Q: Our Washingtonia palm just died. What caused it, and will it spread to others?

A: The symptoms on your Washingtonia palm look like Fusarium. This is thought to be a wind-borne fungus that is killing large numbers of Washingtonia and Queen palms in the area. Pruning equipment may also spread the disease. The diagnostic symptom is the dark streak on the main stem of some leaves, which penetrates into the stem tissue and not just on the surface. You may also see wedge-shaped brown areas on the Washingtonia palms or one side of the feather browning on Queen palm leaves before the whole leaf dies. The whole process from first symptoms to death is often only a few months. There is no cure and it is always lethal to the palm. Do not replant in the same spot. See http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pp278 for details.

Q: My low-growing juniper has die back on the tips. What is it, and what can I do to save the plants?

A: Low-growing junipers often get tip blight in Florida caused by Phomopsis juniperovora. The new growth is affected first with this fungal disease, but the browning will progress up the stem and may cause small branches to die. This disease usually only affects young plants following other stress. Another fungal disease — Rhizoctonia solani — causes random dead areas not just at the tips, and you may see tiny web-like strands of the fungus. High humidity and warm temperatures promote growth of both fungi. Dead tips should be pruned out well behind the brown areas, sterilizing the shears between cuts with alcohol or other anti-microbial wash. Avoid overhead irrigation and prune the plants to improve air circulation and enhance drying of the leaves. Fungicide applications may be needed for control.

The heavy rains and warm temperatures that we've had lately are causing lots of fungal leaf spots and diseases on many plants. There is not much that can be done about that since preventative fungicides can be washed off by rain. The best thing to do is observe where the low, wet spots are in your garden and plan what to do with them. You could use plants in that area that can handle wet conditions, try to drain those spots, build up those areas with more soil to provide better drainage or make that an area for garden accessories, such as a pond or bird bath.

Q: We think we found bed bugs in our house. Where did they come from, and what can we do?

A: Bed bugs are becoming more of a problem lately and can be picked up in unexpected places. They are blood-feeding parasites of humans, chickens, bats and some domesticated animals. They are most active at night and will leave characteristic lines of bite marks on sleeping people. They are best controlled by professional pest control operators. People have been injured and property damaged by home remedies. Do no use foggers becuase they are ineffective and not a substitute for fumigation. Do not attempt to use heat to treat your own home, especially in combination with flammable materials. See http://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/community/Bed_Bugs.shtml for details.

Visit the Discovery Gardens and our plant clinic with your plant problems and questions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Lake County Extension Center, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares. For details and class registration, go to lake.ifas.ufl.edu.