Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Care for Diseased Saw Palmetto Plants

Saw palmettos have thick, sharp leaves.

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The saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a familiar sight in the forests and wetlands of the Southeast. The plant's palm-like foliage and small stature make it a good choice as a foundation plant, in mixed borders and containers. Mature, established saw palmettos have a high tolerance for drought conditions, making it a good choice for rock gardens and arid landscapes, as well. Saw palmettos are virtually care-free but may contract fungal infections.

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Take a sample of the diseased area of the saw palmetto and have it analyzed, if possible. The cooperative extension service office in your area may be able to do this at low or no cost, or can direct you to the university in your state that performs the service.


Rake away all weeds and other undesirable vegetation from around the saw palmetto, and collect fallen leaves. Dispose of the collected plant matter away from the garden to avoid spreading infection.


Disinfect the blades of the pruning equipment. Cut away as much of the diseased area of the saw palmetto as possible. Dispose of it away from the garden.


Apply a fungicide. Anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, was discovered infecting saw palmettos in Florida. Cercospora leaf spot fungus also may attack saw palmettos. Use a general purpose fungicide if the disease has not been diagnosed, and follow label directions for timing and application rates. Fungicides are generally more effective in preventing infection than in treating it.

Tips & Warnings

Make your own garden tool disinfectant. Use household disinfectants full strength on pruning tools. Mix bleach or pine oil with water, using 3 parts water to 1 part bleach or pine oil. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water.

Over-watering saw palmettos can cause root rot. If a lab analysis shows the plant is not suffering from a fungal disease, cut back on watering and improve drainage around the plants. If the stem and roots rot, the plant may fall over and die, anyway. Consider removing and replacing the plant.

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ReferencesFloridata: Serenoa RepensLearn 2 Grow: Serenoa RepensMissouri Botanical Garden: AnthracnoseUniversity of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfecting Pruning ToolsClemson University; Index of Plant Diseases in South Carolina; James H. Blake et al.University of Florida IFAS Extension; Saw-palmetto: an Ecologically and Economically Important Native Palm; George W. Tanner and J. Jeffrey MullaheyMissouri Botanical Garden: Root, Stem, Crown and Collar RotsResourcesUniversity of Florida IFAS Extension; Serenoa Repens - Saw Palmetto; Edward GilmanUniversity of Georgia: Native Plant Database - Saw PalmettoPhoto Credit Jupiterimages/ ImagesRead Next:

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