Treating Plants with Powdery Mildew

This common fungal disease can affect nearly all types of plants. This guide is about treating plants with powdery mildew.


May 10, 2011 Flag
6 found this helpful

Powdery Mildew on PlantsIf you garden long enough, sooner or later you'll find yourself dealing with powdery mildew problems. This common fungal disease can affect virtually all types of plants. Fortunately, other than slowing down growth, reducing yields, and looking terrible, it rarely kills affected plants. Here are some ways to tackle the problem organically.

Symptoms and Effects

If your plants have a white to grayish powdery coating on the upper surfaces of the leaves, the problem is most likely powdery mildew. Once a plant's leaf surface becomes covered with patches of mildew, its ability to produce food (photosynthesis) is reduced and it becomes weak. Leaves are often shed prematurely, and in severe cases the plant may fail to produce fruit.

There are many types of powdery mildew, all of which spread by microscopic spores. These spores can live for years in leaf debris or in the soil, and are carried to plants by wind, insects, and splashing water. Conditions that favor the spread and growth of powdery mildew include a lack of air circulation around plants (especially in the shade), dry weather, and temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees F.



Organic Treatments

Baking Soda: This homemade remedy is easy and inexpensive to make, and very effective at preventing powdery mildew. Mix together 3 tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), 1 tablespoon of Murphy's Oil Soap (or light horticultural oil) and 1 gallon of water.

Spray a fresh batch of the mixture on the tops and bottoms of leaves every 7 to 10 days. Because oil combined with the heat of the sun can damage plant tissues, it's wise to test the solution on a few leaves before using it in large quantities.


Water: This low-tech approach must be done consistently to work effectively. Unlike indoor mildew, powdery mildew hates water and spreads readily on dry leaves. The spore plugs must embed themselves in leaf tissue to grow, which they can't do on slippery, wet leaves.

Spray down the leaves with the garden hose daily. Make sure you do this early enough in the day so that leaves dry out before evening, otherwise you'll be swapping one fungal disease for another.

Compost Tea: When used as a foliar spray, compost tea has both insecticidal and fungicidal properties. Place a gallon of well-aged compost in a 5-gallon bucket and fill it with water. Stir well and let sit in a warm place for 3 days.

After three days, siphon off the liquid tea by filtering the mixture though a burlap sack. Pour the tea into a hand held sprayer and apply to leaves in the evening.

Remove affected leaves and discard severely affected plants. Use a plastic bag to carry the plant debris out of the garden. Spores can live for years waiting for the right growth conditions, so either burn the waste or discard it in the trash. Don't compost it!

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May 17, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for the great info. Powdery mildew is an enemy I fight with every growing season. From flowers, to vines, to vegetables.

God Bless

Trish in CT

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June 11, 20120 found this helpful

Try powdered milk. Mix the dry milk with water-put in a spray bottle and spray away. Works very well to rid powdery mildew.

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May 28, 2011 Flag
6 found this helpful

A good solution to get rid of this powdery mildew is to make a solution of dry powered milk and spray your plants. This is a tip I learned at a Master Gardener class. It works!

By jeannette from West Palm Beach, FL

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May 31, 20110 found this helpful

What are the measurements for this solution? Powder vs water ratio?

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August 11, 2014 Flag

There are many articles posted on the Internet reporting that ordinary cow's milk, diluted with water to about a 10 % solution and sprayed on plants, is highly effective as a preventative and as a treatment for various types of powdery mildew.

Most of these reports came from the average home gardener. I have been looking for a more credible source. I found one just today. A 2002 Science News article by Janet Raloff cites the findings of Peter Crisp with the Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, University of Adelaide.

The findings were that diluted milk was very effective for treating grape vines infected with powdery mildew. The idea to use milk came from its effectiveness in the treatment of powdery mildew on zucchini.

My yellow crookneck squash are infected. While it's a little late in the season (and too late to consider a preventative), I am going to start a regular spraying routine with diluted milk. I hope to see if there is a significant reduction in the mildew by the end of the growing season.

If you have any information on this subject, such as other reputable studies or the results of your own home trials, I do hope you will consider posting them here.

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August 6, 2014 Flag
0 found this helpful

I's that time of year again, the garden and the garden pests are back with a vengeance! This is what white mold looks like. It destroys cucurbit crops such as pumpkins, cucumbers, and peas. To date we have tried everything to rid ourselves of this.

leaf covered with powdery mildew

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November 7, 2009 Flag
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I am very inexperienced in gardening. There is a white powdery look and white flecks on the underside of a sweet potato vine. Is this powdery mildew? The white flecks are not insects. But I do not know what they are.

Hardiness Zone: 10b

By Lynn from South FL

November 12, 20090 found this helpful

One thing that I found helps with powdery mildew is to make a solution of dry powder milk, and spray your plants. Learned this at a mg. class

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November 12, 20090 found this helpful

I've seen this on my plants. If it's not powdery mildew it's the residue of the bad bugs that the good bugs ate.

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November 12, 20090 found this helpful

If this white powder is on the bottom side of your leaves, it may be mealy bugs and they are easily washed off. You can use clear water or mix a drop of dishwashing liquid with it. Keep a close watch on this plant as they may show up again and mealy bugs will kill the plant. They will move to other plants they like so watch the neighbor plants.

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November 13, 20090 found this helpful

I use the milk method but I use skim milk full strength.

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November 15, 20090 found this helpful

September 6, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

This is the second summer I've grown zucchini and yellow squash in my garden. Both years the leaves become covered with powdery white mildew. Eventually the bottom leaves die and the new leaves soon become mildewy as well.

I have had two different water systems, underground that waters only the roots, and above ground, but only watering in the morning so the leaves get dry. It didn't seem to make any difference, they were covered with mildew with both systems. I don't want to use a chemical fungicide unless there's no other option to get good healthy leaves. I don't want to eat fungicide. I would be grateful for any help.

By LeeAnne67 from Bothell, WA

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September 10, 20110 found this helpful

I feel your pain. I've been plagued with powdery mildew for over two decades. It is nearly impossible to get rid of because it lives in the soil from year to year and is both air borne and water borne. One of my yards is so infested with it that I cannot grow any vegetables there at all. It is extremely contagious and easily transmitted by the hands and gardening tools.

The only thing I've learned to do is manage it, somewhat, by eliminating flowering plants that easily succumb to it - morning glories and sunflowers, for example. It attacks nearly all soft leaved plants, so your squash is easy prey. Remove infected leaves immediately and harvest very early, not letting the fruit remain on the vine too long, then pull up the plant when the mildew begins to overtake the it. I've managed to grow squash quite successfully with this kind of diligence. Also, areas of the garden that get the longest hours of full sun seem to thwart the invasion. If anyone knows a cure I'd sure like to know about it.

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July 15, 2011 Flag
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I recently noticed that one of my succulent houseplants, a kalanchoe, has powdery mildew on the leaves. I just moved and it is in a new location, but nothing else has changed. How to I treat the leaves? They now have brown spots where I have wiped it off. Thank you for your suggestions.

By Barbara from Bremerton, WA

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July 23, 20110 found this helpful

I've never treated succulents for powdery mildew, but have other plants using a fungicide purchased at the garden centre. Check your local extension website, or talk to the staff at the nursery to see what they suggest.

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