Organic Ways to Kill and Prevent White Powdery Mildew

Updated on July 23, 2018
Gcrhoads64 profile image

Gable loves to surround herself with plants year round, and as a former landscaper, she has seen a lot of plant diseases.

What Is This Powdery Mildew on My Plants' Leaves?

As a former landscaper, I have seen a lot of plant diseases. One of the easiest ones to recognize is powdery mildew; it looks just like its name. The mildew will form a white or gray powdery film on a plant's leaves, stems, and fruit.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease caused by the many varieties of the fungi that belong to the order Erysiphales. The fungus thrives in warm, humid environments, and overwinters in the soil. The mildew forms spores that spread through wind, insects, and water run-off, which carries the disease to other plants. According to the Arizona Cooperative Extension, "Unlike most fungi, spores germinate on the surface of plant parts without the presence of free water."

Note

•When treating your plants, make sure the leaves are coated liberally with the solution.

•Reapply weekly unless otherwise specified on a product's label.

8 Organic Treatments to Get Rid of Powdery Mildew

  1. Potassium bicarbonate
  2. Milk
  3. Neem oil
  4. Vingar
  5. Baking soda
  6. Garlic
  7. Sulfer
  8. Copper fungicides

1. Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate is a safe, effective fungicide that kills spores on contact. Like baking soda, it is also a great preventative treatment because it raises the pH level above 8.3—an alkaline environment that is not ideal for fungal growth.

How to Use:

Mix 3 tbsp. of potassium bicarbonate, 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, and 1/2 tsp. soap into a gallon of water. Spray onto affected plants.

2. Milk

Numerous studies have shown milk and/or whey to be even more effective at killing powdery mildew than chemical fungicides. In a 2009 study by the University of Connecticut, which tested a milk treatment of 40% milk and 60% water on plants infected with powdery mildew, "the milk treatment provided significantly less disease than the untreated control, and the chemical treatment had equal or significantly less disease than the milk." Scientists are not sure why milk is so effective, but they believe that when milk interacts with the sun, it produces free radicals that are toxic to the fungus.

2 Ways to Use:

  • Mix 60 parts water with 40 parts milk or whey, and spray onto the affected plants bi-weekly. You can even use whole milk without dilution for a strong effect.
  • Mix 1 oz. powdered milk to 2 liters of water, and spray onto affected plants bi-weekly.

Milk may be more effective at killing powdery mildew than even chemical products.
Milk may be more effective at killing powdery mildew than even chemical products.

3. Neem Oil

Neem oil is made from the seeds and fruit of the evergreen neem tree, and it is powerful enough to kill powdery mildew in less than 24 hours. The oil works by disrupting the plant's metabolism and stopping spore production. Neem oil is also a great insecticide and since spores can be carried by bugs, this oil is a great preventative treatment as well.

How to Use:

Mix 3 tbsp. of neem oil to one gallon of water, and spray onto affected plants every 7-14 days. Take precautions to avoid sunburning the leaves, and avoid spraying the plant's buds and flowers.

4. Vinegar

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar is very effective in killing powdery mildew. Take care to not make the mixture too strong as the acidity of the vinegar can burn plant leaves.

Mix 4 tbsp. of vinegar (5% solution) with 1 gallon of water. Reapply every three days.

5. Baking Soda

Baking soda has a pH of 9, which is very high! Treating with baking soda raises the pH level on the plants and creates a very alkaline environment that kills fungus. There have been mixed reports of success when using baking soda to treat severe cases, so it may be better as a preventative treatment than a fungicide.

How to Use:

  1. Mix 1 tbsp. of baking soda and 1/2 tsp. liquid hand soap with one gallon of water.
  2. Spray solution on affected leaves, and dispose of any remaining solution.
  3. Do not apply during daylight hours. It may be best to test one or two leaves to see if the solution will cause the plant to suffer sunburn.

Baking soda's high pH creates a high alkaline environment that is unsuitable for fungi.
Baking soda's high pH creates a high alkaline environment that is unsuitable for fungi.

6. Garlic

Garlic has a high sulfur content and is an effective anti-fungicide. Garlic oil can be bought commercially if you do not wish to make the solution at home. It works best when added to organic oil mixtures.

How to Use:

  1. Crush six cloves of garlic and add to one ounce of an organic oil such as neem oil and one ounce of rubbing alcohol. Let set for two days
  2. Strain and retain the liquid and crushed garlic.
  3. Soak the garlic again (this time in one cup of water for a day). Strain out and dispose of the crushed garlic.
  4. Add the oil and alcohol mixture and garlic water to one gallon of water.
  5. Spray your plants, coating only the leaves.

7. Sulfur

Sulfur is a natural product that is very effective at preventing and controlling powdery mildew. Sulfur can be bought as a dust or as a liquid and can be added to sulfur vaporizers.

