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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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Saturday - August 27, 2011

From: Pueblo West, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Butterfly bushes and weed killer in Pueblo West CO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have 3 previously healthy butterfly bushes that have one by one developed masses of tiny yellowish-green compact leaves. The entire bush went from its normal healthy appearance to something that resembles the woolly butterfly bush. I do not see any evidence of a bug infestation. Could it be a result of weed killers applied to the surrounding rocks?

ANSWER:

You answered your own question, which we appreciate. Usually, with a question like this, we have to ask rhetorical questions of our correspondent, like is the plant in the right area, is it getting the right amount of sunlight and water or has it been exposed to an herbicide? You always need to remember that no spray, herbicide or pesticide, is going to be confined to the plant you are spraying it on. Even weed and feed fertilizer spread on a neighboring lawn can damage or kill adjoining ornamental plants. The weed killer in the "weed and feed" is for dicots, or broad-leaved plants, which the butterfly bush is. Will the plants survive? We have no idea. If their roots are strong and a fatal dose of the herbicide did not transfer to the roots, the plant might die back this year, and come back up from the roots again next year. Our advice? Don't do that again.

 

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