I have questions

Kristy AsaoJune 18, 2014


Good health to ya!

I'm new to plants. I'm only doing plants for the butterflies. I started with Monarch butterflies. Heard they're declining. I'm helping them.

Mainly growing Milkweeds for Monarch caterpillars. I've got nectar plants (butterfly bushes, Hyssop, Lantanas) too. Soon to be getting more plants! I can't stop now! Lol Originally didn't know about this message board. lol What's the best mulch for my area? Is it straw? I've got really dry soil.

Does my Milkweeds not need any fertilizer?

And I have this caterpillar/leech thing. It reminds me of a fuzzy leech. Its head moves like a leech. And some times they try to goo my fingers if I touch them. What is it? Thanks alot guys!

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Kristy Asao

Some of my Monarch caterpillars. ^__^

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:17PM
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Kudos on helping the Monarch and other pollinators, and welcome to the Forum :) Beautiful Monarch cats. Where are you located?
That first larva looks like a hoverfly larva. They eat Aphids and other insects and mites, but they'll take your Monarch eggs and hatchlings. Once the cats get bigger, these will no longer be a threat.
Milkweed tends to get infested c Aphids at times and it's good to have a few beneficials like these on your side. Other insects to look for are Lacewing larvae (Aphid Lions), which look like little alligators, and Ladybugs, whose larvae look like little Gila monsters.
Tiny parasitic wasps also make short work of Aphids. These will not bother your caterpillars. These "Bennies" generally "eat and run", dissipating after eating all the Aphids.
Other plant to include in your new garden are Pipevine (Aristolochia), Passion Flower and Fennel. Cassias are small trees (around 6') that bring swarms of Sulfurs.
Rue other members of Rutaceae (Citrus Family) that grow in your area will draw Giant Swallowtails.
Whitevine (Sarcostemma) attracts Queens and Monarchs alike. Give this one SPACE, a place to climb and poor, rocky soil. Loves sun and is salt and drought tolerant.
Snapdragons, Russelia and Ruellia will attract Buckeyes.
Also, try some Pentas and Porterweed in your garden. These are top drawer nectar plants. Likewise, Mexican Sunflower is a huge draw for Queens, Monarchs and other butterflies.
Good luck with your newfound love and happy butterflying :-)>


    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 4:12PM
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Kristy Asao

Thank you! ^__^ Thank you for the welcome! ^__^ The LA area. Right up against the San Gabriel Mountains. :-] Thank ya for the insect identification! Good thing I let those things live. *PLENTY* of aphids for the hover fly and lace wing babies. Not sure how voracious the aphid-eaters are. I've seen a couple of lace wing larvae. Plenty of lace wing eggs, I'm assuming those are eggs. Those eggs on strings (after your help I looked up lace wings too). Lol Wish I'd see some lady bug babies! :-( Good to hear that, about Parasitic Aphid Wasps! Lol What are "bennies"? O__o Benefical insects in general? The Parasitic Wasps?

And thank you alot for all your plant suggestions!! Thank you for all your tips and help!! Can't thank ya enough! Lol I will look into some of these plants!! Count on that! 8D Lol Actual soil space is limited in my back yard sadly. Some may/will havfta live in pots. What's this insect larvae? I like this insect. This insect looks pretty to me. I was like "awwww" when I saw it. Thank you so very much! :-D Lol At "butterflying". Same to you too! :-D Lol

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 1:31PM
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That looks like a mealy bug. They have no larval stage, just egg, nymph and adult. They multiply fairly rapidly and can cause problems. Hopefully, the Lacewings and Hoverflies get them before they get out of hand.
Is that on Milkweed?
PS: I retract using Sarcostemma! I had no idea u were on the West Coast. Stay c native and Tropical Milkweed. Sarcostemma may be a pest in your area.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Kristy Asao

Can you tell the difference (visually) adults from nymphs? Awww they can cause problems. I hope it doesn't. I find it cute. I'd whether see that that aphids any day. Yes, that's Milkweed. And alright about that 1 plant. Leaf, is straw the best blanket/mulch for my area? I've got dry soil. Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 7:07PM
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You can generally tell nymphal mealybugs and aphids from adults by size.
Cypress mulch is the best for keeping in moisture and keeping weeds down. I'm currently experimenting with cocoa husk mulch. It smells delicious, but doesn't hold up well in rainstorms. It does however enrich the soil greatly. I'm considering using it more as a soil additive rather than mulch.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:57AM
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Kristy Asao

