That white fluff is harmless stuff

GARDEN Q&A

August 25, 2007|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement | Ellen Nibali and David Clement,Special to the Sun

It looks like someone spun cotton around the stems of my flowers and shrubs. Not to be confused with mildew. (Or is it?) Do you know what to do about it?

The nymphs of plant hoppers cover themselves with that white, actually waxy, fluffy material to protect themselves. When they leave plants, the harmless fluff often stays behind until weather wears it away. With our lack of rain, it may be more evident than usual. You may even see a few nymphs hiding in the fluff, but no control is recommended. See the color photos in our Web site's Plant Diagnostic under Flowers/Stems/White material.

Why did all the figs fall off my Celeste fig tree? I'm devastated.

Overfertilizing will cause any fig tree to drop figs before they can mature. Additionally, Celeste is known to drop figs prematurely in very hot weather.

Checklist

Plan your fall plantings to include plants that perform well in drought, such as liriope, ornamental grasses, sedum, rudbeckia, coreopsis, salvias, coneflower and Mediterranean herbs, such as thyme, oregano and lavender.

Let caterpillars of Monarch and swallowtail butterflies feed on your milkweed, butterfly weed, carrots, herbs or Queen Anne's lace. They must complete their lifecycle as caterpillars, so they can emerge next year as butterflies.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the "Send a Question" feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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