Diagnosing Gypsophila Diseases: Learn To Recognize Baby’s Breath Disease Issues

By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)

Baby’s breath, or Gypsophila, is a mainstay in many ornamental flower beds and in carefully planned cut-flower gardens. Most commonly seen when used as filler in flower arrangements, baby’s breath plants are also useful when wishing to add airy texture to flower borders. When healthy, these plants will produce a profusion of small white blooms in spring and throughout the growing season.

However, if choosing to grow baby’s breath in the flower garden, there are some common Gypsophila diseases that may cause rapid decline in the health of the plants – problems you should be aware of.

Common Problems with Baby’s Breath

Baby’s breath disease issues can generally be divided intotwo of the most likely to occur issues – blight and rot. While these diseasesof baby’s breath plants are common, prevention is often the key to avoiding theloss of plants. Additionally, awareness of the signs and symptoms will help tocontrol and prevent the spread of infection throughout other plantings of theflower.

Blight on Baby’s Breath Plants

Issues with blight on baby’s breath may first manifest whenflowers turn a dark, almost black color. Other signs of blight in baby’s breathplants may be seen in the development of dark spots along the stems.

Once blight has become established, it can easily spreadamong baby’s breath plants. Many issues with blight can be avoided by makingcertain to avoid overhead watering. Plant materials infected with blight shouldbe removed from the garden and destroyed.

Baby’s Breath Crown and Stem Rot

Rot can infect baby’s breath in the crown of the plant aswell as the stems. Sources of rot can be caused by soil borne pathogens thatare the result of poor garden maintenance or soils that do not drainsufficiently.

Among the first signs of rot in baby’s breath plants is asudden yellowing of leaves or complete collapse of the plant. In many cases,rot can cause complete loss of the baby’s breath plants.

Preventing Diseases of Baby’s Breath

While some problems with baby’s breath can often beprevented, some cannot. Particularly, issues involving warm temperatures maymanifest, regardless of the grower’s care. However, by maintaining optimalgrowing conditions, gardeners can best attempt to prevent diseases of baby’sbreath plants.

This includes making certain that the plants receiveadequate sunlight, irrigation, and soil nutrients. Additionally, gardenersshould always plant at an appropriate spacing so that air circulation aroundthe plants allows for optimal growth.

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Read more about Baby's Breath


A small genus of annuals and herbaceous perennials that produce abundant airy sprays of tiny white flowers. The herbaceous forms are favoured by florists and flower arrangers as a background foil.

Family: Caryophyllaceae (pink family)
Botanical Name: Gypsophila
Common Names: Baby's breath, chalk plant

Foliage: Deciduous or semi-evergreen. Narrow, grey-green leaves.

Flowers: Large sprays of tiny blooms on branching stems, in shades of white or light pink. Single, double and semi-double forms are available.

Flowering Period: June to September.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, deep fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH. Dislikes heavy or waterlogged conditions. Ideal for dry gardens.

Conditions: Best in full sun.

Habit: Bushy, erect.

Type: Hardy perennials and half-hardy annuals.

Origin: Europe and western Asia

Hardiness: Half-hardy (protect from frost) to fully hardy (depending on variety).

Growing Recommendations - Baby's Breath

To sow baby’s breath seeds outdoors, cover the seeds in early spring or fall, spacing 16 to 48 in apart (40-120 cm). The tiny seeds germinate in ten to fifteen days, and can grow rapidly up to 50 cm in height. Baby's Breath prefers direct sun and grows best in good rich soil. Once planted you should fertilize on a regular basis to ensure superior growth. Flowers bloom in late spring through summer, and cuttings may be taken at the start of summer. For continuous bloom, plant the seeds in succession every two to three weeks. It is fairly easy to look after Baby breath flowers. Once they have finished blooming, cut back the stems this should result in a further bloom. If you want more plants, then propagate perennial Baby’s breath by taking cuttings at the start of summer. Insect and disease problems are not too common. If they do occur, treat early with organic or chemical insect repellents and fungicide.


Female flower Male flower


State Listed Noxious Weed

Canada thistle was introduced in North America as a seed contaminant in both French and British colonies. The first legislation to control the weed was passed by Vermont in 1795. Canada thistle has the dubious distinction of being one of three weeds listed in 1885 by Dakota Territory as required of “every person” to be destroyed. The native distribution of Canada thistle includes Europe, North Africa and central Asia. It also is found in China and Japan and has spread so extensively that it is difficult to distinguish the plant’s original native range. Canada thistle is considered to be naturalized in the northern Great Plains

Identification and growth form:

Canada thistle is a long-lived perennial that usually grows 2 to 3 feet tall and bears alternate, dark green leaves that vary in size. The leaves are oblong, usually deeply cut, and have spiny, toothed edges. Canada thistle has small (3/4 inch diameter), compact flower heads that appear on the upper stems.