Even before this message board I have been meaning to go by a local plant place and get Passion Flowers. I love how special/distinct/unique the flowers look. The butterfly that comes from it is beautiful! Leaf, I have a question. Do I just surface spread Cypress mulch on my soil? Or do I like actually put it in the ground too? Oh, about that! Can I put it up against plant roots or no don't do that? Plant roots like my Milkweeds. Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:14PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

You can leave the mulch just on the surface. The soil organisms will move up into the mulch and help break it down over time and incorporate what's left into your soil. I generally spread my mulch pretty close to the plant stalks and I haven't had any problems. Though, some climates have pests that live in mulch that could bother certain plants. Maybe someone else will chime in.

I love the Passion Flowers, too. Unfortunately, they aren't hardy for me. My mom brings hers inside in a pot, but she has a wonderful sunny porch to keep it on. If you plant one, we'd love to see pictures.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 8:04AM
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Kristy Asao

Generally are Passion Flowers hardy? Speaking of which, I heard MOST red Passion Flowers are toxic to caterpillars. For Passion Flowers how tall of a stand (to grow up) should I give it? How many days does the Passion Flower flower? Does the actually flower die quickly? Thank you! Definitely! I WILL post pictures!! Lol Got this growing in my back yard that belongs to the neighbor. Don't know what it is. Bees love it though. lol

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:39PM
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rickinla(8B SW AL)

Passion vines die to the ground in my area but come back vigorously in the spring and send up new ones from the roots. Try P.Inspiration or P.incense, they're cold hardy and gorgeous. The native P.Incarnata is a good choice but the flowers aren't as large. They all will bloom all summer, give them a good structure; they get big. The only safe red variety is P.Lady Margaret, it's not cold hardy in my area but may be in yours.

Your photo looks like Elderberry but I'm just guessing.

This post was edited by rickinla on Sat, Jun 21, 14 at 16:55

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 4:51PM
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Kristy Asao

Thank you! Cool to know the name of the 1 safe red plant species. Came home and read your reply after I got home from a plant nursery. I got "Passiflora Edulis". It was the only 1 they currently had. I'm happy I got a Passion Flower! :-D Hope my Passion Flower's perennial! Excellent to hear that, about their flowers! :-D What kind of structure? Does it havfta be vertical? Can the plant be/grow horizonally? The label on it says 30 feet! O__O Lol Oh, since I'm new to this, I've got more questions. What time(s) of day can I water? What are my options?

Should I water from a hose? What I have been using are these water gallon cartons for watering. What are my options? I don't wanna hurt the caterpillars or the predators that eat the stupid aphids that I have. Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:25PM
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Kristy Asao

My newly-bought Passion Flower.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:30PM
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Kristy Asao

There are 8 Monarch caterpillar Chrysalises here! I currently have more than that in there. Lol

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:32PM
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rickinla(8B SW AL)

P.Edulis is good down to about 40 degrees and will need to be protected below that. I would suggest a large pot, I have mine in 20" plastic pots so I can bring them in for the winter. They can grow on anything that they can wrap a tendril around. An easy structure is a 16' section of wire cattle panel, anchored on both sides, and forming a hoop.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:32PM
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Kristy Asao

Could you link a picture to what kind of structure I'd need to buy? Prefer to buy. Unless it's not too much work for a do-it-yourself kinda thing. I'm not very strong. Thank you!!

Edit: A 16 inch hoop's enough for a plant that can grow 30 feet?

This post was edited by Protego on Sun, Jun 22, 14 at 1:48

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:16PM
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rickinla(8B SW AL)

There are 3 structures in this photo, the hoop has much more area. The one in the foreground allows the vine to continue up the post then across a string attached to the post on the other side. The one in the background is much too small and will have PVC or bamboo poles that go horizontally to another metal structure.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 8:34AM
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