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What is it?

The fungus botrytis tulipae causes this common disease of tulips.

What does it look like?

Leaves and flowers will have light to dark colored spots, which enlarge to form gray blotches that will eventually cover the entire area. In cool, moist weather the infected tissue develops a fuzzy brown or gray mold. Stems and leaves may become distorted and rot off the bases. Bulbs have dark, circular, sunken lesions or dark brown pin-sized pellets on their husks.

How does it manifest?

The fungi enters the plants through wounded, weak or dead plant tissues in periods of cool, moist weather. The fungi persist through the winter and survive hot, dry periods as the tiny pellets in soil. These pellets then produce spores, which attack flowers and foliage again in the spring. Fungi are spread by splashing water.

What can you do about it?

Before planting bulbs, check for signs of infection and discard bad bulbs. Remove and destroy all diseased plants, leaves, flowers and debris. Treat emerging plants when they reach 4 inches tall using a spreader-sticker and spraying them with a benomyl containing fungicide. Repeat this treatment even 5 to 7 days until flowers bloom. As tulip flowers start to fade, remove them and cut off foliage as it begins to turn yellow. The best bet is to not plant new plants in an area that was diseased.