Tomatoes are a reliable garden vegetable, as with just minimal maintenance the plants produce juicy, delicious fruit all summer. Even well-tended plants, however, may fall victim to droopy leaves and wilt. Wilt is caused by a variety of factors, and not all can be treated or cured. Identifying the cause quickly helps you prevent the spread of wilt to healthy plants.
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Drought stress is the most common cause of droopy tomato plants. While most common during hot, dry weather, it can occur at any time if the tomato roots aren't receiving enough moisture. Mulches helps retain moisture in the soil by preventing evaporation. The top 6 inches of soil should be kept moist at all times. Most tomatoes respond well to twice weekly watering, though more frequent irrigation may be necessary during prolonged dry periods.
Several bacterial and fungal diseases attach tomato plants can cause wilt and droopy leaves. Verticillium wilt, a fungal disease, attacks tomatoes in cool weather. It causes lower leaves to first wilt then later the entire plant dies back. Another fungal disease, fusarium wilt, causes leaves to droop then die on one side of the plant. There are also a number of fungal blights that cause wilt on tomato plants. Blights usually produce visible moulds early in the season and wilt as the infection persists.
Viral and Bacterial Disease
Not all viral diseases cause wilt as a main symptom, but many do. Spotted wilt virus causes discolouration on the foliage, which is often accompanied by wilted leaves. There are no cure for viruses and infected plants must be destroyed. Bacterial diseases, such as bacterial wilt, cause foliage to droop then rapidly die back. The disease spreads quickly in warm, moist soils.
Not all tomato wilt problems are caused by disease. Many insects infest tomato plants, causing damage to the foliage. The tomato stalk borer larva enters stems of tomato plants. This inhibits water flow from the roots to the foliage and causes the plant to become droopy and then later die. Aphids, whiteflies and other common garden insects can also cause tomato wilt in high populations. These pests pierce foliage and feed on the sap, causing any leaves they feed heavily upon to wilt and eventually die.
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