Sugar maple with verticillium wilt

Sugar maple with verticillium wilt. Early symptoms of verticillium wilt include yellowing or off-color or scattered branches. Photo: Cynthia Ash

Updated: April 12, 2021

Key points

  • Verticillium wilt is a common disease problem occurring on trees and shrubs caused by the common soil fungus Verticillium spp.
  • Some commonly grown shrubs that are susceptible to verticillium wilt include azalea, daphne, hibiscus, osmanthus, lilac, photinia, rose, spirea, viburnum, and weigela. 
Tree branch with verticillium wilt
Tree branch with verticillium wilt
Photo: Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Symptoms 

  • Early symptoms usually start as a yellowing or off color of scattered branches.
  • These symptoms are usually followed by wilting and sudden dieback of infected limbs especially during drought or in the heat of summer.
  • Eventually, the entire plant may wilt and die. However, established shrubs may live for years with dieback symptoms before succumbing.
  • Sunken cankers with bark splitting may develop on infected limbs.
  • A partial list of resistant shrubs includes dogwood, firethorn, flowering quince, holly, and rhododendron.
Cross-section of branch showing discoloration of vascular tissue from verticillium
Cross-section of branch showing discoloration of vascular tissue from verticillium

Management

  • Some cultural practices can help to prolong the life of infected plants in the landscape.
  • Prune out wilted and dead branches.
  • Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. 
  • Water during drought and use mulches to conserve water and control weeds.