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Q. I have a corn plant that my sister game me. She lives in North Carolina, and I live in Indiana. I brought it home and it was beautiful. I looked it up in a garden book and the only information on it was to keep it watered–1 inch–when it feels dry. It is not doing well at all. Two bunches of the leaves fell off at the trunk. Each time I water, more leaves turn yellow (no matter how little water I give it). I water with room-temperature well water (no fertilizer, it seems to make it worse). Please tell me what to do before it is totally destroyed.
— Wanda Armstrong, Avilla, Ind.

A. You’re describing classic overwatering symptoms, although there are other possibilities. Does the pot have drainage holes? Excess water has to be allowed to drain away from the roots, so if no holes are present, drill some or repot the plant into a different container. If holes already exist, they may be blocked. See if you can clear them by inserting a screwdriver or other implement.

Since the plant is already struggling, I would repot it. Inspect the roots for root rot. Healthy roots are white and firm with no slime! Repot it in a potting mix recommended for houseplants. Soil from our Indiana gardens does not allow proper drainage for tropical plants.

Corn plant is one of many popular houseplants from the genus Dracaena. Dracaenas need bright, indirect light and warm temperatures (65-75 F is ideal). High humidity is necessary, so place the plant on a tray of moist pebbles. During the period of active growth, water regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet. During the rest period, water less frequently, allowing the top inch of soil to dry between waterings.


Q. We live in northwestern Indiana. For the second year in a row, everyone’s tomato plants became diseased with “the blight,” but no one knows anything about it. The plants would bear and then totally turn brown and shrivel, seemingly from the top down. The fruit would ripen eventually, but be small in size and not very productive. Could you please identify our problem so we can be prepared next season? Thank you.
— L. Means, Darlington, Ind.

A. Most blights and wilts do not follow the pattern you describe of starting at the top and working their way down. Instead, most affect the lower leaves first. Still, it‚s likely that the tomato plants of Darlington are hit by a blight or wilt. Cultural treatment is largely the same for all of them. First, destroy infected plants immediately. Rotate crops throughout the garden so tomatoes are not grown this coming year where you grew them last year. Purchase healthy plants from a reputable company, and look for varieties that are resistant to fusarium wilt (denoted by the letter “F” after the name) and verticillium wilt (denoted by the letter “V” after the name).

You’ll find more cultural information in Purdue Extension publication BP-3, Five Steps to Healthy Garden Tomatoes. It’s available online at www.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/Pubs/BP/BP-3.html.



I often recommend Purdue Extension publications for further details about garden challenges. For horticulture publications, go to www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html. For entomology publications, go to www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/ent.htm. You’ll find many answers there! We can’t tackle the minute details of lengthy issues like proper spray programs for fruit production or espalier training of apple trees in this column. Instead, peruse the Extension publications and get the complete story!


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