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How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries

Thielaviopsis Root Rot

Pathogen: Thielaviopsis basicola

(Reviewed 3/09, updated 3/09)

In this Guideline:


Thielaviopsis root rot is also called black root rot after one of the major symptoms. Plants are stunted and roots are badly rotted. Stems below ground may enlarge and develop black, rough, longitudinal cracks. Characteristic dark brown to black, thick-walled, barrel-shaped chlamydospores form in infected tissues and may be visible under magnification.


The fungus has a wide host range: 120 species in 15 families are known to be susceptible. Strains of the fungus are known that differ in pathogenicity and virulence. Important ornamental hosts include begonia, cyclamen, geranium, gerbera, kalanchoe, pansy, petunia, poinsettia, primula, snapdragon, sweet pea, verbena, and viola. The disease is favored by wet, cool soil and any condition that weakens plants; it is most severe from 55° to 61°F, while only a trace of disease develops at 86°F. Alkaline soil favors the disease, which can be prevented at pH 4.8 and greatly reduced at pH 5.5 or below. However, many plants do not grow well under such acidic conditions.

The fungus is soilborne and capable of prolonged survival in the absence of susceptible plants. Two kinds of spores are formed: barrel-shaped chlamydospores (resting spores) in short chains of 3 to 7 and rectangular-shaped endoconidia. The fungus can be spread in water, soil, by infected plants or vectored by fungus gnats and shore flies.


The use of pathogen-free plants, along with improved sanitation and cultural practices, has reduced the importance of this disease, which at one time was widespread, especially in poinsettias. The fungus can still be troublesome in field-grown flowers. The benzimidazole fungicides such as thiophanate-methyl are very active against the fungus and are used as soil treatments to control it.

To treat container media, steam (at 140°F for 30 minutes), or solarize (double-tent at 160°F for 30 minutes or 140°F for 1 hour). For flower production in open fields, solarization in warmer climates has been successful for control of most Thielaviopsis in many crops. Solarization and steaming are acceptable for organic production. For more information, see MANAGEMENT OF SOILBORNE PATHOGENS.

Common name Amount to Use R.E.I.+
(trade name)   (hours)

Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
Bee precaution pesticide ratings
When choosing a fungicide, consider the general properties of the fungicide as well as information relating to environmental impact.
  (FungoFlo, etc.) 20 fl oz/100 gal water 12
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NAME (NUMBER1): Methyl benzimidazole (1)
  COMMENTS: Apply as a drench or heavy spray (1–2 pt/sq ft). Generally applied after sowing. Helps to control gray mold, Rhizoctonia diseases, cottony rot, Thielaviopsis rots, and some Cylindrocladium diseases. Absorbed by plant parts exposed to the chemical. Roots may absorb the fungicide (or its breakdown product carbendazim), which moves in the xylem to transpiring leaves.
  (TerraGuard) 50W 4–8 oz/100 gal 12
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NAME (NUMBER1): Demethylation inhibitor (3)
  COMMENTS: Apply as a soil drench at 3–4 week intervals as needed on potted plants. A protectant fungicide; use is restricted to enclosed commercial structures such as greenhouses and shade houses.
1 Group numbers are assigned by the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) according to different modes of actions (for more information, see http://www.frac.info/). Fungicides with a different group number are suitable to alternate in a resistance management program. In California, make no more than one application of fungicides with mode of action Group numbers 1, 4, 9, 11, or 17 before rotating to a fungicide with a different mode of action Group number; for fungicides with other Group numbers, make no more than two consecutive applications before rotating to fungicide with a different mode of action Group number.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries
UC ANR Publication 3392
S. T. Koike, UC Cooperative Extension Monterey County
C. A. Wilen, UC IPM Program, UC Cooperative Extension San Diego County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Diseases:
R. D. Raabe, (emeritus) Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), UC Berkeley
A. H. McCain, (emeritus) Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), UC Berkeley
M. E. Grebus, Plant Pathology, UC Riverside

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