Fellow MG in training mastering the propagation method of air-layering during a behind-the-scene propagation lab at Flamingo Gardens. / Amanda Gorney

One of the most interesting aspects of my participation in the Florida Master Gardener Program has been how quickly we can move from the graphic to the magnificent. During the Week 6 class — Plant Disease and Propagation Lab Day — we began at 8 a.m. with three plant-pathology discussions, then ate lunch at Flamingo Gardens (www.flamingogardens.org).

In Davie, Flamingo Gardens offers 60 acres of tropical paradise that boast some 3,000 species of tropical, subtropical and native plants; many are rare. The arboretum contains some of the largest trees in Florida. Peacocks walk the grounds, and butterflies flit through the area.

9 Symptoms of Plant Disease

Diseases — whether of people, animals or plants — are never pretty. Unfortunately, as Kenneth Pernezny showed us, a vicious plenty of plant pathologies are out there. The retired University of Florida professor of plant pathology showed us that fungi, viruses and bacteria create a lot of problems for farmers and backyard gardeners alike.

His “Disease Diagnosis Guidelines” publication lists nine symptoms that a plant with a problem can exhibit. They include mold, fruiting bodies, ooze, odor, rust and mycelium — a mass of thread-like growths that branch out.

Keep records of symptoms of disease in plants

To diagnose a developing problem — especially one affecting more than one plant — keep track of the following: the plant/s affected; time/s of occurrence; weather conditions; pattern of development in the field or garden; and the severity of the problem. Keep notes and, if possible, take photos periodically to aid in the diagnosis.

plant disease graphic

Compare the look of the healthy half of the plant (left) with the diseased half. / Courtesy Kenneth Pernezny

How do plants reproduce?

The afternoon belonged to John Pipoly, Ph.D., an urban horticulture and natural-resource extension agent for Broward County’s Parks & Recreation Division. His lectures focused on the two types of plant reproduction: sexual and asexual.

According to his class handouts, sexual propagation “must involve pollination: transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another.” Asexual reproduction involves “cloning a plant by means of cuttings, tissue culture … or ‘pups.’”

Asexual (also known as “vegetative”) reproduction uses material taken from a plant to create other, similar plants. Depending on the plant, a gardener wishing to perform asexual propagation can use a rhizome — a horizontal stem at or just below ground level that is disposed to root; a tuber – an enlarged underground stem or root; a corm – an enlarged underground storage stem covered by leaf bases, like that of gladiolas; or a bulb – an underground storage structure consisting of a short stem and fleshy scale leaves surrounding a bud.

Planting seeds provides advantages

In addition to sexual propagation — i.e., using pollination — Dr. Pipoly discussed the advantages of using seeds to create new plants. For instance, some seeds from temperate (that is, four-seasons) regions can remain viable for a long time; and using seeds promotes genetic diversity.

Seed size plays a role

Different-size seeds are planted at different depths. Small seeds should be one-quarter-inch deep; medium seeds, one-half-inch; large seeds, three-fourths- to 1 inch deep. The most frequent causes of poor germination? Wrong planting depth, poor seed viability and disease, Dr. Pipoly explained.

This was one of several topics discussed during week 6 of the Florida Master Gardener Program I attended in Broward County. Thinking about becoming a Florida Master Gardener – here’s what it takes to become a Florida Master Gardener.

All in all, this was a great day. And I was glad I wore sunscreen and insect repellent!