Shelly is from Phoenix, Arizona, where she likes to tend to her garden.
Why Are My Cucumber Plants Wilting?
Are the leaves of your cucumber plants wilting despite consistent watering? Do you notice brown, white, or yellow spots on the leaves or cucumbers? Your cucumber plant may be infected by bacterial, viral, and/or fungal pathogens. Diseased plants may not produce as much fruit (if any), and any fruit that is produced may not be palatable or edible. This article will discuss the most common cucumber diseases, what causes them, and how to treat and prevent them.
10 Common Cucumber Diseases
- Alternaria Leaf Blight (Alternaria cucumerina)
- Anthracnose (Colletotrichum orbiculare)
- Bacterial Leaf Spots (Pseudomonas syringae, Septoria cucurbitacearum, or Xanthomonas campestris)
- Bacterial Wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila)
- Cucumber Mosaic (Cucumber mosaic virus)
- Downy Mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis)
- Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium oxysporum)
- Powdery Mildew (Podosphaera xanthii or Erysiphe cichoracearum)
- Rhizoctonia Belly Rot (Rhizoctonia solani)
- Verticillium Wilt (Verticillium dahliae)
1. Alternaria Leaf Blight
Fungus (Alternaria cucumerina)
This disease more commonly affects melons but can also affect cucumbers. The fungal spores can be carried in by wind or spread through contaminated soil and water. Wet and warm conditions favor the disease. The fungus can survive the winter in plant debris to attack the plants again in the spring.
Irregular brown spots on the leaves—sometimes with yellow edges.
This disease usually affects mature leaves. You may see small, brown spots at first. These brown spots can grow into irregular shapes with a yellow halo. Soon after, the leaves turn brown, wilt, and die, exposing the fruits to direct sunlight that can scald them.
Fungicides—either commercial or homemade.
- The only way to treat fungal diseases is with fungicides. There are many brands available at your local nursery, but note that fungicides may make the fruits inedible.
- You can also try spraying homemade fungicides made of a mixture of soapy water, baking soda, and vinegar. Some organic gardeners also opt for copper fungicides.
- If only a few parts of the plant are affected, cut and remove those parts to prevent the fungus from spreading.
- If the plant is severely infected, you may have to remove the whole plant, treat or replace the soil, and start over.
Fungus (Colletotrichum orbiculare)
Another fungal disease, anthracnose is most prevalent in wet and warm conditions. Regions with high humidity like southern and mid-Atlantic states are highly susceptible to fungal plant diseases.
The fungus overwinters in fallen vines, leaves, and other plant debris, releasing spores in the spring to infect new plants. The spores (conidia) need moisture and mild temperatures to germinate.
Yellow, water-soaked, circular spots on the leaves and fruit with dark brown to black edges.
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You may see circular, yellow spots on the leaves that are small at first but enlarge as the disease progresses. Spots on the fruits may appear black and sunken with a pink- or salmon-colored gelatinous substance in the center. This gelatinous substance is a cluster of fungal spores—a characteristic sign of anthracnose.
Fungicides (Bravo or Benlate)
Again, treated fruits are not edible. If a large part of your plant is infected, you may need to remove the entire plant and start over with sanitized soil.
- Spray fungicides according to the instructions on the product label. In rainy seasons, more frequent applications may be required.
- Chlorothalonil (Bravo) and benomyl (Benlate) are popular fungicides used to treat anthracnose.
3. Bacterial Leaf Spots
Bacteria (Pseudomonas syringae, Septoria cucurbitacearum, or Xanthomonas campestris)
The bacteria that cause leaf spots are opportunistic, spreading through lesions created by insect bites and through seeds that spread the bacteria through contact with water. However, they are not as hardy as other pathogens. Although they can overwinter in plant debris, they need wet and cool conditions to thrive.
Small, brownish, angular, or circular spots—sometimes with yellow edges—or black spots on the leaves.
Depending on the genus of bacteria infecting your plant, the symptoms may differ slightly—especially in the early stages. Xanthomonas infection usually causes brown spots with yellow edges, while Pseudomonas infection usually causes reddish-brown spots. In both cases, spots will quickly turn black.
Spots on the leaves and fruit can give other pathogens—especially fungi—the opportunity to infect. This disease often causes leaves to fall off, making fruits vulnerable to sunscalding.
There is currently no effective treatment for bacterial leaf spots.
Prevention is still considered the best control method.
- Look for cucumber beetles starting early in the spring, when the weather starts to warm up. They usually come out in the early evening. Remove them as you see them.
- Use plant covers or row covers to prevent beetles and other pests from accessing your plants.
- Clear your garden of weeds, which cucumber beetles also feed on.
- Plant tansy, catnip, and/or radish plants nearby, which can repel the cucumber beetles.
- Spray insecticides to control the beetle population.
- Sanitize gardening tools, including boots, gloves, spades, and shears.
- Provide plenty of air circulation by spacing plants apart and propping them up above the soil.
4. Bacterial Wilt
Bacteria (Erwinia tracheiphila)
Bacterial wilt is spread mainly through cucumber beetles (striped and spotted). The cucumber beetle is a small insect—yellow in color with either black stripes or spots on its back. It picks up the bacteria while feeding on infected cucumbers and transfers them to other plants in the same manner. The bacteria survive winters by living in their beetles' guts.
Yellow, wilting leaves that appear to be drying out.
Initially, you'll only see a few yellowing, drying, and wilting leaves. Within a few days, the stems and vines will also wilt, turning yellow and brown. One way to tell if it's bacterial wilt is to cut a section of the affected stem and place it in a glass of water. The presence of a milky sap oozing from the cut signifies bacterial wilt.
There is currently no effective treatment for bacterial wilt.
If a large part of your plant is affected, it's best to remove the entire plant from your garden. Again, prevention is still the best treatment. Make sure you use sanitary cultural practices and avoid exposing stems, leaves, and fruit to water and soil contact.
5. Cucumber Mosaic
Virus (Cucumber mosaic virus)
There are many variants of the mosaic virus that are named according to the fruit they specialize in. The virus spreads through aphids feeding on the plant, grafting of an infected plant onto a healthy plant, and through contact with unsanitary tools, boots, and gloves.
White, yellow, or green lines and patterns on leaves and fruit.
The characteristic sign of cucumber mosaic is the pattern of spots and/or lines on the leaves or fruit. The patterns may be white, yellow, or light to dark green. The veins of the leaves may also become very distinct and yellow.
Plants may not produce as much fruit, and if they do, the fruits may be small and malformed. The leaves may also be malformed.
Like many viral infections, symptoms may not always be noticeable, making control really difficult. High temperatures, undernourishment, insect predation, and other stressors can trigger symptoms.
There are currently no treatments that can cure or prevent a cucumber mosaic virus infection.
Prevention is the only way to prevent or get rid of a viral plant infection.
- Remove any infected plants and plant materials.
- Sanitize gardening tools and clothes frequently.
- Plant virus-free seeds.
- Avoid grafting—plants can still be infected and not show symptoms.
- Remove aphids and beetles as you see them.
- Spray insecticides containing carbaryl and methoxychlor to help control the pest population.
- Use a homemade spray of crushed garlic and soapy water to kill aphids.
- Remove weeds and plant debris often since both can be breeding grounds for many plant diseases.
6. Downy Mildew
Fungus (Pseudoperonospora cubensis)
There are a variety of fungal species that cause this disease; some specialize in one type of plant, while others can infect multiple plant types. Downy mildew favors shade and moisture. The fungi cannot survive extremely cold winters (like those in the Northeastern U.S.), but in temperate regions, they can overwinter in plant debris.
Light green or yellow spots on the leaves that appear angular.
Downy mildew causes light green to yellow, angular spots on the leaves. You will also find fuzzy, dark gray spots with a purplish tint (spores) on the underside of the leaves—a tell-tale sign of downy mildew. As the disease progresses, leaves will dry out, become brown, and fall off. However, visible symptoms are not always consistent.
Spray fungicides and remove infected plant parts
Treatment includes a combination of clearing affected plant parts and spraying fungicides like Orondis, Ranman, Curzate, Zing!, Zampro. Use fungicides only as directed on the labels. Severe infections may require you to remove most or all of the affected plant to prevent further spreading.
7. Fusarium Wilt
Fungus (Fusarium oxysporum)
Fusarium wilt is commonly seen in tomato and potato plants but can also be seen in cucumber plants. The fungus infects plants through the root system and gradually restricts water supply to the rest of the plant. Unlike the other fungal diseases, fusarium fungus favors hot, dry weather. It spreads via insects, and contaminated water or gardening equipment.
Leaves suddenly turn yellow or brown and wilt
As the plant’s water conduction system fails, the stems, vines, and leaves turn yellow/brown and wilt. Older leaves are usually affected first, followed by younger leaves. The appearance of dehydration is a symptom of fusarium wilt. If you are watering consistently but you notice sudden yellowing of leaves, your plant may have fusarium wilt.