Canada thistle has been classified into several varieties. Within these varieties are many ecotypes, which differ in growth characteristics, response to day length, and susceptibility to herbicides and cultivation. For example, leaf shape, head structure, and the number and size of spines can differ with ecotypes. Canada thistle requires a 14- to 16-hour photoperiod to bolt and flower (April 19 to Aug. 22 in North Dakota). Flower color can range from purple to light lavender or even white. Stem color also can differ from green to lavender.

Flowering occurs from June to September. Male and female flowers are produced on different plants, so cross-pollination is necessary for seed production. Flowers produce from 40 to 80 seeds per head, which can move long distances, although most seed remain in the head until winter and eventually germinate nearby.

The smooth, light brown seeds (achenes) have a conical point and are loosely attached to a tannish pappus at the tip, which aids in seed dispersal by wind. Seeds mature rapidly and are able to germinate within eight to 10 days after pollination. Canada thistle overwinters in the rosette growth stage.

Canada thistle has an extensive underground root system that may penetrate the soil to a depth of 10 feet or more and grow laterally 12 to 15 feet per year. Root buds occur randomly along the roots and initiate new shoots whenever environmental conditions are favorable. Root segments as small as 0.6 inch can initiate shoot growth and become established. Canada thistle is adapted to a wide range of soils, but it produces deeper roots in clay or muck soils than in sand, gravel or limestone soils.

Root bud development can occur nearly anytime during the growing season, but is greatest when soil temperatures are warm, air temperatures are cool and the photoperiod shortens to 13 hours. These conditions generally are found during the fall growing season. Therefore, more Canada thistle root-bud development occurs in the fall than any other time of the year. Canada thistle grows best in the northern regions of North America where temperature and rainfall are moderate. Growth ceases when temperatures exceed 85 degrees for extended periods.

Why is this plant a concern?

Canada thistle has the potential to form dense infestations rapidly through vegetative reproduction, and the spread of these clones may continue indefinitely, crowding out and displacing native grasses and forbs through shading, competition and possibly allelopathy. Canada thistle spread can change structure and species composition of natural areas and reduce plant and animal diversity. Infestations of Canada thistle may contribute to the elimination of endangered and/or endemic plant species. In wildlands, Canada thistle has the potential to increase fire frequency and perhaps severity as a result of its abundant and readily ignited litter and flammable above-ground biomass.

Canada thistle can reduce yield of many crops severely. Yield losses are directly proportional to the density and patchiness of the infestation, with more than $40 million annually lost in production in North Dakota alone. Wheat is a poor competitor and Canada thistle infestations often increase in a continuous-wheat farming program. Canada thistle also can be a severe problem in corn and soybean grown in rotation, with greater losses in soybean than corn.

How do I control this plant?

Canada thistle is the only thistle in North Dakota that has become a cropland pest. Control strategies differ for Canada thistle in cropland compared with pasture, range and wildland.

Chemical. Cropland. The best approach to Canada thistle control in cropland should include an in-crop herbicide treatment to suppress Canada thistle growth, minimize crop yield losses and prepare the thistle for a fall postharvest treatment. Preharvest and fall-applied treatments provide the most effective long-term control. The best herbicide to use will vary depending on crop rotation. However, the control program must be uninterrupted for two to three years if the infestation is to be reduced.

Glyphosate (various trade names) can be used to control Canada thistle in glyphosate-resistant crops. In-crop applications will not kill established thistle stands. However, when used as part of an overall management program, glyphosate can reduce infestations.

Pasture, range and wildlands. Herbicides that control Canada thistle in noncropland include products that contain clopyralid (various), Tordon (picloram), dicamba (various) dicamba plus diflufenzopyr (Overdrive), Method (aminocyclopyrachlor) and Milestone (aminopyralid). Control is greatest when applied to Canada thistle at the early bud growth stage (early summer) or in the fall to plants in the rosette form. These herbicides applied at low rates may be the most cost-effective method for controlling dense infestations that require broadcast application. Re-treatment will be necessary for several years to obtain long-term control.