How to Use:

Follow the dosing instructions closely and wear gloves, eye protection, and a face mask. Avoid inhaling or coming into contact with the sulfur.

8. Copper Fungicides

Copper is a very effective fungicide, but it is very important to follow label directions closely. Too much copper will be detrimental to the plant and the soil.

Warning

Some ingredients, such as vinegar and baking soda, can cause sunburn to your plants. Ensure that plants are well-watered before applying and don't apply during daylight hours.

Powdery mildew on poinsettia plant.
Powdery mildew on poinsettia plant. | Source

How Can I Prevent Powdery Mildew?

Preventing the spread and/or severity of powdery mildew is the most cost-effective way of dealing with the fungus. Powdery mildew thrives in temperatures 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity levels of 80-90 percent. To prevent powdery mildew from forming in the first place, avoid low-temperature, high-humidity environments.

Do Not Crowd Plants

Good air circulation ensures lower humidity levels, inhibiting the growth of powdery mildew. Crowded plants also provides too much shade for the lower leaves, which encourages fungi growth.

Do Not Grow Susceptible Plants in the Shade

Powdery mildew does not tolerate high temperatures. Direct sunlight helps stem the growth of mildew because the sun's strong rays kill spores before they can spread. Plants that are shaded much of the day will stay cooler, thus encouraging the growth of mildew.

Dispose of Infected Leaves and Stems

Never use infected plant leaves or fruit as mulch or compost. Trim off infected leaves and stems and dispose of them properly. If your municipality allows backyard fires, then burn the debris. If not, dispose of the debris according to your local plant disposal regulations.

Water the Soil, Not the Plants

While water itself will not encourage mildew growth, splashing the leaves with water will spread the spores. Run a hose to the base of your plants instead of using a sprinkler system.

Buy Mildew-Resistant Varieties

There are a large variety of hybrid plants that are resistant or tolerant to the growth of powdery mildew. The resistant plants will be less likely to develop the mildew. The tolerant plants will show fewer ill-effects of an infestation of the fungi.

Powdery mildew on pumpkin leaves,
Powdery mildew on pumpkin leaves, | Source

Plants and Vegetables Most Susceptible to Powdery Mildew

Lilacs
Phlox
Roses
Begonias
Sunflowers
Dahlias
Zinnias
Chrysanthemums
Cucumbers
Grapes
Squash
Apples
Melons
Lettuce
Parsley
Tomatos
Peppers
Zucchinis

Are All Forms of This Fungus the Same?

There are many forms of powdery mildew, and each is species specific. Grapes will suffer from the powdery mildew that affects only grapes, roses suffer from rose powdery mildew, and so on.

Although all plants can get the fungus, certain species are more susceptible to it. If your plant has a black sooty substance on its leaves, it may be sooty mold.

Where Does Powdery Mildew Start?

The mildew usually starts on a plant's lower leaves, and if the fungus is not treated it will spread over the entire plant. When the leaves become severely covered with the fungus, photosynthesis will be affected and leaves will yellow and drop off. As a result, the plant may become so stressed it will not flower and/or fruit with any vigor.

Questions & Answers

  • Will a weak solution of bleach and water kill powdery mildew on lilac leaves?

    Yes, it will, but I would make the solution very diluted and test it on one leaf first. Do not drench the leaves or soil with the mixture.

  • I discovered powdery mold on my cucumber plants today. I've already picked seven of them. Many have already started. Will this kill the ones that are started?

    No, but powdery mildew can affect the growth and vigor of the cucumber plant. Treat the powdery mildew now, and then weekly until the fungus is gone.

  • Can I still wash and use the cucumbers if a plant has signs of Powdery mildew?

    Unless you have an allergy to the fungal spores, washing it would make it safe to eat, although if the cucumbers themselves are heavily mildewed, they may taste moldy.

    If there is any doubt, DO NOT eat the fruit as a severe allergic reaction could be fatal.

  • Can I treat the soil before I replace the current plant with a new shrub?

    You can, but the mildew spores do not reside in the soil. Remove any plant debris from an infected plant from the area and dispose of. If you are having a chronic problem with mildew, ensure you have adequate circulation between plants, and water plants at ground level to avoid spreading the spores. Also look to see if there is enough natural sunlight, which helps control the growth of the mildew.

  • How often should I apply baking soda spray to kill mildew?

    Reapply once a week, or after a heavy rain.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Suzie HQ 

      6 days ago

      Thanks for a really interesting article and I am all for organic solutions. At present I find a number of plants in your list in need of some treatment. I am living in Southern Italy where high summer temps and high humidity play havoc with plants on one hand and give amazing growth on the other. I have a big sunflower plant in a container with about 80 flowers quite a showpiece but it does seem to have alot of mildew . I have tried your vinegar recipe so fingers crossed! Many thanks again I will be saving and using it again.

