Problems With Garlic Plants (Yellow, Brown, Drooping, Bugs, & More)


Planting garlic cloves in the fall to get big healthy bulbs in the spring and summer is ideal. But, your garlic will encounter certain issues if neglected. Let’s find out the problems. 

Garlic will face problems like wilted or drooping leaves, stunted growth, premature discoloration, no bulb development, and rotting bulbs. These problems occur due to unfavorable conditions like too much water, soggy soil, etc. Thus, you need to resolve these problems to save the garlic plant.

There could be many reasons behind these problems. This guide has highlighted all the problems and the ways to deal with them. 

What problems can garlic encounter?

The common reasons behind garlic’s problems are nematodes, bulb mites, leafminers, and diseases like white rot, basal rot, downy mildew, etc.

Other than these, it could be a lack of nutrition, poor soil quality, too much or too little water, or lack of sunlight.

As a result of these conditions, you will see small bulbs, droopy plants, decomposed garlic, and leaves yellowing, withering, and dying prematurely.

There are various issues garlic might encounter while growing.

We have compiled a list below. So, without further delay, let’s start. 


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Garlic plants wilting, drooping and falling over

Sometimes, to the gardener’s utter surprise, all the garlic plants suddenly turn yellow and begin to wilt or droop overnight. 

If you ever find these signs, you need to understand their reason and solve them. 

Is it time to harvest garlic?

One of the most obvious reasons behind drooping or yellow leaves is when harvest time is near. 

Check the plant and 1-2 bulbs to know whether it is time for harvest or not. 

Recall the time you have planted them.

Garlic will get ready for harvest 6-9 months after planting. 

Also read: When Is Garlic Ready To Harvest? (+How To)

Have the garlic plants matured?

When the garlic plants mature, the leaves sag and turn brown. 

If you forgot the time of planting, pull out a bulb to see whether it is mature or not.

If the bulbs are big and mature, you don’t have to wait for the whole plant’s dieback.

However, let some leaves stay while pulling out as the bulbs will still take energy from them to remain healthy. 

If your garlic is mature and ready for harvest, your analysis of the drooping leaves is complete.

Otherwise, your plant might be suffering from some other problems. 

Is the plant experiencing overwatering or underwatering?

It is not even the garlic harvest time, but the leaves are wilting or drooping suddenly in the middle of the season. 

It could be due to underwatering.

When you don’t give the plant enough water, it suffers from dehydration and shows signs of distress by drooping.

To solve the problem, water the garlic plants quickly.

Provide garlic with at least 2 inches of water per week. 

Water them every 3-5 days and more often if the weather is too scorching. 

Before you declare the reason to be underwatering, consider checking the soil.

If the soil is wet, the plant is overwatered. 

Garlic does require frequent water for consistently moist soil, but you should also check the soil before watering. 

You need to skip watering for some days during the rainy season. 

Water the garlic bed every 7-10 days if rain arrives during the spring.  

You don’t have to water them in the winters because frozen ground makes them dormant. 

Sometimes, garlic will have drooping leaves if thunderstorms strike them.

However, these plants will return when they dry out after the rain. 

Always water the plant only when the top 1-2 inches of the soil is dry.

Also read: How Much Water Do Garlic Plants Need? (+How Often)

Is the plant hungry?

Droopy and wilted leaves may signify the plant’s exhaustion and hunger. 

Nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium help the plant’s overall growth and development. 

A lack of these nutrients can affects the plant’s growth.

Without proper nutrition, the plant leaves will droop down.

Fertilizing or foliar spraying can help fill the deficiency and bring the plant leaves back to normal. 

If your plant is well-watered and well-fed, and it’s not even the time for garlic maturity or harvest, your plant may be facing a more tough condition. 

Is it a pest infestation?

Bugs like wireworms or root maggots have attacked the plant, for which the leaves are getting wilted and limp. 

One easy and DIY method to control bugs is brown mustard.

Add some mustard to the soil bed.

The smell of bio-fumigant from the mustard will deter the worms and maggots.

Garlic plant not growing

Another problem garlic plants will face while growing is stunted growth. 