Spray fungicide near the root system and remove affected plant parts
Fungicides like Mycostop can be effective against fusarium wilt. The key is to make sure the treatment reaches the root system. You should also remove dead or dying parts to prevent the disease from spreading.
8. Powdery Mildew
Fungus (Podosphaera xanthii or Erysiphe cichoracearum)
Powdery mildew commonly affects cucurbits, including cucumbers. It is mainly caused by Podosphaera xanthii and Erysiphe cichoracearum, with P. xanthii being more prevalent and more destructive. The fungi favor warm, wet conditions, which is why it is commonly found in greenhouse-grown plants. The fungus can overwinter in plant debris. The spores don’t need moisture to germinate, and they can spread to other plants by wind, insects, and contaminated water or gardening equipment.
White, powdery spots or layers on the leaves and stems
As the name suggests, affected plants show white, powdery fungal growths on the stems and leaves—especially on the underside of leaves. Fuzzy white spots or layers of white powder on the stem leaves are a characteristic sign of powdery mildew. Fruits can also be affected, although this is rare.
Spray chemical or organic fungicides and remove affected plant parts.
Powdery mildew can be easier to treat than other fungal diseases. The usual method of spraying fungicide and removing affected plant parts still applies, but there are many organic treatment options that are just as effective.
You can try some of these organic powdery mildew treatments:
- Potassium bicarbonate
- Neem oil
- Baking soda
- Copper fungicides
9. Rhizoctonia Belly Rot
Fungus (Rhizoctonia solani)
The fungus infects the fruits directly, causing lesions and giving other pathogens the opportunity to infect. The fungus survives in the soil and favors warm, humid conditions.
Brown spots or lesions on the fruit
Fruits with prolonged contact with the soil may have brown, water-soaked spots. These spots can grow and spread deep into the fruit, becoming firm and crusted as the disease progresses.
There are currently no effective treatments for Rhizoctonia belly rot
Prevention is the best form of treatment for this disease. Remove affected plant parts and sanitize your gardening tools. In severe cases, you may have to remove the entire plant, treat the soil, and start over. Planting vertically to avoid contact between the fruit and the soil may help prevent future infections.
10. Verticillium Wilt
Fungus (Verticillium dahliae)
Like fusarium wilt, the fungi that cause verticillium wilt infect plants through the root system, clogging the plant's vasculature. They need moisture and warm temperatures to infect plants. They can survive in the soil, weeds, plant debris over the winter. The spores spread through water, insects, and garden tools.
Irregular, yellow spots on the leaves that can turn brown
Although the name suggests that the foliage wilts, the first signs of verticillium wilt are actually irregular, yellow, or brown spots on the leaves. Verticillium wilt is often confused with Alternaria leaf blight, but the spots don’t have halos around them. Unlike fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt symptoms start at the bottom of the stem and slowly work their way up the plant, and the symptoms rarely reach the ends of the plant.
There are no effective treatments for verticillium wilt.
If you suspect that your plant is infected, it is best to remove the affected parts or the entire plant to prevent the fungus from spreading. Sanitize the soil and gardening equipment.
How to Prevent Cucumber Plant Diseases
Using fungicides and pruning infected or dying plant parts can prevent diseases from spreading. The application of pesticides and home remedies can control pests and reduce the chances of infection. However, preventative measures should also be used, such as companion planting, controlling irrigation, and using sanitary cultural practices.
- Clean your tools, boots, and gloves after each use.
- Sanitize pots with bleach before reusing them.
- Obtain seeds from a reputable dealer.
- Regularly remove plant debris.
- Solarize the soil before planting.
- Irrigate underground if possible.
- Create a barrier between fruit and soil using plastic mulch.
- Rotate your crops in a three-year cycle.
- Grow companion plants.
- Control pests like aphids and striped cucumber beetles.
More Advice on Growing Cucumbers
- How to Grow Cucumber Plants
Want to grow cucumbers? Check out this helpful guide to choosing the right cucumber variety and how to best care for your plant.
- What Are the Best Companion Plants for Cucumbers?
Make sure you include some companion plants for cucumbers to keep the pests away and give the best yield possible.
- How to Get Rid of Cucumber Beetles
There are simple, organic steps that you can take to reduce the number of cucumber beetles and minimize the damage they inflict and diseases which they carry.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is a home remedy to cure yellow spots on cucumber leaves?
Answer: Yellow spots on cucumber leaves may be caused by iron deficiency, in which case you could add fertilizer, and that should clear it up. Another cause is overwatering. Cease watering for a couple of days or so and see if it bounces back.
