White Balls Killed My Potted Parsley Plants

Q: I had three potted parsley plants that suddenly wilted and died. There are white balls next to the stems. They pop when pressed and a sticky liquid comes out. 

A: Since no yellow, red, or pink bug guts came out when you pressed the balls, I think these are spheres of controlled release fertilizer. Manufacturers form a plastic shell around granules of fertilizer. The fertilizer gradually dissolves through the shell to feed a plant. Some products can emit fertilizer for months after only one application. But if a lot of them are deposited around the base of a plant, it can damage the stem. When you buy potted plants, check for the fertilizer balls and scatter them across the potting soil with a stick.

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