Stunted growth can make dwarf roots, deformed bulbs, or no bulb growth and plant sprouting. 

Is it the extreme weather?

After the harsh winter season, you might see that some bulbs are crushed or plants have stunted growth. 

It occurs when you don’t mulch the garlic cloves in winter or when the weather sometimes freezes during the early spring. 

The harsh weather can displace the soil around the tender roots and even tear the roots.

It stops the cloves from developing the plant or bulbs. 

Water the plant well after planting the cloves to fix the problem.

Add a thick layer of mulch to discourage weed growth and protect the cloves from frost.

Keep the weeds under control as they can affect garlic growth.

Besides, it also invites pests like thrips. 

Don’t add too much mulch.

It will warm up the ground and delay the garlic’s dormancy.

It will further cause root damage when frost reaches the tender roots. 

Also read: Garlic Plant Temperature Tolerance: Ideal Temperature+Extreme

Are there thrips or nematodes present in the crop?

Stunted growth could be an indication of thrips. 

Thrips pierce the leaves and suck the plant sap, thus making it weak and lacking in moisture.

As a result, the plant will stop growing further and won’t sprout or produce bulbs. 

Nematodes enter the plant, stay there, and damage the tissues. 

Sometimes, nematodes also cause premature yellowing and death. 

These bugs suddenly stop the plant growth, for which the bulbs become distorted, some don’t reach their actual size, and the plant fails to sprout out.

To get rid of thrips, use sticky traps, consider crop rotation, release natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings, and apply insecticidal soaps. 

The best way to control nematodes is to save the good bulbs and disinfect them by cooking them at 100°F with water. 

Discoloration

Sometimes, the leaves of the garlic plants will become yellow or brown despite getting enough water, rain, heat, and warmth. 

The reasons could be only harvest time, or it could be improper fertilization, poor and late or early planting, frost heave, soil acidity, and infestations.

Are the bulbs ready for harvest?

As mentioned earlier, the leaves turn yellow or brown, limp, and dry when garlic is ready for harvest.  

But, discoloration that occurs before harvest time is another serious issue.

Poor planting

Using different sizes of cloves will make the new plant growth uneven. 

Some plants respond differently to different weather conditions. 

Some can handle temporary changes, and some will have premature discoloration and death. 

You must select only the bigger cloves for planting.

Disinfect them with manganese or other products like warm water or hydrogen peroxide to help fight diseases.

Maintain proper depth while planting. 

Shallow planting will make the cloves get frost damage, especially if you don’t mulch them. 

The roots won’t work well, so they cannot pass nutrients to other plant parts, thus making the leaves turn yellow. 

Make sure to plant the cloves at least 2-4 inches deep.

Cover the cloves with mulch after planting. 

Also, don’t plant them too deep.

That will not let the cloves receive the warmth, due to which the root growth will again get hampered and result in yellow leaves. 

Violation of planting date

Planting garlic before the time can result in too many masses above the ground.

These can get affected due to varying weather conditions. 

Planting too late can cause delayed root development.

The plant doesn’t respond well to sudden weather changes and causes yellow leaves. 

Always plant the garlic in the fall.

It will allow the cloves to receive the winter, which helps in bulb development and vernalization.

By the spring or summer, your bulbs will be ready.

Incorrect fertilization 

Lack of nitrogen can cause yellow leaves.

Garlic needs lots of nitrogen until the plant grows bigger. 

To keep the nitrogen in the root layer, use some ammonium sulfate while preparing the soil for planting in the fall. 

If you don’t fertilize them from autumn or in early spring during leaf growth, the leaves will begin to turn yellow. 

You must apply nitrogen in the beginning in breaks until the plant grows big enough. 

Add compost or manure before planting to make the soil nutritious. 

Without proper nutrition, the bulbs will become small and tasteless.

Also read: When To Fertilize Garlic? (+Best Fertilizer For Garlic)

Improper watering

Yellow and droopy leaves are sometimes the result of insufficient watering and are seen in many young plants.  

So, you must water regularly until the plant develops well. 

Waterlogging is also the reason for premature discoloration. 

