It's prime time to declare war on a common fungus disease of azaleas and camellias.

Many home landscapers are familiar with leaf gall which annually shows up on these landscape favors not too long after plant infection occurs each spring.

Several weeks after infection, azalea and camellia leaves become thickened, fleshy and severely distorted.

As the galls form, affected parts may become whitish or light green.

Sometimes a fleshy rosette of leaves appears at the time of a branch, or a gall becomes bladder-like as it decays and dries out.

Flower parts are also susceptible and become thickened so that the entire bloom is turned into a hard, fleshy, waxy irregular gall, the parts of which become covered with a whitish bloom.

However, the most prevalent and damaging phase of this disease occurs on the leaves of azaleas and camellias.

The fungus responsible for leaf and flower gall overwinters as spores within bark crevices and bud scales.

The disease cycle kicks-off as the buds open in the spring and spores germinate and infect young leaves or flower parts following periods of rainy weather.

Infection cycles occur as long as young leaves are present on plants.

What should home landscapers do about this problem?

The best control measure is to remove the galls when they are first noticed.

This can be done easily when there are only a few galls present.

If the galls are not removed from plants, chances are the disease will become more severe from one year to the next.

The galls should be destroyed and not discarded in the vicinity of the plants.

There may be situations where gall removal is not practical.

In such cases a fungicide spray program is advisable for the control of this disease.

An annual spray program would be beneficial on azaleas or camellias that are affected each year by gall.

Spray the plants once before the new leaves unfurl with Captan or a fungicide containing Bayleton.

Apply at 10 to 14-day intervals during the spring as long as young leaves are present.

If you need further information about azalea and camellia leaf gall, please feel free to call us at 601-656-4602 or drop by the Neshoba County Extension office.