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azalea bushes have moss/fungus/disease-(pic links included)

Palatka, FL

I bought a house that came with these azaleas (or at least that is what I was told they were). I have no idea what exact kind they are and I have never gardened in my life so I have no idea what I'm doing to take care of them other then let them grow. 3 years have gone by and they seemed fine, but the person I pay to have my lawn mowed this past year did not take care of the grass growing near and around the azalea bushes. I started noticing Spanish moss getting caught in the grass and weeds around the bushes, so I manually weeded out from underneath all of the bushes in hopes of stopping the Spanish moss from expanding. While it has slowed the Spanish moss, I still come upon clumps of it and I suppose I need to be picking these out of the bushes.

There are other issues and I have no idea if this is normal (which I doubt), fungus, or some type of disease. Below I posted picture links with descriptions of each, but beware that if you have dial-up, they will take a minute to load. Otherwise they should be fast and help display the problem I am having to you.

This shows spots on the branches of my azalea's. Fungus or disease? And is it tied to the Spanish moss at all?

Below are 3 links that show either a different type from the spots, or what happens to the spots after awhile. I'm not sure and once again I have no idea if this is fungus and if it is tied to the Spanish moss at all.

Below is a clear shot of some Spanish moss. Perhaps you can see that it has attached itself to the plant and perhaps even grew from it. No idea on the matter.

Here is a shot of some of the blooming azalea's which may give you an idea on the health of the plants as well as what type of azalea's they are.

If I seem overly informative or otherwise uninformative as to the issue I'm having, then once again it is because I have no idea what I'm doing and could use all the info I can get. All information that I can get on this matter would be of great assistance. Thank you for any help.

Thumbnail by cwtrex
Slidell, LA(Zone 8b)

cw - looks to me, in my very uneducated opinion LOL - like a nutrient deficiency that crape myrtle's also get. I saw that info somewhere and I have been meaning to look for it again because its on my crape myrtles. I will be interested to see what the experts say about it. In the meantime, I'll see if I can find that info and post it here. Good Luck
PS I didn't know spanish moss grew on anything other than trees!

Slidell, LA(Zone 8b)

cw - well I wasn't actually right or wrong LOL If it is the same thing my trees have, and it very much looks like it, they are called lichens, which are a combination organism made up of a fungus and an alga living together. Seems like they appear on plants that are in declining health but they are not themselves harmful. but I am positive that I read somewhere that you should add "something" to the ground around the trees to help correct this. I am still looking.

Palatka, FL

Thx for the reply. Yes, I'd be interested on some more info on the matter. Also, as being inexperienced in the matter of gardening, I have no idea what the most efficient and cost effective way of controlling the weeds and grass around these bushes. I read some where that vinegar will kill weeds and grass. It would be awesome if anyone has any experience on that as well and knowledge to if the vinegar would be beneficial or harmful to the bushes.

Parma, OH(Zone 5b)

I don't want to send you on a wild goose chase but from the
pics it looks like a scale insect infestation to me. Especially
if there a are whitish nodules all over the stems of the azaleas.
If it is, it is easily cured with BAER Tree & Shrub systemic in-
secticide. Just take a section of the diseased stem to a local
Garden Center and they should be able to confirm or correctly
diagnose this plant ailment. I have no input on the other prob-
lems you allude to. Sorry.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Scale is usually more like rounded bumps, this looks way more flaky than any scale I've ever seen. I'm leaning toward the lichen theory myself.

Palatka, FL

I went to Home Depot when I first spotted this a few months ago and the guy seemed a bit clueless. So I bought Garden Safe Fungicide 3-in-1 Concentrated version figuring that since it's 3-in-1 and I have no idea what the heck this stuff is, that I'd give it a shot. So I followed the directions so that it would be effective (according to the bottle) on Fungicide, Insecticide, and I sprayed the stuff on the bushes every 2 or 3 weeks about 3 times and the stuff doesn't seem to go away. But that's not to say I didn't buy the right stuff or something and the bottle isn't even 1/3rd gone yet, but as you can see by those pics I took today, the issue isn't resolving and it does seem to still be spreading from bush to bush. I think there is one or two left that doesn't have anything on them yet.

Um, here's a pic of the stuff I bought to give you a better idea of how I tried to treat this before coming here for advice. And btw, I'm guessing it's a no that none of you have heard of the vinegar idea or have any experience with it?


Thumbnail by cwtrex
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Sorry...forgot to say something about the vinegar. It is a weed killer, it works best if you can apply it when the sun's out. It's not the strongest weed killer in the world so there may be some things that you have to apply it to a few times before it actually dies. I would be careful about splashing it on plants you like though, it's a general herbicide so it can kill your desirable plants too. But since your azaleas are large shrubs, if you splash a little on the leaves it's unlikely it would do more than damage the couple of leaves it hits, but you don't want to go pouring buckets of it over everything or you might be sorry! LOL

As far as your 3-in-1 stuff, I have used that in the past, and have found it's not particularly effective on fungus or on the tougher sort of insect pests like scale. It works fine for aphids and spider mites though. So even though a good fungicide might get rid of the lichen, I don't think this one is strong enough based on my experiences with it.

Palatka, FL

I live in the middle of nowhere (nearest city is about an hour away or more) and so my main choice is home depot. Is there an ingredient or something I should be looking for that home depot will have?

Slidell, LA(Zone 8b)

I know I am a newbie - but if lichen is indeed a sign of an ailing shrub/tree, wouldn't it be better to first figure out whats wrong with the plant, fix that and see if the lichen disappears?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Yes, I agree, there's really no need to get rid of the lichen (assuming this is lichen and not something else--I'm not sure if that's 100% settled yet) But if it is lichen, it's not hurting the plant, so it's more important to get rid of whatever the underlying problem is.

If you're not convinced it's lichen and want to try something else you might try some sort of copper soap fungicide, I think those are more effective although they're not organic like the neem product is.

Rolesville, NC(Zone 7b)

From what I can see, the first picture (with the smooth, gray, mottled bark) is just the normal look of the bark. The three pictures that follow it are definitely of lichens with a stray bit of spanish moss here and there. You can treat for it with a moss/algae killer but it will just keep coming back because lichens love high humidity areas like Florida. If you can keep the foliage/stems from getting watered by a sprinkler that's the best way not to encourage excessive growth of the lichens.

Palatka, FL

Thanks plantfreak. I'll try the moss/algae killer. No sprinklers are being used, so my only guess is the high grass growing up in between the branches coupled with some heavy rain caused this response.

I keep reading that lichen is not supposed to be harmful yet some of the branches with heavy lichen growth are now dry and as the lichen moves forth, the leaves fall off. Is this normal? Or do you think there is something else going on besides this lichen growth?

If no ideas, I'll just try the moss/algae killer and see how they go from there.

Rolesville, NC(Zone 7b)

Lichen often grows on branches that are already declining. What you see is the branch dying in response to the lichen but what is actually happening is that the lichens are advancing as the branch dies (from other causes). Lichens can also live on the bark of perfectly healthy branches, but there, it usually stays put.

Melrose, FL

Hi - I live near you (Melrose) and I am having the same problem with my azaleas. Have you found anything that got rid of the lichen, or figured out what was causing it? I also have the lichen on my indian hawthorn and a few other plants in my yard. I'm clueless as to why I've got them. Thx.

Rockmart, GA

I live in Georgia and have the same problem with my azaleas. I have tried a fungicide (daconil) but it didn't help. Many of my plants are dying.

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