“My Flowers Look Sick. What Do I Do??”

by | Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Insects on flower plants are often signs of another plant problem.

There is no perfect gardener, no matter what your neighbor up the street with the pristine landscape wants you to think.

So, if you have a flower that looks sick, is struggling or is dying, take heart.

It happens to everyone.

(Yes, even to your neighbor. Though, she may not admit it!)

Flowers can get stress, weather issues, disease, insects…

And that’s just the beginning.

The tricky thing is that sometimes the issues you see AREN’T the primary issue.

They’re signs or symptoms of an underlying problem.

Insects, for example, are known to show up when a plant is stressed and something else is going on.

So, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a plant detective to help you figure out what’s going on?

Good news, you DO have a local resource if you need plant help.

But you may have never heard of it before!

It’s called an agriculture extension office or a cooperative extension.

The lingo can vary slightly from state to state.

These offices are usually associated with a state university.

They’re staffed with horticulturalists and trained volunteers who are there to help you figure out what’s going on with your plants.

Pretty cool, right?

You can reach out to them by email or phone.

Some have locations you can visit.

Usually, they’ll ask questions to help you identify what’s going on with your plants. If there are solutions, they’ll help you understand what to do. And it’s all based in research and science.

This service is typically free or available for a very small fee.

So, how do you find your local extension office?

Here are links to the cooperative extension offices in western states:

If you don’t see your state listed above, search for: [your state] agriculture extension office.

Search for your local agriculture extension office -- also known as a cooperative extension

When you open your state’s website, look for the extension office for the county you live in. Generally, it’s best to start with your county’s office.

If you don’t see your county, look for a nearby community.

Before you reach out, you may want to collect a few pieces of info.

1) Take clear photos of what you’re seeing on your plant.

Include a close-up photo, a slightly wider shot and a very wide shot of your yard.

Sometimes the issue on your plant is related to something else that’s going on in your garden environment.

Plus, photos can be helpful for identifying your plant, whether it’s a flower, vegetable, shrub or tree.

Take photos of the disease, insect or issue you see on the flower or vegetable

2) Make notes about what you’re seeing.

This makes it easier for someone who isn’t there by your side in your garden to understand what’s going on.

For example:

  • What are you noticing?
  • When is it happening?
  • When did you first notice it?
  • Where is it happening?
  • Have you noticed it on any other plants?
  • Has anything happened recently in this area?

Take notes on how your flower looks sick or what makes you think it's dying.

Thinking through these questions in advance can be helpful.

And if you aren’t sure what the name of your plant is, don’t worry!

That’s okay.

3) Collect a sample.

If your plant looks diseased or like it has insects, take a sample and immediately seal it in a plastic bag.

For example, it may look like your plant has diseased leaves. Trim a few leaves and seal them in a bag.

Why a sealable bag?

If you have insects, those lil’ critters move quickly. If you put your sample in a paper bag or something open, many will turn into escape artists.

Do you need to pull this info together before you reach out?

Nope, but if you’re chatting with your extension office through email, this can eliminate the need for a lot of back-and-forth messages.

You’ll make more efficient use of your time.

Plus, this background information can help your local extension office give you a more accurate diagnosis of what’s going on.

Don’t hesitate to contact your local extension office.

You don’t have to be a gardener with years of experience to contact your local extension office.

If you have flowers that look sick or are dying, OR you have another pressing plant or yard question (for example, you’re having a hard time getting rid of a weed), it’s 100% okay to reach out.

Your extension office should be there to help you without judgment.

Related topics that may interest you:

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