Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - April 30, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Holes in leaves of wax myrtle from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just purchased 4 of the 5 gallon Wax Myrtles at the last spring plant sale and after planting them, they are getting eaten by bugs leaving holes in the leaves. I can't find any of the bugs doing the damage. What would be good to spray on these wax myrtles for insect control? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Water. And if that doesn't work, add a little pure liquid soap to the water, and spray again.

Okay, now we've had our fun, we'll get serious. We are neither entomologists nor plant pathologists, but our experience as gardeners tells us this is probably aphid damage. Look on the underside of the wax myrtle's leaves-do you see tiny white specks moving around? Are there ants present? Is there a whitish deposit on those undersides, some of which may be developing a black moldy appearance?

Sooty mold is a fungus, or more commonly a complex of two or more fungal species, that grows on honeydew or on plant exudates. Honeydew is a waste-product of aphids and other plant-sucking insects. As honeydew is excreted by sucking insects, it falls and coats any surface upon which it lands. Sooty mold fungi invade and live upon this sugary coating. These fungi do not infest the leaf ifself. Thus, sooty mold may often be found growing on any exposed surface beneath aphid-infested trees and shrubs. Sooty mold can cause great harm to plants, however, by blocking sunlight to the leaf surface below and diminishing photosynthesis.

Sooty mold can often be successfully removed by rinsing with water from a garden hose. However, this will be most effective after the aphids or other honeydew-producing insects are destroyed. Sometimes sooty mold development is so severe and persistent that only time and exchange of leaves through the growing seasons will remove it all.

Aphids are not especially difficult to control and non-chemical methods are usually very effective. Insecticidal soaps are often the remedy of choice for many gardeners. Various brands of insecticidal soaps may be found at just about any retail nursery or garden center. Be sure to read and carefully follow all label directions when using any pesticide, organic or chemical.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Need a native pine tree for Austin, TX.
December 21, 2013 - Is there a native pine tree that you would recommend for the Austin, Texas area? We're considering the Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) or the Papershell pinyon (Pinus remota)? Would either of the...
view the full question and answer

Native tree for cemetery in Western Oklahoma
May 06, 2009 - My siblings and I are wanting to plant a tree next to my Mother's grave at the cemetery. It is in Western Oklahoma so hot sun and constant high wind are both considerations to choosing the right tree...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of Bauhinia lunarioides
May 29, 2008 - I have a Bauhinia variegata..when is the best time to prune it? it tends to grow horizontally..where do you clip off the limbs?
view the full question and answer

Opinion of 5 best native garden plants in Oklahoma from Burneyville OK
September 07, 2013 - What would you say are the 3 to 5 BEST native garden plants for south central Oklahoma?
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing "climbing" tree.
February 12, 2009 - I live in Northern Virginia. My children would love for me to plant a "climbing" tree - short trunk, nice spread of limbs. Can you recommend a tree that could grow to meet this requirement in abou...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.