University of Maryland Extension

Stem Cankers of Houseplants

crown rot aloe

  • Cankers or lesions on stem can be caused by fungal and bacterial pathogens.
  • The symptoms usually include a dark sunken area on a stem or branch that encircles or girdles the tissue and kills the remaining stem portion.
  • The plant may appear yellowed or wilted if the canker is near the base of the stem.
  • The canker may also cause the tissue to appear watery or mushy and if caused by a fungus may have fruiting bodies with spores along the canker margins.

Management Strategies  

  • There are no cures for cankers once they are causing symptoms.
  • Affected branches or stems should be pruned off and removed below the canker.
  • Severely infected plants may have to be discarded. Any method that will lower the humidity, decrease plant wetness or increase air circulation will help to lessen the chances of infection.
  • Watering should be done early in the day to allow plant surfaces time to dry quickly.
  • Space plants so that air can circulate between them to help reduce moisture. 
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