Allen County

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Purdue Extension: Expert Resources for COVID-19

Garden Questions, Sick Plants, or Identification of Plants or Insects?

March 3, 2020
Contact us

Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions!


Call or Email the Master Gardener Hotline

For information or help with your garden, lawn, trees, or plants in general, you can contact the Master Gardener Hotline via email ( or call (260-481-6425). This is a free service.

Emailing photos is a great way to identify plants or insects OR diagnose problems you are seeing with your garden, lawn, trees, or houseplants.

General Digital Photo Tips (Source: PPDL)

You can help us by following these guidelines:



Submitting Samples

for Diagnosis, Identification, or Both! 

Want to bring in a sad plant, mystery flower, or unidentified creepy crawly for us to help you with? Please see our general guidelines below for submitting samples. For information needed when bringing in samples, see Sample Submission Form (below). A nominal fee will be collected at the time of submission.

Submitting Plant Specimens for Disease/Injury Diagnosis (Source: PPDL)

Herbaceous Plants

For general decline/dying of plants, send whole plants, showing early symptoms, with roots and adjacent soil intact. Dig up plant carefully. Send several plants. Bundle plants together and wrap roots in a plastic bag. Wrap the entire bundle of plants in newspaper and place in a crush-proof container for shipment. Do not add water.

Tree Wilts

Collect branches 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter from branches which are actively wilting but not totally dead. Wrap in plastic to retain moisture. Collect a handful of feeder roots and place in a separate plastic bag.

Leaves/Branches/Fleshy Parts

When localized infections such as cankers, leaf spots, and rots are involved, send specimens representing early and moderate stages of disease. For cankers include healthy portions from above and below diseased area. Press leaves flat between heavy paper or cardboard. Wrap fleshy parts in dry paper.


Samples should be at least 4"x4" and include both the diseased and healthy portions of grass on the same sample piece. Place the sample on a disposable plate and wrap in newspaper for shipment.

Submitting Plant Specimens for Identification

  1. Include a 6-10 inch sample of the terminal (tip) portion of the stem with side buds, leaves and flowers in identifiable condition.
  2. Place the sample flat between a layer or two of dry newspaper, paper toweling or similar absorbent material. Try to prevent excessive folding of the leaves and place flowers so that you are looking into the center of the flower.
  3. Pack the wrapped bundle in plastic, preferably with a piece of cardboard to keep the sample flat.
  4. Never place any fresh plant sample directly in plastic.
  5. Never add water to the sample.
  6. Shake excess water from aquatic weed samples and place in plastic bag.
  7. Wrap whole, uncut fruit specimens in paper, place in a strong box, and pack with additional paper to prevent crushing.
  8. Package in sturdy crush-proof container and pack with additional paper to prevent shifting.

Submitting Insect Specimens

Care should be taken to package insects so that they arrive unbroken. Be sure to separate and label the insects if two or more are included in the same package and provide appropriate information on each.

Tiny and/or Soft-bodied Specimens

Aphids, mites, thrips, caterpillars, grubs, spiders, etc. should be submitted in a small leakproof bottle or vial of 70 percent alcohol. Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol is suitable and readily available. Do not submit insects in water, formaldehyde or without alcohol as they will readily ferment and decompose. 

*Grubs and caterpillars must be prepared before preservation to prevent discoloration. Drop them into gently boiling water for about 30 seconds (never microwave them!) before placing in vials of rubbing alcohol.

Hard-bodied Specimens 

Flies, grasshoppers, cockroaches, wasps, butterflies and beetles can be submitted dry in a crush-proof container. Do not tape insects to paper or place them loose in envelopes.


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