13 Common Mallow Plant Diseases to Avoid & Solutions

In the world of gardening, the mallow plant (Malvaceae) stands out for its beauty, but beneath its charming exterior lies a battleground for survival. These plants are under constant siege by an array of diseases that can turn a lush garden into a floral infirmary overnight.

As gardeners, it’s our mission to detect and defend our beloved mallows from these stealthy invaders. Step into the gardeners’ realm where vigilance meets action, and learn how to protect your mallows against the silent onslaught of plant pathogens.

1. Rust: The Unwanted Ornamentation

malva rust

Rust, caused by Puccinia malvacearum, manifests as unsightly orange to brown pustules on mallow leaves. It’s a pervasive issue, spreading with ease and potentially leading to significant foliage loss.

This disease has a storied history, first reported in Chile in 1852 ¹, and has since become a global concern for mallow growers.

Countermeasures Include:

  • Sanitation: Prompt removal of infected leaves can curb its spread.
  • Circulation: Ensure plants are well-spaced to promote quick leaf drying.
  • Fungicides: Considered a definitive response, particularly for severe infections. In the spring, infected leaves should be removed and destroyed to prevent the spread of rust.

2. Powdery Mildew: The Dusty Coating

Powdery mildew is notorious for its dusty, white presence on leaves and stems, hindering photosynthesis and plant vigor. It’s a disease that favors neither wet nor dry, but both.

Preventative Measures:

  • Sunlight Exposure: Full sun can help minimize the risk.
  • Watering Practices: Target the soil, not the foliage, to minimize leaf wetness.
  • Resistant Varieties: Opt for these to naturally reduce disease incidence.

3. Botrytis Blight: The Damp Shadow

Also known as gray mold, Botrytis blight casts a pall over the garden with its characteristic gray fungal growth. It’s a pathogen that revels in moisture and cool temperatures.

Control Strategies:

  • Ventilation: Adequate plant spacing is key for reducing humidity.
  • Hygiene: Regularly deadhead spent blooms and remove plant debris.
  • Moisture Management: Morning watering allows for daytime drying.

4. Verticillium Wilt: The Silent Strangler

This soil-borne fungus, Verticillium spp., stealthily infects mallows, leading to wilted, thirsty-looking plants. It’s a formidable foe, persisting in the soil and resisting easy eradication.

Management Practices:

  • Soil Vitality: Enrich with organic matter to improve drainage.
  • Crop Rotation: Avoid planting mallows in the same location successively.
  • Disease-Resistant Varieties: An effective proactive approach.

5. Anthracnose: The Lesion Producer

Anthracnose, with its dark, sunken lesions, can create a dramatic visual on leaves and stems. It’s a disease that can escalate quickly, especially in wet conditions.

Intervention Tactics:

  • Garden Cleanliness: Remove and dispose of infected plant material.
  • Fungicide Application: Timing and selection are critical for effectiveness.
  • Resistant Varieties: A valuable asset in disease prevention.

6. Leaf Spot Diseases: The Mar of Beauty

Leaf spots, the work of pathogens like Alternaria, Cercospora, Colletotrichum, or Septoria spp.², create sharply defined necrotic areas on mallow leaves. These blemishes mar the beauty of the foliage and can lead to more significant health issues for the plant if left unchecked.

Combat Approaches:

  • Fungicide Application: At the first sign of spotting, apply recommended fungicides such as thiophanate-methyl or sulfur.
  • Environmental Control: Reduce leaf wetness by watering at the base and ensuring good air circulation.
  • Sanitation: Remove and dispose of fallen, infected leaves to reduce the source of spores.

7. Bacterial Blight: The Damp Destroyer

This disease brings a deluge of water-soaked spots, leading to widespread blight. Rapid and ruinous, it requires immediate attention to prevent widespread plant loss.

Defensive Measures:

  • Irrigation Technique: Water at the base to keep leaves dry.
  • Tool Sterilization: Prevent disease spread with clean equipment.
  • Bactericides: Seek expert advice for the appropriate options.