    • profile image

      Paula 

      7 weeks ago

      ...ive had this powdery on my houseplants...ive been

      using...an organic purchased product..doesnt seem to do the job..i love baking soda/vinegar..gt products 4 many uses..i will try this..and also milk..thanku

    • chris nddie profile image

      Chris Nddie 

      2 months ago from Dana Point

      Organic is Natural else all are Chemicalize. Great post

    • profile image

      Doug 

      2 months ago

      Thanks for this article, Gable. Great information! I am testing some of the treatments you suggest in my garden.

      As regards using milk to combat powdery mildew, it may be true, as you write, that "Numerous studies have shown milk and/or whey to be even more effective at killing powdery mildew than chemical fungicides." That is not true of the study you cite, however.

      That paper compared milk treatment to chemical treatment at two outdoor locations (Storrs field and Windsor) and concluded that "Storrs field showed milk was as effective as the chemical control [chlorothalonil)]....At the Windsor location, however, the milk treatment was not as effective as the chemical control."

      The study also compared milk to chlorothalonil in a greenhouse environment and found that "the milk and chemical treatments... did not differ from one another...in their effectiveness."

      The very good news for organic gardeners is that this study found milk to be very effective: just as good as the chemical fungicide at two out of three test sites! It did not find, however, that milk is "even more effective...than chemical fungicides."

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      4 months ago from North Dakota

      Typically the leaves do die because of the infection. Remove them to stop the spread of any spores which may still be living. As to the entire plant dying, it could be the result of a very bad case of powdery mildew or many other causes. It may be best to start over with new plants and soil.

    • profile image

      Alex tesfaye 

      4 months ago

      The powdery mildew reduced. But now i have much problem the leaf of the sage curl upward and turn in to brown and the plants are dying

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      4 months ago from North Dakota

      Alex, neem oil is an organic substance. Do you continue to have powdery mildew after spraying?

    • profile image

      Alex tesfaye 

      4 months ago

      I am interested in agriculture field in Production of vegetables, fruit and herb. And i have problems with powdery mildew my sage plant. I am growing them organic. I spray neem oil but it is the same?

    • profile image

      Anne H 

      7 months ago

      What is this “Mitey sauce “you speak of? Coconut oil?

    • profile image

      Patricia Bagshaw 

      11 months ago

      Wonderful article. My plants have stunted growth. No blossoms. Geraniums have very small leaves and no flowers. I water and fertilize so I am not sure what my

      Problem is. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Jasmine Flower 

      12 months ago

      That is a really good idea John.

    • profile image

      John 

      14 months ago

      Try "mitey sauce" a local company- the coconut oil in it works on Powdery mildew but does not block the stomata like neem oil does.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      14 months ago from North Dakota

      Liz, according to this website, the rosemary is safe to eat: https://extension.umd.edu/growit/downy-mildew-basi...

      Other sites say it may affect the flavor. If you are treating the plants, wash the leaves thoroughly.

    • profile image

      Liz 

      14 months ago

      I have some on my rosemary plant, what happens if I eat it?

    • profile image

      Carmine 

      14 months ago

      I think if powdery mildew on grapes turns the skin dark color and some skins crack it is too late those clusters should be cut off and discarded i trash bin. Then the infected vines should be sprayed with one of the articles recommended materials

    • profile image

      Vishal 

      18 months ago

      In India Maharashtra the powdery mildew have largely affected grapes...

    • profile image

      Mike 

      2 years ago

      Fist site I found that gave the when to reapply info. Thanks.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      2 years ago from North Dakota

      Thanks for the comments Kristen and breathing. It is encouraging to get positive feedback. :)

    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 

      2 years ago from Bangladesh

      Plant lovers will be greatly benefited from this post. Indeed plants are subjected to many diseases. Powdery mildew is a very common disease among the plants. Many people who have their own plants don’t know how to treat powdery mildew. This post can be the cornerstone for them. The steps described in this hub are really worthwhile. I’ve tried a few ones myself and find them to be really effective. The organic ways are very much helpful. That’s why I advise the plant lovers to use the teachings of this post to exterminate powdery mildew. Also none of the processes are costly.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Gable. This is so useful to know for next season, when I watch over my container garden. I'll keep it in mind to use milk or baking soda, if I do have that powdery mildew on my plants. Two green thumbs up!

    • profile image

      JANARDHAN N 

      4 years ago

      this as given me some assistance to fight against powdery mildew

      thanks to rentokil

    • Gcrhoads64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Gable Rhoads 

      5 years ago from North Dakota

      I'm glad I could help. :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this helpful look at eliminating powdery mildew from plants. I have one that needs attention…

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)