Why Are My Coneflowers Turning Black

My Echinacea coneflowers, which are two years old, are withering and dying. They produce a large number of flowers before wilting and becoming brown. Stem by stem, the entire plant appears to be dying. What should I do? Nothing else appears damaged in my perennial bed.

Coneflowers are often pest-free and simple to grow, although under some circumstances, certain illnesses can attack them. Your symptoms point to sclerotinia stem and root rot, commonly known as crown rot. The fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is the culprit.

The illness may manifest itself when the plants are young or are in blossom. It can start in the soil and develop into dark spots on the plant’s crown and roots after it dies. Additionally, it can enter the plant through the air, in which case it results in dieback, wilting, and stem blotches. The heads of flowers may droop. You should be able to identify the issue by digging up one of the plants and looking at the roots. A tiny, frail, or fractured root system is another sign of a fungus issue.

Wet environments are where this disease is most likely to spread. This fungus is most likely the cause of the issue if it has been particularly humid or rainy in your area this year compared to average. Echinacea plants are also drought-tolerant and don’t like or need a lot of irrigation. Consider planting your coneflowers somewhere else if you are continuously watering the other, unharmed plants in the bed to keep them healthy.

To confirm that sclerotinia is the issue, consult your county extension agent, a Master Gardener club, or a reputable nurseryperson. They will be able to propose a course of action, which may involve using a fungicide.

What results in the blackening of coneflowers?

The Eriophyid mite, Japanese beetles, aphids, and sweet potato whiteflies are the most frequent insect pests that harm coneflowers.

  • Whiteflies on sweet potatoes Sweet potato whiteflies consume plant liquids while living and feeding on the undersides of leaves. Black sooty mold frequently grows as a result of the presence of these bugs. Additionally, you might see fading and tearing in the leaves. Additionally, infections like viral vectors can be spread by sweet potato whiteflies.
  • AphidsAphids will rob plants of their nutrients, much like whiteflies do. They can quickly overpower and kill plants when present in big numbers.
  • Japanese beetlesJapanese beetles often appear around June and feed in groups. They eat on flowers and leaves, starting at the top and working their way down, quickly decimating plants.
  • Eriophyid mites dwell inside flower buds and eat their interiors for food. Stunted growth and deformed blossoms are signs of damage.

In most cases, handpicking beetles, insecticidal soap sprays, and the removal of infested plant portions can be used to treat these insect pests. Coneflowers may potentially be attacked by rabbits in addition to insects. However, as rabbits adore the young shoots and seedlings, this is typically a bigger issue on young plants. Sprays of hot pepper can discourage rabbits from causing harm by making the vegetation less appealing.

Powdery mildew

This illness often arises from an airflow problem or excessive moisture. Plants that have already been damaged by disease or pests may be particularly vulnerable. By planting in well-drained soil and carefully spacing your plants, you can avoid powdery mildew.

Eriophyid mites

Eriophyid mite damage to plants mirrors some of the signs of aster yellows (see below). In this instance, the harm is mainly superficial and won’t have an impact on the plant’s health, but it will lessen seed output. On the cones, tufted growth or rosettes develop as a result of mites eating on the flowers. The distorted flowers resemble aster yellows and are unattractive. The attractive show will be enhanced and the mite population will be decreased by removing the impacted blooms.

Japanese beetles

The insects consume flowers and vegetation, leaving ragged holes in their wake. Fortunately, the majority of their harm is aesthetic. The best method for removing adult beetles is by hand-picking them.

Crown/stem rot

Crown/stem rot, which frequently arises from overwatering (or from a plant being placed in an extremely damp site), causes the entire plant to turn brown and eventually waste away. Again, drained soil is essential.

Aster yellows

Being contagious and potentially destructive to other plants makes this issue one of the worst because there is no preventative or cure. Leafhoppers, sucking insects that consume coneflowers, are the means by which a particular bacteria known as a phytoplasma is transferred from plant to plant. Aster yellows are characterized by deformed and chlorotic blooms, stunted stalks, and disfigured foliage. Green spoon-shaped rays and/or a rosette of leafy growth on the cones can also appear on affected flowers (photo). Every year, symptoms get worse because the phytoplasmas grow in the roots over the winter. The best time to practice sanitation is as soon as symptoms start to show. All plant parts, including the roots, must be destroyed.

How can withered coneflowers be revived?

After planting, pay special attention because coneflowers are most likely to need supplemental watering in their first growing season. You should water your plant as soon as you notice wilting or drooping foliage, dry or broken soil, or dry leaves that turn yellow. Give your plant a good watering if you notice any of the aforementioned signs, and then keep an eye on it for the next several weeks to make sure it is receiving the proper amount of moisture.

How is mildew on coneflowers handled?

Beans and members of the cucurbit family are the primary targets of this widespread fungus disease. It typically grows in the middle to end of summer and, unlike most fungi, doesn’t require a lot of moisture. Small, round, white spots at first appear on the upper surfaces of older leaves, but they soon spread to cover the entire leaf, including the bottom, as well as the stems. In extreme circumstances, the leaves wilt and turn brown. It occasionally also affects fruit, but more frequently the fruit is harmed by sunlight as a result of the loss of leaves (this also reduces fruit production of course). Although it normally slows the plant down and reduces its output, powdery mildew does not always completely destroy the plant.

