants and discovered that yes, if combined with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can be quite effective. Without the additive to help the spray stick to the leaves, all you get is burn which is not exactly what I have in mind when I want to impress my favorite Mom-in-law.
Organic Gardening published a wonderful article on rose care written by Annie O’Neill on their website. She shared what she calls the Cornell Mix Fungal Spray:
Fungal infections. Spray compost tea on both sides of the foliage. Always remove any diseased plant material immediately. Spray with Cornell Mix Fungal Spray:
1 tablespoon baking soda A few drops horticultural oil or Ivory soap
1 gallon water
Combine the ingredients in a gallon jug and fill a spray bottle with the mix. Spray susceptible plants every five days.
I go up to check on Mom’s flowers on Wednesday, Cornell spray in hand. Wish me luck!