8. Basal & Root Rot: The Hidden Menace

Basal and root rot, primarily caused by the fungi Rhizoctonia solani or Pythium spp., attack the very foundation of our mallows. These pathogens lead to rotted, collapsed roots and stems, often with telltale sunken lesions at the soil line.

The battle against these fungi is a challenging one, as control methods can be costly.

Defensive Strategies:

  • Plant Removal: Infected plants should be removed promptly to prevent the spread.
  • Soil Management: Ensure good drainage to discourage waterlogged conditions that these fungi favor.
  • Fungicidal Measures: While often expensive, fungicides may be necessary in severe cases. Always follow label instructions for safe and effective use.

9. Viral Diseases: The Invisible Adversaries

Viral diseases are elusive, often presenting as mottling, yellowing, and distortion of leaves. With no cure, the focus must be on prevention and prompt removal of affected plants.

Proactive Protocols:

  • Insect Management: Control vectors such as aphids that transmit viruses.
  • Disease-Free Stock: Always start with certified disease-free planting materials.
  • Rogue Infected Plants: Remove them immediately to prevent spread.

10. Southern Blight: The Heat-Loving Foe

Southern blight thrives in the warmth, bringing with it a white, cottony fungal growth that can swiftly overwhelm a plant.

Mitigation Methods:

  • Mulching: A layer of mulch can help moderate soil temperature.
  • Vigilance: Early detection is critical for effective intervention.
  • Targeted Fungicide Use: Employ fungicides judiciously where warranted.

11. Crown Gall: The Tumorous Growth

Crown gall creates tumor-like swellings on roots and stems, a direct result of bacterial infection. It’s a disease that can significantly stunt plant growth and vigor.

Prevention Tips:

  • Careful Handling: Avoid wounding plants during planting and maintenance.
  • Clean Tools: Disinfect garden tools to prevent disease transmission.
  • Selection of Resistant Varieties: An invaluable strategy for avoidance.

12. Witches’ Broom: The Chaotic Clutter

Witches’ broom results in a proliferation of shoots, creating a disordered appearance. It’s a symptom rather than a disease itself, indicative of various underlying causes.

Clarification and Care:

  • Accurate Diagnosis: Identify the specific pathogen responsible.
  • Pruning: Remove affected areas where practical.
  • Insect Control: Manage pests to reduce the spread of causative agents.

13. Aster Yellows: The Stealthy Sapper

Aster yellows, caused by a wall-less prokaryotic organism known as a phytoplasma, saps the vitality of mallows, leading to yellowing and stunted growth. This insidious foe is spread by leafhoppers, making early detection and control of these insects crucial.

Preventive Actions:

  • Vector Control: Keep leafhopper populations in check through early season interventions.
  • Weed Management: Eliminate weed hosts that can harbor the phytoplasma.
  • Rogue Affected Plants: Remove and destroy any infected plants to halt the progression of the disease within your garden.

Bonus Tip: Insect Vigilance

While our focus is often on diseases, we must not overlook the insect problems that can also plague our mallows. Vigilance against these tiny adversaries is essential to maintain the health and beauty of our plants.

Guardian Tactics:

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep an eye out for signs of insect damage and take action promptly.
  • Integrated Pest Management: Employ a combination of cultural, physical, and, when necessary, chemical controls to manage insect populations.
  • Healthy Practices: Maintain plant vigor through proper fertilization and watering, as strong plants are less susceptible to insect infestations.

While mallows may be susceptible to a range of diseases, a proactive approach to garden management can significantly mitigate these issues.

Regular monitoring, prompt action, and a commitment to plant health can ensure that your mallows remain a vibrant and delightful presence in your garden. Let’s cultivate with care and relish the rewards of our horticultural endeavors.


  1. ipm.illinois.edu/diseases/rpds/627.pdf
  2. portal.ct.gov/CAES/Plant-Pest-Handbook/pphM/Mallow-Malva
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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.