University of Maryland Extension

Powdery Mildew - Trees and Shrubs

powdery mildew infection
Photo: Powdery mildew on euonymus

Back to Common Problems - Trees and Shrubs

Go to Powdery Mildew on Annuals, Bulbs, Groundcovers, Perennials, and Vines

Powdery mildew is the common name for the disease and symptoms caused by a closely related group of fungi. These fungi grow on the upper and lower leaf surfaces, young stems, shoot tips, flower buds and/or blossoms of plants. As they grow, they produce microscopic chains of spores that give infected areas their characteristic white powdery appearance.
(Click image below to enlarge.)

powdery mildew on oak leaf powdery mildew sycamore

Powdery mildew on oak leaf

Powdery mildew on sycamore

powdery mildew rose powdery mildew lilac

Powdery mildew on new growth of rose

Powdery mildew on lilac

dogwood leaves with powdery mildew
Powdery mildew on dogwood

beginning powdery mildew infection on dogwood
Early onset of powdery mildew on dogwood

crape myrtle infected with powdery mildew

Powdery mildew on crape myrtle

dogwood infected with powdery mildew

Dogwood with powdery mildew

The fungi parasitize the tissues of the plant causing a decline in its vigor. They also block light needed for photosynthesis. Infection is rarely lethal, but does cause leaf yellowing and browning, leaf distortion, premature leaf drop, and blemished or aborted flowers and slower-than -normal growth. Young plants grown in heavy shade are the most seriously affected by this disease.

The optimum conditions for powdery mildew development are warm days followed by cool, humid nights. Dry daytime weather allows spores to spread to other plants on air currents. On a cool evening they absorb enough moisture from the air to germinate and cause infection. The entire powdery mildew life cycle can take place in less than a week under ideal conditions, and many overlapping infection cycles can occur within a single growing season. These fungi overwinter in the bud scales for initiation of infection next season.

Management strategies: Control begins with the selection of plants resistant to powdery mildew. Place susceptible plants where there is adequate sunlight and good air circulation to reduce humidity levels. Allow proper plant spacing for the same reasons. Pruning for better air circulation also may help. Registered fungicides may be needed if disease is severe. Check the label registration on horticultural oil products for powdery mildew control listings.

When selecting new dogwood varieties, choose powdery mildew resistant cultivars of kousa, flowering dogwood or hybrids such as 'Cherokee Brave' (flowering), 'National' (kousa), 'Milky Way Select' (kousa), 'Stellar Pink' (hybrid), 'Stardust' (hybrid), 'Galaxy' hybrid), 'Constellation' (hybrid), 'Satomi' (kousa), 'Aurora' (hybrid) and others.

There are also many powdery mildew resistant crape myrtles available for planting in the nursery trade. 

Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2017. Web Accessibility