Gardeners use plants to provide bright, colourful life to the landscape, but this appearance can be ruined by a black scourge that infects plants and shrubs. Sooty mould is a fungus that grows in thin filaments. These filaments spread across leaves, fruits, branches and twigs, creating a charcoal appearance on the normally green plants. The moulds grow as a result of insect infestation; the moulds feed off the secretions of the insects. You must get rid of both the mould and the insects to completely restore the health of your plants.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Dish detergent
- Spray bottle
- Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush
Mix 15 ml (1 tbsp) of liquid dish detergent in 4 litres (1 gallon) of water. Add the mixture to a spray bottle.
Soak mould-infested leaves, fruit, twigs and other infected areas with the cleaning spray from the bottle. Allow the soap to dissolve the soot for 15 minutes.
Rinse the sprayed areas with a squirt of fresh water from a hose, or from a spray bottle filled with clean water. Gently brush the loosened mould away with a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush.
Treat infected plants with insecticides designed to kill aphids, whiteflies and other such insects. Treat all mould-infested plants, as well as any other plants that have shown even a hint of sooty mould or insect infestation, per the product instructions.
Tips and warnings
- Contact your local garden centre, nursery or extension service if you have questions regarding types of pesticides that are safe for your plants.
- Replace pesticides with horticultural oils if necessary. These oils can also soften sooty mould, but they can be dangerous if applied to young plants.
- Follow all instructions and warnings on pesticide products when applying them to plants. These chemicals can be extremely dangerous to plants, animals and humans if used incorrectly.
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- Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station: Sooty Molds and the Health of Your Landscape Plants
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Sooty Molds
- Cornell University Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic: Sooty Mold Factsheet
- Ohio State University Extension Service: Sooty Molds on Trees and Shrubs