severe spring stunting


Hi there,
My hot, dry front garden hosts a native perennial wildflower garden. It’s a mix of plants I’ve started from seed or bought from nurseries. It is primarily blackeyed susans, purple bee balm, coreopsis and purple coneflowers. In recent years, queen annes lace (or something very similar) has self-seeded and I’ve let it stay as it was quite pretty. This year a large area of the garden which is mostly purple echinacea and wild bee balm has failed to thrive (there was no sign of this last year). The bee balm is only up 3″ or so and has stunted, stiff leaves and stems that are withering (atrophying) where the stem hits the soil and falling off. The echinaceas are stunted with stiff curled leaves. I’ve googled all I can and fear aster yellows, however the bee balm atrophying stems don’t seem to fit that description.
Any ideas?
Do I have to dig up the whole garden?


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners

You have correctly diagnosed  your  Echinacea with Yellow Aster disease which can be carried by insects from plant to plant.  Our Master Gardener Website does have information on yellow aster phytoplasma disease, and how to deal with it,  Yellow Aster phytoplasma disease

Bee balm is usually known to pick up fungi or Powdery mildew; the yellow aster may also be affecting the bee balm. The website the spruce carries information on how to properly take care of bee balm: Bee Balm Growing Conditions

I suggest that you over plant with other native plants to fill in the gaps left by the stunted plants. The list from Guelph Healthy Native Plant List :Healthy Landscapes – Plant List Native and Drought-Tolerant Plants

When gardening there are seasonal changes, what may look like a problem, which can resolve themselves or  you can make changes to your growing conditions. Not all perennials that you choose will thrive in your yard. You may need to add nutrients to your soil in the form of compost. Our Master Gardener Website provides information on soil health: Soil Fertility