Excessive water suffocates the roots, for which the roots fail to pass the nutrients and moisture to other plant parts.

As a result, it causes yellow leaves. 

Water the plant regularly, but allow the top 2 inches of the soil dry before watering.

If there are rains, reduce the frequency.

Also, stop watering in winters. 

Soil acidity

Garlic needs soil with a pH level of 6-7.

The soil becomes acidic with repeated fertilizer applications, and the leaves turn yellow. 

You can add 1-1.5 cups of wood ash per square foot before planting the cloves. It can keep the soil’s acidity in control. 

Also read: What Type Of Soil Is Best For Garlic? (Best Soil Mix For Garlic)

Garlic diseases causing yellow leaves

Diseases like white rot, aspergillus niger, blue or green penicillium, fusarium wilt, garlic rust, and Peronospora can cause leaf discoloration. 

Yellowing will spread in no time if immediate steps are not taken quickly.

If the fungus likes dry weather, it is important to increase the moisture level. 

Water the bed with ammonium nitrate to increase the plant’s disease resistance.

Some diseases like basal rot and mildew result from hot and humid climates.

To prevent it, reduce the humidity and watering, and loosen the soil to aid in drying. 

You can try several biological agents:

  • Natural biological fungicides to treat mildew, rust, and root rot
  • Trichodermin for root rot, white and gray rot
  • Ampicillin for mildew
  • Mycotoxin activates the underground positive microflora and increases the plant’s immunity to diseases. 

Pests causing yellow leaves

Pests like onion fly and Ditylenchus Dipsaci can result in yellow leaves. 

Add mint, cloves, marigolds, and other strong-smelled plants to deter them. 

Sprinkle some wood ash, tobacco, and pepper to keep the bugs away. 

Plant healthy seeds and cloves. 

Burn all the leftovers after harvest.

If you use them for composting, disinfect them with bleach or formaldehyde. 

Add dolomite powder to reduce the bugs’ spread in movement and growth. 

Soil deficiencies 

Insufficient nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium can harm your plants. 

It may result in the following situations: 

The soil gets toxic with manganese due to low pH levels, causing punky bulbs.

The cloves will be loose and change color. 

Nutrition overload is the reason for excessive side shoots.

While preparing the soil, check the soil’s pH level.

Don’t use excessive nutrients. 

Plant dying

The plant dies from overwatering, underwatering, frost heave, bugs, and fungal infections.

Most of them are already discussed in the previous points. 

First, the plant will show the above signs – stunted growth, discoloration, drooping and wilting – then, they will slowly move to the verge of death. 

Frost heave is a situation when the cloves receive a warm spell followed by a freezing spell.

Sometimes, the weather gets warm in the colder months, thus signaling the garlic to grow.

Soon after this, freezing weather follows. 

This fluctuation can crack the soil around the roots and tear them, causing plant uprooting and death. 

It happens more when you don’t mulch your garden bed to cover the cloves. 

After planting, add a layer of mulch over the soil bed. It will keep the soil warm on colder days and cool when winter weather warms up. 

The next section will discuss some pests and diseases responsible for plant death.

Pests 

Though a lot of pests can attack garlic at any moment, some common bugs that can’t wait to attack are: 

Bulb Mites

Bulb mites are common garlic bugs, causing stunted growth, bulb rot, and leaves opening for other invaders.

You can use lay fallow to reduce the mite population.

Treat the cloves with hot water before planting to help fight the infestation. 

Leafminers

Leafminers create thin, twisted tracks on the leaves and damage them. 

You can identify the infestation by noticing white blotches and lines behind the leaves. 

The leaves will fall off the plant prematurely.

Tilling the soil and putting sticky traps might work. 

Keep the plant healthy and plant trap crops like lamb’s quarters, columbine, and velvetleaf.

Lesion nematodes

These bugs are difficult bugs to remove.

They enter the leaves and stay and reproduce there. 

You can control small infestations, but a huge infestation kills all the crops. 

Crop rotation can sometimes help if the infestation is small or has just started. 

Cook in 100°F water for 30 minutes to treat the bulbs.

Don’t use too hot water. 