Powdery Give your plants sufficient air circulation since shady, humid regions with poor air circulation are where mildew is most prevalent (provide support for climbing varieties is important). To stop the spread, get rid of the contaminated leaves. Clean up the beds in the fall since the fungus spores overwinter on plant waste. Additionally, be sure to feed and water the plants properly. Some cultivars of cucumber are hardy (marked PM). By misting the infected leaves with compost tea or urine, you can attempt to control the infection (diluted with 4 parts water).

The best option for low-maintenance beauty is wildflowers. Tricia demonstrates how to start your own wildflower area.

The term “Last Frost Date” (LFD) designates a rough date for the final deadly frost of spring.

The term “First Frost Date” (FFD) designates a rough date for the winter’s first fatal frost.

What’s causing my perennials to turn black?

Plants with black leaves are a clear indication that something is wrong. These poor plants can occasionally be saved, but more often than not, the damage has been done and it is too late to reverse it. Finding out what went wrong can be a crucial step in ensuring that these issues don’t occur with your other plants, whether or not it is already too late.


Blackened leaves are a result of overwatering plants. Frequently, the plant has irreparable rot by this point and cannot be rescued. Avoid letting your plants sit in excessive amounts of water, and make sure the pot they are in has a hole at the bottom so any extra water can drain. Test the soil before watering by inserting a figure about an inch deep. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the soil isn’t wet underneath just because the top layer is dry. It’s also crucial to avoid letting your plants’ leaves become too wet. While a little bit is usually fine, too much might result in dangerous fungal infections that can spread illnesses and ultimately kill your plant. To try to solve these problems, if you see any standing water on your plants, wipe it out with a cloth or paper towel.


The development of white patches on the soil surface of your plant is typically an indication of salt buildup. Salts can be found in fertilizers, potting soils, and the water you use to hydrate your plants. Regularly flush-watering a plant helps remove any extra salts and minerals. Even after you start to notice black leaves, these harsh deposits may still be able to help you save your plant.

Temperature and Humidity

Tropical regions are where most indoor plants are native. They favor warm, muggy environments. Try keeping your plants in regions where the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them comfy. Anything below 55 degrees won’t be conducive to growing plants. Additionally, make sure that your green space is sufficiently ventilated and damp.

Rotted Plants

Sadly, there are times when black leaves appear for reasons that are wholly uncontrollable. Bacterial infections can result in rot that turns leaves black and destroys plants swiftly. To prevent the rot from spreading to other plants in your yard, this terrifying scenario needs to be treated right now. Purchasing your plants and cuttings from a reputable source is one of the greatest ways to prevent this. Cheap, big-box retailers frequently get their plants from unhygienic growth environments. Make sure the place you buy your plants from is sourcing from an actual, high-quality nursery by doing your homework before you buy!

Although black leaves on your plants can be reversed, in certain situations they are an indication of bacterial, fungal, or disease issues. The best course of action is to remove the plant from your other plants as soon as you find it because of this risk. This move can avert a catastrophe in your collection. Insects like whiteflies should also be avoided because they can infect your plants with germs.

How are black spots on coneflower leaves treated?

As the disease worsens, leaves frequently get dark patches and may become yellow. In the worst case scenario, the dark spots could merge and cause the entire leaf to die. The black spots could also become sunken.

The disease can be treated with a simple copper fungicide and is brought on by a variety of fungi of the Colletotrichum genus.

My go-to brand is Bonide, and I always have some on hand because it works well against so many different fungal illnesses.

How frequently do I need to water coneflowers?

These low-maintenance perennials just need the bare minimum: frequent watering of approximately one inch per week, a small spring compost addition, and fall pruning, though even that is optional if you like to leave the seed heads.

Pruning: Many modern cultivars are flower factories and will continue to produce without needing to snip off spent blooms, even though deadheading is a standard gardening practice to promote recurrent flowering. In this manner, you may simply leave the seeds alone, providing food for yet another favored group of wild birds, especially tiny songbirds like goldfinches that are particularly fond of the seeds. Why not just let the early, larger flowers go to seed and provide the birds with a feast? Post-deadheading blossoms can be smaller and less gratifying.

Once your coneflower’s flowering is done, you can trim it to the ground so that it can survive the winter. Or, you can chop it down in the first few weeks of spring if you’d rather leave the dry seed heads.

If the flowers are little or poorly developed, add some compost to the soil surrounding the plants as an amendment and fertilizer. Be cautious because excessive feeding might result in a surplus of foliage and a dearth of blossoms.

Watering: Tolerates drought, but thrives under conditions of normal to low rainfall. Water often, but allow the soil to dry out in between. Every week, coneflowers require at least one inch of water.

Divide clumps when they become crowded, roughly every 4 years. If you leave spent blooms in tact, they will easily reseed themselves. If they start to get out of control, deadheading can assist. Some gardeners strike a balance by gathering the seeds and planting them in strategically chosen locations for the following season.

Diseases and pests: Aster yellows, a virus-like illness brought on by a phytoplasma, is one issue that should be noted with Echinacea. Deformed flowers, occasionally with strange tufts in the cones, and yellow leaves with green veins are symptoms. Leafhoppers and other sap-sucking insects disseminate the bacterium (and can also be spread on pruners during deadheading). Once you realize a plant is diseased, dig it up right away and discard it because there is no treatment. Leaf miners, powdery mildew, bacterial spots, gray mold, vine weevils, and Japanese beetles can all plague them.