My gladioli have rust, what can I do?

Q.

When my gladioli bulbs came up the leaves were covered in rust I have sprayed them with fungus spray but it is too late to fix the problem. How do I prevent this from happening next summer? Should the bulbs be dug up each autumn?

Sandra Reid

A.

Hi Sandra, rust is prevalent in warm humid weather. The fungus is spread by either wind or water and can overwinter in the soil so it is important to remove any infected plant material and burn or dispose of in the rubbish to prevent spread. Spray infected plants, a copper based spray is a good protectant, but you will need a more heavy hitting fungicide if you already have rust on your plants. A fungicide will need to be applied regularly, your local garden centre will be able to help with a suitable spray. Once the plants start to die down cut the foliage off at the base of the corm, dispose of the foliage, do not compost, and treat the bulbs with Flowers of Sulphur before storing, sulphur is a natural fungicide. Make sure the foliage has started to yellow before cutting it at the base. Generally gladioli can be left in the soil over winter as long as the ground is free draining and not heavy clay, and doesn't freeze in winter. You are in the winterless North so it is not necessary to lift bulbs, but to get rid of rust or treat your corms for rust, it might be necessary for one season at least. Another thing that might help is to improve air circulation around your plants to reduce humidity and the conditions that the fungus thrives in. Lianne.  

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