Onion Maggots

These bugs cause stunted growth and wilted leaves. 

Sometimes, the plants will break at the ground level only when you try to pull them out during harvest. 

The bulbs will remain deformed and hurt during storage. 

The main problem is that the female bugs lay several eggs within 2-4 weeks.

So the population increases faster. 

To prevent it, keep the surroundings clean. 

Use floating row covers to protect your plant in the early spring.

It stops the females from producing eggs. 

Thrips

Thrips suck the plant sap and stunt the growth.

It also causes discolored and distorted tissues and leaf scars. 

You can identify it by seeing a silvery appearance on the leaves.

To trap them, use sticky traps. 

Consider crop rotation to prevent weed formation. 

Thrips enjoy hot and dry weather, so use watering as an advantage. 

Release natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and small pirate bugs.

Plant plants like coriander, dill, dandelions, fennel, and other strong-smelled plants to deter the present and incoming thrips. 

Apply insecticidal soaps like Bonide, neem oil, and spinosad. 

Diseases

A lot of diseases can infect garlic bulbs. 

Botrytis neck rot

You will find water-soaked rotting at the garlic neck in the spring and early summer.

Over time, the rotting will spread to the bulb and attack the inner axis.

These fungal diseases stay in every soil and enjoy cool and wet conditions. 

When you find such signs, remove the diseased plant.

To prevent it, increase air circulation, and apply only limited mulch and water. 

Avoid planting garlic again in the diseased area.

Downy mildew

You will see long pale marks on the leaves.

Over time, you will find gray-purple growth on the leaves.

The leaf tips will die slowly. 

To treat the plant, give the plant enough sunlight, reduce watering for some days, and increase air circulation.

Remove the infected leaves, water properly, consider crop rotation, and use fungicides to treat downy mildew.

Garlic mosaic virus

The disease causes mosaic patterns on the leaves like mottling or streaks.

It stunts plant growth and reduces bulb size. 

The disease gets spread by aphids. 

Since it is a virus, there is no such treatment.

The only way out is prevention. 

Plant virus-free bulbs and control the aphid population.

Soaking the bulbs before planting will help the plant fight the virus. 

White rot

The disease affects the older leaves first and turns them yellow.

Over time, all the leaves get infected. 

The disease is quite dangerous.

Once it occurs, the pathogens can stay in the soil for about 20 years. 

Consider crop rotation.

Use fungicides if available. 

Buy certified bulbs and seeds and soak them in hot water heated at 115°F before planting.

To prevent the disease, give the plants adequate sunlight, warmth, and water only when the top few inches are dry.

Purple blotch

An initial symptom is small, wet lesions on the leaves and stalks.

Over time, the lesions will increase, turning the leaves purple or brown. 

The lesions can join together and kill the tissues. 

Purple blotch occurs when the humidity is high at night. 

Crop rotation can prevent the disease. 

Before planting, make sure that the soil has a proper drainage system. 

Fungicides can help, but you might have to use multiple types of them alternatively for control. 

Rust

The leaves will have small white or orange marks, which later become long pustules, killing the whole plant. 

The best way to control the disease is by snipping off the infected leaves. 

Let garlic have enough sunlight and warmth.

Avoid watering the plant for some time and keep the soil dry. 

Crop rotation is another best way to control the disease. 

Basal rot

The signs are the same, like white rot.

The reasons for this disease are poor soil pH, lack of sunlight, and damp soil.

Basal rot is less harmful than white rot. 

Give your garlic plant enough sunlight, at least for 3-4 hours of direct sunlight. 

Water the plant when the top few inches of the soil have dried. 

Remove the badly infected plant and bulbs. 

Final thoughts

Garlic plants will face many issues, and common reasons are lack of sunlight, improper watering and fertilization, and poor planting. 

Let the garlic have at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. Water them well and let the top few inches dry before watering. Avoid winter watering. Don’t forget to feed your plant in time. Add compost before planting. Plant properly and at the right time. 

Look out for pests and diseases and take immediate steps to stop them from spreading.


Reference: The Pennsylvania State UniversityGarlic Production for the GardenerUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstOhio State University Extension.

Richa

Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

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