Rock Martin on August 25, 2020:
To those of you stating blossoms but no cucumbers... Cucumbers have male and female flowers. You can tell the difference between them because the female flowers have tiny cucumbers just below them. The males do not. Most of the flowers will be male, probably 10 to 1 ratio of male to female. Essentially, you need to fertilize the female flowers (with the tiny cucumbers) with pollen from the male flowers. Do not rely on bees. I find the best way to do this is to pick a male flower, CAREFULLY remove the petals, leaving only the center of the flower on the stem. Carefully rub that male center into the center of a female flower, being sure to get it all around. You can then discard the male flower. Note that picking male flowers to fertilize the females will not have any negative effect on the plant. You could use a single male to fertilze a number of females, but I prefer to pick a different male for each female. Again, do not rely on bees to do this. If you did it correctly, within a few days, the female flower will shrivel up, drop off and the cucumber will begin to grow. Good luck! (note that you can easily look this up on youtube to see this in action)
Shirley gates on August 03, 2020:
My lemon and long cuc's are planted next to each other. Climbing on a trellis the plants are perfect. With loaded yellow blossom....no cuc. My sunflower are blooming. Finally we have bees,,,could this be my problem. Bees not poll.them
Arlene L Monteith on August 03, 2020:
I have lots of blossoms but no cucs whats the problem?
Altamese Akiva on July 12, 2020:
I'm a new gardener and am having a problem with my cucumber plants. I planted them from seeds and they're about 3 months old. They were doing beautifully until a couple of days ago. They are planted in containers on my screened in back porch where they get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. I've recently noticed what appears to be insect bites on the leaves, little holes. I've searched the tops and backsides of the leaves and see no insects, but it looks like somethings taking little nibbles out of the plants. Can you suggest something organic to help?
Kenny on July 08, 2020:
I have cucumbers that the stem are splitting and the cuke is dying. One day they are fine and the next day dead. The vines are splitting in between each leaf branch. What is this?
Janisa from Earth on July 03, 2020:
Thanks for sharing your tips!
Karen on June 25, 2020:
My baby pickles are wiethering and turning black!
Jerry on June 19, 2020:
I'm surprised that you didn't mention hydrogen peroxide in any of the above treatments. A diluted mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide sprayed on the tops and bottoms of leaves will prevent and treat most of the conditions that you have listed. It works and is organic and harmless.
lewis on June 12, 2020:
what would be eating my cucumber seeds after I've planted them
Rosalie Taylor on June 02, 2020:
Why am I getting lots of bloom but no cukes, help!!!!!!!
JALI tuman h.b saho on April 19, 2020:
I am having a cacumber and the time some of them produce one seed there leaf stop .stop to growing and they are dying .what can i do
Ivonne Beteta on July 28, 2018:
I have a cucumber plant that was doing very well. Now it has several leaves with yellow marks and it is not producing at it was befoere. How can I help my plant?
Melissa on July 19, 2018:
My cucumber plant is planted in a pot. It’s started off great we had tons of flower and cucumbers growing! They’re still growing but now the leafs are turning yellow and some are dying off. What can I do to help with this?
Linda on July 19, 2018:
The cucumbers have a whitish scale on them and I can scrape it off. Can I can these for pickles
Shankari on July 02, 2018:
Keeping along with other flower plants only cucumber fruits affected at the time of growth but the leaves are fresh and green no symptoms of any diseases. Watering and applying manure periodically. What preventive measures to be taken to strengthen the growth of fruits?
waiting for your valuable advice pl
R. Subramaniam on July 02, 2018:
In home garden cucumber plant leaves and stems are fresh and green.Regularly watered and natural manure applied in every 10 days.Facing sun light directly. But the tender fruits green coloured with yellow flowers at edge grows and in 3 to 4 days growth turn into yellow colour and falls off. What is the defect and remedy pl? Subramaniam , Hyderabad
Gode on February 02, 2018:
Thanks for the cucumbers advice
Paul on October 31, 2017:
Please am having problem with my plant the leaf is having yellow dot what am to do?
Michel Haddad on June 18, 2017:
My cucumber Plant Have Somme Yelow insect What should I do
lori on December 08, 2013:
Thank you very much for your convenient information on cucumber diseases and their solutions I know am gonna pass my sba thanks again
Shelly McRae (author) from Phoenix, Arizona on May 23, 2012:
Hello Donna. Sorry to hear about your squash beetle problem. They do terrorize a garden. I had an issue some years back- drove me crazy they did. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Donna Cosmato from USA on May 23, 2012:
Great tutorial, Shelly! I didn't plant any cucurbits this year because of the squash beetle problems we are experiencing in my region, but I bookmarked it for future reference. Voted up.