Cultural. Cropland. Canada thistle roots are much less winter hardy then many other perennial weeds and timely cultivation actually can increase winter kill. Soil temperatures of 20 degrees or colder can reduce Canada thistle regrowth from roots by more than 50 percent. Following crop harvest, cultivate fields before the Canada thistle is 3 inches tall and repeat before regrowth reaches 3 inches tall until freeze-up. This method has the combined advantage of decreasing carbohydrate root reserves and the bare ground from the tillage will lead to colder soil temperatures, which increases winter-kill.

An option for Canada thistle in row crops and fallow that includes both tillage and herbicides is known as the rosette technique. The objective is to prevent the plants from bolting by using tillage and/or herbicide treatments until the day length is less than 15 hours, the photoperiod required for most Canada thistle plants to bolt. The thistles then will regrow as rosettes only. Research at North Dakota State University has found herbicide absorption and translocation to the roots of Canada thistle is greater when applied to the rosette growth stage than when applied to bolted plants, making fall treatment of rosettes the most cost-effective method for long-term Canada thistle control.

The rosette technique for Canada thistle control in fallow includes the use of tillage and fall-applied herbicides, while control in row crops includes in-crop herbicide treatments, tillage and fall-applied herbicides. Periodic tillage in fallow is used to control Canada thistle shoots and other weeds until late July, when the day length is less than 15 hours. Herbicides used for Canada thistle control, such as glyphosate or clopyralid, then are applied to rosettes in late September or early October. Research at NDSU has found that cultivation until late June prevented more than 90 percent of Canada thistle from bolting in corn and soybean.

Pasture, range, and wildlands. Repeated mowing will reduce Canada thistle infestations. Mow whenever the plants are in the early bud growth stage to prevent seed-set. Several mowings a year are needed because plant populations vary in maturity. Mow as close to the surface as possible. If plants are cut above the terminal bud before the stems elongate, they likely will regrow. Mowing before the flowers start showing color is important because plants mowed after that likely will produce some viable seed. Mowing for several years will reduce the root vitality of Canada thistle and will prevent seed production, reducing the seed reserve. Mowing should be combined with a chemical control program for best results.

Controlled burns often are used to help restore wildlands to a more natural plant community. Contrary to popular thought, research at North Dakota State University found that fall prescribed burns did not cause a long-term increase in Canada thistle density rather, Canada thistle emerged earlier in the burned compared with the nonburned areas. The effect was short-lived and Canada thistle densities were similar regardless of burn treatment the second growing season after the burn. Also, no differences in Canada thistle control occurred when herbicides were used alone or combined with a prescribed burn.

Biological. Two biological control agents have been introduced for Canada thistle control, and a third was introduced accidentally. To date, none have been effective at reducing the weed on a large scale. The most widespread insect is Hadroplontus litura (formerly Ceutorhynchus litura) weevil, which first was released in North Dakota in the 1970s. The larvae feed on the underground parts of Canada thistle for a short time but infestations generally are not reduced. One may take advantage of the early season stress on Canada thistle from H. litura feeding by using additional control methods such as mowing or applying herbicides. In addition, natural soil pathogens may become more destructive due to multiple entry sites established by the insect. However, do not expect these insects alone to reduce a Canada thistle infestation.

A gall-producing fly, Urophora cardui, causes meristematic galls but does little long-term damage to the perennial thistle. The Canada thistle bud weevil Larinus planus was an accidental introduction into North America and is not permitted for distribution. The insect feeds on developing flowers to prevent seed production. Although L. planus can survive under a wide range of climates, it has not reduced established Canada thistle stands.

The painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) can be a very effective biological control agent but only on an intermittent basis. Larvae of the butterfly feed on Canada thistle plants and can eliminate an infestation. However, the insect generally is found only in southern states such as Arizona and New Mexico and will build up populations large enough to migrate north only once every eight to 11 years. The insect will migrate north as far as Canada and those fortunate enough to reside within the migratory pathway will see a dramatic decrease in the Canada thistle population. Unfortunately, the insect feeds on many plants, including crops such as soybean and sunflower, and is not a candidate for long-term biological control of Canada thistle.

A native pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae pv. tagetis (Pst), causes the top of Canada thistle plants to turn yellow to white. This pathogen may release a toxin into the phloem of Canada thistle and kill the plant. The pathogen is most widespread during wet periods. Attempts to produce this pathogen as a commercial biocide have not been successful. A native rust (Puccinia punctiformis) has reduced Canada thistle in the wild but has not been introduced successfully as an effective biological control agent.

Watch the video: How to Grow Annual Babys Breath Gypsophila Elegans

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