Grown at Home, Honeysuckle vine

I have a honeysuckle vine that starts out vigorously each spring, but then the aphids come and it never fully recovers. What is the best way to stop the aphids?

— Sharon

The key to dealing with aphids (heck, any insect for that matter) is to catch them early.

Keep an eye on your plants and at the first sign of them, spray.

Actually, most aphids aren’t all that hard to kill. There are lots of insecticides that will work well.

Your best choices, I think, are Malathion, Imidacloprid, or Permethrin. One thorough spray should clean them up.

You could also use a formulation of the Imidacloprid that’s applied to the base of the plant to be absorbed by the roots. It will take anywhere from two weeks to a month for it to work its way throughout the plant, but it should give you good control without spraying.

If you want to use an organic product, then insecticidal soap or a season-long spray oil will do the trick. The thing you’ll have to be sure to do if you use one of these products is to get thorough and complete coverage of the plant. Neither of these products has any persistence — they have to contact the insect in liquid form in order to work.

However, it may be possible that you’re not just dealing with aphids.

Yes, aphids can stunt growth, but they’re usually easy to get rid of.

The other possibility I’m thinking about is that you also have a disease called powdery mildew working on the plant. This problem is most common when the vine is close to the lawn and the spray from the sprinklers wets the foliage.

Most of us are familiar with powdery mildew on roses, but there are strains that get on just about anything. The one that gets on honeysuckle is different from the one on roses, or the one on cucumbers or grapes or lilacs.

Each race of the disease is fairly specific for its individual host plant.

For example, with the one on roses the disease will form a white powdery coating on the leaves and stems. However, on honeysuckle it’s often hard to see so people don’t realize what’s causing the problem.

Powdery mildew on honeysuckle causes the leaves to yellow and brown and fall off. It makes the plant look simply terrible.

Treating the disease isn’t all that hard, but it’s different than treating for the aphids.

The first thing you should try to do is to avoid getting the foliage wet. If the sprinklers can be adjusted to do that, fine, but that’s often not possible. In that case, I’ll recommend watering that area sometimes during the mid-morning hours. That may not cure the problem, but it can often help a lot.

In addition, I like to give the vine a short shearing back. This will stimulate lots of new growth plus it can remove some of the existing fungus that will make the job of spraying a bit easier.

And finally, spray for the disease. I like to use a Fertilome product called Systemic Fungicide. Thoroughly spray the plant when you first see the disease appear. You’ll want to spray twice at 10-day intervals.

I don’t know if this is part of your problem, but I thought it worth mentioning.

If you’re unsure, bring a sample into the nursery when the problem appears this season, and we’ll look it over.

We have a weeping mulberry tree, which was starting to bud out this spring. This winter, most of the top/exposed buds/leaves froze. A few leaves have opened, but the tops are black while other leaves are brown.

Will the buds/leaves re-grow or is the tree permanently damaged?

— Penny

What I’d do is sit tight and see what resprouts. Though there’s a chance that some significant damage occurred, that’s not likely.

The tree should sprout out with secondary buds and carry on as if nothing happened. If there is any die-back at that time, cut it off above a good vigorous sprout.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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