FORTY FORT, Pa. -- The Department of Agriculture is warning gardeners about a virus that is highly contagious and can be the kiss of death for rhododendron. The first step, is blackened leaves. It can then spread to other flowers and shrubs.
There are no indications of the disease at Edward's Garden Center in Forty Fort. Only healthy, green, and shiny leaves on the rhododendron there. However, employees said it's worrisome that this contagious bacteria is out there.
"We have thousands of dollars invested into plants and if one plant comes in bad, it could affect everything that we have here," Bernie Trudnak of Edward's Garden Center said.
The virus was first spotted last week. It has spread to 28 states, including Pennsylvania. The virus is highly contagious. It can kill rhododendron and then spread to shrubs, lilac, viburnum, mountain laurel, and Pieris.
"It does worry me. It worries everyone in the neighborhood. They want to keep their property nice and a lot of them do seem to have rhododendrons," Zita Cavanaugh of Wilkes-Barre said.
Growing rhododendron can be an investment in both time and money. A three-foot-tall rhododendron can cost more than $150 and take close to a decade to grow.
"A mature rhododendron, like a purple rhododendron can get to be 12 to 15 feet tall. To replace that and wait for it to re-grow would be a big deal," Trudnak said.
People are keeping a close look at their rhododendron.
"We'll have to see what we have to do to make sure it doesn't spread to the other plants in the yard because you want the outside of the house to look nice and you don't want it to ruin the appearance of your home," Cavanaugh said.
If you have any signs of the disease on your rhododendron, you're asked to send a sample to the department of agriculture regional office.