Plant Diagnostic Services and Home Horticulture Hotline Available

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Home Horticulture Hotline

Paige Patterson, Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Agent, along with the Watauga Extension Master Gardeners, can help you with all your plant needs. If you have a question and want a quick answer, want to get links to pertinent information, or links to recorded classes, you can email   An Extension Master Gardener monitors this page daily and will usually respond within 24 hours.

Diagnostic Services

If you are having a plant insect or disease issue, we may be able to diagnose your issue online, in our office, or may consult the NC State Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. Having a plant issue diagnosed is much like visiting a doctor for a medical diagnosis. The more information we can get, the better we are able to help. There are often a combination of factors leading to the issue making it hard to determine from small dead leaves and branches we often receive.

Helping us help you, how to get started

  1. A photo of the whole plant in the planting area, a picture of the whole plant with damage, and a close up photo of the leaf or damaged area can often give us more of an idea of what is happening to the plant, as the environment can be a contributing factor. Seeing the whole plant also allows us to determine if the plant can be saved. If it is a tree or large shrub, inspect the trunk and photo any damage. Photos can be emailed to  Sometimes the photo is enough to make a diagnosis.
  • We may additionally ask for a physical sample which can be dropped off at our office. Please have the sample in a plastic bag or other container with your name and contact information. If no one is available at the office to help, you may drop off your sample in the box in our lobby labeled “plant samples”. There is a form to fill out with your name along with information on your site and any treatments you may have applied, or you may fill it out online on this form.
  • Please bring a generous amount of both healthy and affected leaves, don’t bring just dead leaves. Being able to examine stem tissue is helpful, leaving the leaves attached to the stem.

Site Visits

There are some cases where the Horticulture Extension Agent needs to visit the site to make a proper diagnosis,  but due to the large volume of calls we receive in spring and summer, along with competing job responsibilities, we cannot make visits for all diagnostic requests. We ask that you begin with the above process. We try to handle requests in the order that they are received, so it could take several days to receive a diagnosis during busy times. There are times where we have prior appointments and are not always able to change our schedule to give an immediate diagnosis. We want to be able to help everyone as quickly as we can, so we will collect your sample and contact you as soon as possible. It may be possible to arrange for home visits at less busy times of the year. Bushes with leaf issues along a stone wall.close up of single boxwood plantclose up of diseased boxwood stem