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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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Saturday - July 30, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Pests
Title: Ants in outdoor plants in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Live in Austin. The problem is THIS. Ants have invaded our outside potted plants- mandevilla, begonia , lemon tree and violas. The colonies are devouring the roots it appears. Please give suggestions on repellants. I'm concerned about the toxicity of some substances and poisoning my large outside potted plants. But we need get get them out and keep them out.

ANSWER:

Since we are not entomologists, we will refer you to some websites with what we consider pertinent information:

University of California Integrated Pest Management Ants

Gardenguides.com How to Drive Ants Out of Potted Plants

eHow Home Products that Keep Ants out of Plants

If we may add one point from personal experience: ants are farmers and their herds are usually aphids. If you find very small white spots on the bottom of your leaves or a white or black moldy substance, usually in the same area, you have aphids. The ants will fiercely protect their "crop" from natural predators. If you get rid of the aphids, the ants will have no reason to return.

University of California Integrated Pest Management Control of Aphids

 

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