Damping Off Fungal Disease

Growing Plumeria from Seeds > Damping Off Fungal Disease

“Damping Off” and Plumeria Seedlings

A soil-borne fungal disease that affects seeds and new seedlings, damping off usually refers to the rotting of stem and root tissues at and below the soil surface. In most cases, infected plants will germinate and come up fine, but within a few days, they become water-soaked and mushy, fall over at the base and die.

Several fungi can cause decay of seeds and seedlings including species of rhizoctoniafusarium, and phytophthora. However, species of the soil fungus pythium are most often the culprit. Damping off typically occurs when an old seed is planted in cold, wet soil and is further increased by poor soil drainage. High humidity levels, rich potting soils and planting too deeply will also encourage its growth.

Fungal spores live in the soil and are primarily a problem with non-sterilized soil. They can be transported on garden tools and in garden soils taken into the house or greenhouse.

Note: Older plants are rarely killed by damping off primarily because the production of secondary stem tissue forms a protective barrier and limits fungal penetration.


There is no cure for plants that already have damping off. However, you can easily prevent the problem by providing good air circulation. A small fan or simply cracking the lid of the germination tray will suffice. The biological fungicide Mycostop may also be used as a seed treatment to prevent seed or soil-borne diseases. Other steps for preventing damping off include the following:

  1. When starting seeds indoors, use good organic potting soil or sterilize your own potting soil in an oven.
  2. Make sure your seed starter mix is light and fast-draining.
  3. Plant seedlings so that the soil surface is near the top of the container to ensure proper air circulation.
  4. Sow seeds thinly to prevent overcrowding which can lead to humid, moist conditions.
  5. Seedling trays that provide water from below are preferable to overhead watering.
  6. Never water past noon so that the soil surface and the plants are dry by evening.
  7. Avoid overwatering tender seedlings.
  8. Organocide┬« Plant Doctor is an earth-friendly systemic fungicide that works its way through the entire plant to combat a large number of disease problems. Apply as a soil drench or foliar spray (3-4 tsp/ gallon of water) to prevent an attack many fungal problems, including pythiumfusarium and root rot.

I’m located in Zone 10b and have been germination seeds and growing seedlings outside in FlexiPlugs in full Sun.  I have had almost no problems with damping off of my seedlings. The full sun and breezes keep the tops of the FlexiPlugs on the dry side, minimizing damping off problems.