How to Treat and Prevent Plant Canker?

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Plant canker is a term that encompasses a variety of plant diseases characterized by the presence of necrotic, often sunken lesions on stems, branches, or trunks. These lesions disrupt the flow of nutrients and water and may even cause the plant to wilt, reduce growth, and in severe cases, kill the plant.

What is Plant Canker?

Plant canker is caused by numerous species of fungi and bacteria and occurs primarily on woody species. Symptoms include round-to-irregular sunken, swollen, flattened, cracked, discolored, or dead areas on the stems, twigs, limbs, or trunk. These cankers may enlarge and girdle a twig or branch, killing the foliage beyond it. The disease is most common in plants weakened by environmental stresses such as cold, drought, insect injury, nutritional imbalances, nematodes, or root rot.

What Does Plant Canker Look Like?

Cankers often appear as distinct areas of damage that are different in color and texture from healthy bark. They may be sunken and have a callus edge, with the center of the canker being dead and sometimes cracked. In some cases, cankers exude sap or a gum-like substance, which can be a clear sign of infection.

How to Treat Cankers on Plants?

Treating plant cankers requires a multifaceted approach aimed at suppressing pathogen activity, promoting plant resilience, and facilitating tissue healing. While complete eradication of the causal agent may not always be feasible, targeted interventions can help manage symptoms and limit the spread of infection.

  1. Pruning: Remove infected branches or stems, cutting below the cankered area to healthy wood.
  2. Disinfection: Clean pruning tools with a disinfectant to prevent the spread of pathogens.
  3. Fungicides: In some cases, appropriate fungicides may help control the disease, following proper guidance and application methods.
  4. Wound Management: Use wound sealants or protective coatings to shield exposed surfaces and facilitate healing.
  5. Avoiding Injuries: Minimize mechanical injuries to plant tissues by exercising caution during planting, pruning, and other garden activities.

What Causes Plant Canker?

Cankers are typically caused by fungal and bacterial pathogens that infect plant tissue through natural openings or wounds from pruning, insects, weather damage, or other mechanical injuries. Environmental stresses such as drought, frost damage, or nutrient deficiency can make plants more susceptible to canker diseases.

How to Prevent Plant Canker?

Preventing plant canker relies on a combination of proactive measures aimed at minimizing pathogen introduction, reducing plant stress, and enhancing host resistance.

  1. Plant Selection: Choose plant varieties that are resistant or tolerant to canker diseases whenever possible.
  2. Cultural Practices: Regular inspection of plants for early signs of disease, proper sanitation to remove and dispose of infected material, avoiding unnecessary wounding of plants, and maintaining proper plant nutrition and water.
  3. Chemical Treatments: Fungicides or bactericides may be used to control canker diseases, but it’s essential to follow the recommended guidelines for their use.
  4. Proper Planting and Maintenance: Ensure proper planting practices, including appropriate spacing, soil preparation, and watering techniques, to minimize plant stress and promote vigorous growth.


Can plant canker be cured?

Once a canker is established, it cannot be cured. The focus should be on prevention and management by removing affected areas and applying appropriate treatments.

Are all plants susceptible to canker?

While canker diseases affect a wide range of plant species, they are most common on woody plants and certain species like stone fruit trees and maples.

Can canker spread from one plant to another?

Yes, canker-causing pathogens can spread through rain splash, contaminated tools, or insects.

Is it safe to eat fruits from a tree with a canker?

Fruits from a tree with a canker should be inspected carefully. If the fruit shows no signs of infection, it may be safe to eat, but caution is advised.

How can I tell if my plant has a canker?

Look for symptoms such as sunken, discolored areas on the bark, cracking, oozing, and dieback of branches.

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