The fall colors of decaying plants are surprisingly pretty long into winter. They brighten the garden and make the transition to winter's browns easier. I leave most of the wildflower seed heads standing until late winter at Clay and Limestone. After all, I garden for wildlife and goldfinches feed on the coneflower, rudbeckias, agastaches; the grasses provide cover for small critters; and, I like how it looks. But, I never let the summer phloxes stand all winter. Once they've gone to seed and browned, I cut them to the ground.
|Ready to be cut to the ground|
|This is the nasty critter with proboscis in use|
|Phlox after a frost is still pretty, but it has to go. There might be bug eggs hiding!|
|The bug feeds on leaves, stem terminals, flowers and seeds|
Phlox Plant Bugs are tiny; less then 1/4 inch, fast moving critters that hide underneath leaves and make it hard to see and smush! As far as I know, they don't seem to be a tasty treat for the beneficial insects or birds that visit my garden. Perhaps, their orange and black coloration signals~"Stay away" to most insect eating critters.
Phlox is a foundation plant at Clay and Limestone. It was here before me and I hope it's still here after I leave this garden. In the meantime, I will do what I must to keep the garden free of Lopidea davisi without resorting to the big gun pesticides.
- 1. Practice good sanitation. Cut back and dispose of infested stems and leaves. Clean up stem and leaf litter in the winter. I cut back every stem I find and threw them in the trash, not the compost. Compost works if yours gets hot enough to cook bugs! Mine doesn't.
- 2. Scout for nymphs and treat. Apply insecticidal soap to both the upper and underside of the leaves. Use a light horticultural or sunspray oil. I haven't had to up my tx to this.
- 3. I never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in my garden... whether or not they are recommended in the Integrated Pest Management program. I love my bees and other pollinators and don't want to risk causing them harm.
I hope this pest isn't in your garden. It's a known problem in the eastern US and some Midwestern states. Canada, you aren't exempt! Even if it's not a problem, go ahead and trash the decaying phlox. Trust me, this will go a long way to ensure it won't become one. It worked in my garden.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone."