Succulents pests with Wizzie Brown

July 28th, 2011 Posted in Insects, garden bloggers on tour, soil mixes, succulents

Warning! Some of today’s images are scary. Here’s a preview, taken by CTG viewer John Shearer.

Damage from agave snout weevil

So far, I haven’t had any trouble with my agaves and yuccas.  In fact, I plan to add a few more. I really like my soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia), the perfect dynamic in bright shade with a few hours of torturous sun.

soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia)
I’ve kept my Agave striata in a pot for years, rather than deal with my drainage issues.  Supposedly it’s hardy to 15° or even lower. Mine sure did fine last winter. I may add some to the ground, since I dearly love it.  It will only get about 2 – 3′ tall. When I bought it from Yucca Do, they said it also did well in dry bright shade as well as full sun. For years, I had it on the patio where it got shade a lot of the day.Last year, I put its pot in the hot spot of the crape bed to see if I liked it there. I do.

agave striata

I have three gray yuccas in front: this one is Yucca pallida. It gets bright shade with some poignant sun. I just coveted that silvery form, and so far, they’ve all been fine in my heavy soil amended over years with compost.

Yucca pallida

My only cactus is the Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita) which returned from the dead after winter’s ” weather event.”

Santa Rita prickly pear cactus repotted after freezing

A lot of it was black and mushy, but with other things to attend, I left it. When it started showing signs of renewal, I cut off the icky parts, let the “neutered” pads dry for a week, and replanted.

My spineless prickly pear succumbed to cactus bugs/cactus coreids (Chelinidea sp.).

Cactus bug on spineless prickly pear

I got rid of them, but due to their damage, combined with hail and freeze in 2009, I tossed the whole thing into the compost pile. By golly, those little devils took root and now I have a healthy cactus factory amongst the potato peelings and bunny litter.

Cactus bugs are one of the insects Tom investigates this week with Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Extension Program Specialist- IPM.

Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension entomologist

A few years ago, most of us had never seen or heard of them. Then they came marching in to get our attention. Like this cactus bug, (Hesperolabops gelastops), they’re easy to control if you start early and stay on it! Strong blasts of water will do it. Or spray with a soap or horticultural-based product like Neem.  But avoid using in hot temperatures!

Cactus bugs (Hesperolabops gelastops)

A few months ago, viewer Linda Avitt wrote in about the Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida) on her soft leaf yuccas.  Her question prompted this segment with Wizzie!

Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida)

Like the cactus bugs, this one sucks the plant. Use the same water blast/soap/horticultural oil treatment.  She did this morning and evening and got it under total control. Thanks, Linda, for the update!

Another little sucker is Cochineal scale, related to mealybugs.

Cochineal scale, Dactylopius coccus

But many people cultivate this one by diving under its protective cover to squish the insect for red dye.

Red dye from cochineal insect

I actually have a wall hanging woven with plant and cochineal insect dyes!

Wall hanging rug with plant and cochineal insect dyes

Wizzie’s got even more, including how to avoid problems, but let’s get down to the really scary one, agave snout weevil. I’m sorry that Philip Leveridge met their acquaintance in East Side Patch, but thanks for the great pictures!

Agave snout weevil

John Shearer kindly took pictures of its wide-spread damage, if you’ve been lucky enough to not see it person.

Agave dead from agave snout weevil

The female agave snout weevil lays her eggs at the base of a leaf. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the plant, eating out its heart, and providing entry for bacteria, fungi and viruses. The plant soon collapses, never to recover.

Agave snout weevil damage on yuccas

Right now, the only control for home-owners is imidacloprid. This is HIGHLY toxic and will kill off everything.

Sorry to be such a pooper here, but it’s true: “Know your enemy.”  For more about insects (good and evil) follow Wizzie’s informative and insightful blog for updates on what’s bugging you!  I relied on a blog post last year for pesky indoor fruit flies.

On tour, we repeat Jeff Pavlat’s outstanding succulent garden design, home to hundreds of species, with nary an insect problem. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s beautiful inspiration for your own drought-tough designs.

Jeff Pavlat garden

And you can meet Jeff and other members of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society at their show & sale on September 3 & 4 and get tips from the experts on how to grow them. Don’t be scared off by our scary stuff. These plants have been around a long time!

So have Texas tree lizards, and we thank Robert Breeze for this week’s Garden Pet of the Week: The Dude!

Texas tree lizard
He likes to join Robert every morning to get misted, along with the tomato plants.  You know it’s hot and dry when lizards need water!  And what a wonderful connection to make, too.  Most of our wildlife is extremely beneficial, like The Dude. Robert’s story reminded me of the anoles that follow me around as I water plants. Not only do we want to observe the evil in our gardens, we want to observe, protect, and enjoy the ones that give us delight.

On succulent plants, the question CTG often gets is about aloe vera. It’s an easy plant to grow and very handy when a fire an or “a cooking event” gets you. It’s also easy to kill with too much love. This week, Daphne explains how to keep your garden first-aid in good health!

Aloe vera

And get Daphne’s answer on “how and why to pinch a plant?”

how to pinch a plant

John Dromgoole concocts a well-draining soil mix for your succulent plants, and demonstrates how to move a prickly one without needing first-aid attention!

John Dromgoole pots up a prickly cactus

Also, in case you missed last week’s post, Wizzie LOVES the MiteYFine sprayer to get the bugs off your succulents!

Until next week, Linda

  1. 10 Responses to “Succulents pests with Wizzie Brown”

  2. By Brent Henry on Jul 29, 2011

    What a great post!!! Wonderful stuff there, Linda.


    Linda reply on July 29th, 2011 6:41 pm:

    Thanks, Brent! Hope those insects don’t head your way. If so, get Jenga on the job!


  3. By Shirley Dehmer on Jul 29, 2011

    My angel wing begonia first looked like the yard man blew a hole through one side with his leaf blower. It sits on a 2′ plant stand. Next several leaves looked like someone pinched them very hard in several places, – and then it spread. Instead of a tall beautiful plant it is almost leafless and very tattered looking.
    I bought a Christmas cactus, called an Easter Cactus, covered with hot pink blooms. Then the limbs started falling off. None would root, but rotted or dried up. Now I’m left with whitish looking stumps. I liquidified two cloves of garlic in a cup of water, added three more cups of water and poured about half of it on my Easter Cactus. At least the stumps are still alive and two are starting to grow.
    Everything is stressed from the heat. I’m trying to be very careful about watering. Several plants that I put the water crystals in the soil are beginning to wilt and die. I think it must be root rot, or else just stress from the heat. I purchased an ivy, one of those with reddish looking green leaves. It is in the house and is wilting down to die. I don’t know why!! I have only watered it once since purchasing a week ago. The house is cool. I am an old time gardener and I don’t know what to do about my plants. Any suggestions? I lost a zebra plant that was doing wonderfully but suddenly collapsed. It was sitting near the base of the Angel Wing Begonia. Any connection?


    Linda reply on July 29th, 2011 6:40 pm:

    Hi, Shirley, I sure don’t know, but I would suspect fungus and root rot. I am not a fan of those water crystals at all. The Christmas cactus wants very little water. Wait until the soil is totally dry to water! On the ivy, I just flat don’t know, except for lighting, the plant was stressed when you got it, or it didn’t want the water you gave it.


  4. By joyce foster on Jul 29, 2011

    For fall tomatoes what varieties do you recommend? When to plant outside in Llano?


    Linda reply on July 30th, 2011 4:16 pm:

    Hi, Joyce! I’ve asked an expert and will get back to you. I would suggest going to a good local nursery (not a box store) and seeing what they have. You should do this soon in order to get fruit before the frost. But frankly, with the kind of heat we’re getting right now, I think you should just go ahead and get those beds ready for cool weather crops. You’d definitely need to shade those tomatoes right now and water constantly. Plan to grow tomatoes next spring instead. I fear that right now you’d just be in for a disappointment. You can continue to plant squash and beans.


    Linda reply on August 1st, 2011 4:37 pm:

    Joyce, Master Gardener Patty Leander recommends these: Solar Fire, Sunmaster, Early Girl, Bush Celebrity or Viva Italia, but she says not to delay.


  5. By Katherine Cain on Jul 30, 2011

    Linda- Hi- I posted a reply on my blog but in case you don’t get back to see it, it is deciduous so will drop it’s leaves in the winter and then come back. They are really pretty- I agree.


    Linda reply on July 30th, 2011 2:20 pm:

    Katherine, you ROCK! I’m not familiar with them at all, but now I’ve added one to my plant list. It’ll give me a great excuse to head your way too!


  6. By Dave on Aug 26, 2011

    In high heat areas, especially those with humidity, you can’t escape the havac that bugs do to your plants and gardens. You can only prepare for them and be equipped to get rid of them before they damage your hard work and money.
    Plants that grow in high heat areas like Texas need good soil to survive. If planting vegetables like tomatoes, a loamy soil is best to maintain a balance of moisture and nutrients.


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