Ailing Apple-Scented Geranium
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Emily Robbins
Posted on: March 28, 2000

I am enjoying the apple-scented geranium I bought from you back in October – I think it has the best aroma of all the scented geraniums! – but unfortunately it is not doing well. I have never seen a problem like this in geraniums: some of the lower leaves are dying from the outside edges in, turning generally yellow ; nothing new here, but then the edges turn a mottled blue-green-gray; the tissue that turns this color is crispy enough to break off. I have inspected the plant for pests and have found none; I have not changed its watering or feeding habits (I give it a houseplant-strength solution of Neptune’s Harvest 2-4-1 every month), and the plant is still blooming. (In fact, it began to bloom a month after I received it from you, and has not stopped since!) It is in a sunny south-west window and my hygrometer tells me the humidity has been average, between 40 - 60%.

These leaf die-back problems started about six weeks ago. The only thing I suspect may have harmed the plant was when, three months ago, I pinched back some of the longer stems to encourage bushier growth. The plant did not seem to like this; the remainder of most of the stems I pinched began to lose their leaves and die back. Soon the plant sent out new branches that I have let go trailing as seems to be the plant’s programmed habit.

Can you advise what I can do to help this plant get stronger? I would like it to be in better health before I put it outside for the summer, so that is less vulnerable to pests.

None of the diseases that normally attack geraniums quite agree with the symptoms you describe. But just in case it is some unusual bacterial or fungal infection, cut off and if possible burn the affected leaves. It might be a physiological problem. The soil might have become loaded with salts from the water and /or the fertilizing. Try repotting into fresh soil. You should do this once per year anyway and just before the plants go outside into lots of light they should have new soil with lots of nutrients and none of the micronutrients depleted. You could also spray the plant with a fungicide such as sulphur to discourage spread of the possible infection.

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