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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 02, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Wildflowers
Title: Red spider mites in native bluebonnets in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What would you do if the WFC bluebonnets developed a bad case of red spider mites? That is what has happened to many of mine here in Austin. I noticed them the other day and I must have been asleep because they are looking in bad shape. I have never seen this before. The plants badly affected are both in my gardens and out in the native areas. Will I really get on top of them by spraying with the water? Might they move onto my other plants if I do so. I have already pulled several out that were too infested. Can I salvage the rest? Thanks Jenny Stocker

ANSWER:

Have you checked to make sure the problem is truly spider mites? Take a leaf and tap it over a piece of white paper-if you get little red dots, that's spider mites. We're wondering if the problem might be mildew, also. We've been having an unusual amount of humidity (unusual for this area) lately, and if your plants are crowded and/or not getting a lot of sun, they could be having some mildew problems. If it's mildew, obviously you don't want to treat it with a spray of water, as the water would just stand on the plant and make the problem worse. If you do, indeed, establish that it's spider mites, try spraying with a very weak solution of Safer Soap. In either case, the plants will go ahead and bloom and make seed, they just won't look too good.

 

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Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

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