Why Is My Dusty Miller Drooping?
With its velvet-textured, silvery leaves, who would not fall in love with the unique beauty of a dusty miller? Its foliage makes a striking contrast against the colors of any surrounding flowers, making them the center of attraction in the garden. If you are an avid gardener, you probably do not want to miss out on adding this stunning plant to your collection!
But, when your dusty miler’s leaves start to droop, it quickly loses its vigor and beauty. For any dedicated gardener, this can be a heartbreaking sight. There are several possible causes of drooping in dusty miller plants, one of the most common being improper watering. Let us analyze all the culprits below, and discuss what you can do to perk your silver beauty back up.
How to troubleshoot a drooping dusty miller
For inexperienced growers, seeing their lovely perennials looking sad and weak can be confusing as well as frustrating, especially after all the time and effort spent nurturing their plants. But, regardless of your hard work, problems are bound to happen – even for hardy and drought-resistant plants like the dusty miller.
Several underlying issues can cause a dusty miller’s drooping appearance, so to troubleshoot your plant, here are some questions you need to answer:
1. Is it receiving full sunlight?
Although dusty millers can tolerate partial shade, these plants are happier in full sunlight. Their furry, silvery leaves are well-suited to areas with lots of sunlight, and the little hairs that cause their silver color will actually stop growing or fall off in shady areas, causing the leaves to turn green.
Additionally, dusty millers that do not receive adequate light are more likely to become limp and leggy as the stems stretch out in search of light.
To fix this issue, your dusty miller must be placed in a sunny location to maintain its stunning foliage and compact form. You do not need to worry about the sun’s heat, since these plants are heat- and drought-tolerant. Full sunlight exposure for at least four hours a day is the recommendation for growing a healthy-looking dusty miller.
2. How long has it been potted?
Dusty millers can be vulnerable to becoming rootbound, especially if they have been growing in the same pot for too long. When a plant is rootbound, its roots can become too dense and compacted, causing soil displacement from the pot. This leaves less soil available to provide moisture and nutrients, thus compromising the roots’ ability to provide for the entire plant.
There is no exact timeline as to when you should repot your dusty miller. Simply make it a habit to check on your plant from time to time, and if you notice any roots growing out through the pot’s drainage holes or over the top of the pot, it is time to repot your plant. Make sure that the new pot is about two inches bigger than the previous one.
3. Is the soil too wet?
Soggy soil is undesirable for most plants. It causes deterioration of the roots, leading to a disease known as root rot. Soil-borne fungi also favor the damp, humid environment, and can hasten the death of the root system and the entire plant.
So, if your dusty miller is suddenly looking sad and lifeless, check the soil. Do you see any standing water? Is it always very wet? If so, your plant could be struggling with root rot.
At this point, the best thing you can do is check the roots to assess the severity of the damage. Gently lift the affected plant from its pot and inspect all of the roots. Healthy roots should be white and firm, while damaged ones will look dark and mushy. If more than half of the roots have remained healthy, you have a good chance of reviving your dying plant. All you need to do is prune away the damaged parts, wash the remaining roots under running water, and repot your plant in fresh, well-draining soil.
However, if most of the roots have become rotten, you should probably discard the plant as it has very little chance of pulling through. Do not use any parts of the diseased plant in your compost, or you risk the spread of fungal spores.
4. Is the soil too dry?
Are you one of those gardeners who is always forgetting to water their plants regularly, until the garden starts to suffer symptoms of neglect? Thankfully, dusty millers are drought tolerant and do not mind a degree of neglect.
However, long periods without water, combined with hot weather conditions, can eventually be detrimental for these silvery plants. After all, they are still living organisms, and they need water to carry on their metabolic activities. So, the question is, when was the last time you watered your plants? If you cannot remember a date, then it is probably too long ago. By this point, your already-distressed dusty millers are drooping and turning brown to catch your attention.
Fully-established dusty millers do not really require much attention – just give them some water about once a week and they will be happy. And, importantly, adjust your watering according to changes in the weather. You do not want the soil to become too dry in between waterings.
A clever way to check your plant’s moisture needs is to feel the soil with your finger, or use a soil moisture meter if you prefer to see actual figures. Hopefully, these methods will help you avoid underwatering and keep your dusty millers properly hydrated.
5. How long have you been growing the plant?
Sadly, all plants have a finite life cycle. If you have done your best to nurture your dusty miller and it still looks sad and dying, this might be the end of its life. Aside from drooping, you might also notice the stems growing a bit longer than usual and its flower clusters turning yellow.
Some gardeners grow these beauties as annuals, meaning that the plants are discarded after their first season. But keep in mind that dusty millers are generally considered herbaceous perennials in zones eight to ten. This means they will come back year after year to produce their creamy yellow flowers.
Other signs to look out for
Drooping does not always mean a plant is dying. There are many other signs that you need to consider to fully understand your plant’s woes and to be able to take appropriate and timely action.
A dusty miller drooping, when combined with other signs, could mean different things. Have a read through the symptoms below to help you arrive at the correct diagnosis:
1. Curling leaves
This generally means that the plant is trying to conserve moisture. This sign can be very apparent if your perennials have been underwatered for long periods. Insect damage, root rot, the use of herbicides, and overfertilization can also cause the leaves to curl.
2. Leaves turning green
Dusty miller leaves turn green when they lose the tiny hairs that give them their usual silvery color. This often happens when the plant is not receiving enough sunlight. As mentioned previously, dusty millers do best in full, direct sunlight. They are also tolerant of shady areas, but they will not achieve such a healthy, silvery appearance under these conditions.
3. Leaves turning black
If the leaves of your perennial are turning dark green or black, your plant is likely struggling with high temperatures. This most often happens during hot summer seasons, particularly in the afternoon hours. But, once the weather cools down a bit, your dusty miller should quickly bounce back to normal.
4. Wilting leaves
Improper watering is usually the culprit behind wilting dusty miller leaves. Like other plants, their roots are sensitive to extreme dryness or wetness. So, whether you are underwatering or overwatering your plants, both of these practices can damage their foliage via a compromised root system.
5. Powdery mildew on the leaves
Powdery mildew is caused by fungal spores that thrive in wet and humid environments. Keeping your plant’s leaves wet for any extended period provides these pathogens an opportunity to take up residence there. One tell-tale sign that this has happened is the appearance of white, powdery spots on the undersides of the leaves – known as powdery mildew.
How often should you water your dusty miller?
The golden rule when it comes to watering your plants is to allow the soil to dry out a little bit in between waterings. That said, make sure that the soil does not look too dry or too wet, as both of these conditions can have undesirable effects on your plants. Under mild weather conditions, watering your dusty miller once a week should suffice.
How do you keep your dusty miller from drooping?
Of all of the possible causes of drooping, improper watering seems to be the most common culprit, so keep a close check on your watering habits. Is your plant struggling with a lack of water or too much watering? Once your care routine has been corrected, your dusty miller should be growing healthily and beautifully in no time.
The unique silvery leaves of a dusty miller plant are a sight to behold – but it can also be scary and frustrating if they suddenly start drooping or dying! Often, this issue is triggered by improper watering, although it could also be caused by a lack of sunlight, a rootbound state, or fungal disease. Although dusty millers are hardy plants, these issues should never be taken lightly. Hopefully, using this guide, you can determine the exact cause of the drooping and rescue your plant in the shortest possible time!
Image: istockphoto.com / liuyushan