Nicandra aka 'shoo fly' worked tonight.

trudi_dAugust 30, 2001

The mosquitos have been pretty bad the past few days and WNV carrying mosquitos are now confirmed in my town ;-(

I don't like deet, it makes me feel like I've been sprayed with pledge, and I am not fond of its scent.

There is a lot to be said for common names, and "Shoo Fly" sounds likes it's worth trying. This is a reseeding annual in my garden, it grows best in part shade. I broke open a few dried seed pods from the nicandra and rubbed the seeds up and down on my skin before trotting out with the dog tonight. I was outside with her for about an hour and came home totally bite free. Usually Liz and I are the only ones out on the street and so we're the prime targets for the bugs.

I am so far very happy with this, I will try it again tomorrow and I will hope again that I won't get chewed up. Also, as a "side effect" the nicandra seeds soften your skin. I've collected their seeds three years in a row and it's the same every year, the skin on my hands really does feel softer and it lasts for a few days.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hortiplex info links with pict for Nicandra

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karenfromhingham(6a MA)

Thank you for the info, Trudi. Would you post tomorrow's results? (How high does Nicandra grow?)

- Karen

    Bookmark   August 30, 2001 at 10:32PM
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Trudi... does the plant keep mosquitoes away? or just the seed stuff?

Waiting to hear......

    Bookmark   August 31, 2001 at 8:26AM
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HI Karen and Sparks,

Nicandra will grow in full sun or part shade, it seems to prefer part shade in my zone 7 garden. The plant's shape reminds me of a mimosa tree where you have the slender trunk and on top a large spreading canopy.

In my hellstrip gardens which are in full sun and unwatered, and have sandy dirt for soil, the nicandras will self seed and grow to around two foot wide at the top and maybe eighteen inches high.

I have at the patio an inset garden which only receives direct sun at noon, the rest of the day it is in various stages of indirect light. This garden has been fallow this year except for some weeds and the perennials I haven't yanked out yet, I am redoing it and have really procrastinated. It gets no attention and no water. I have several self sown nicandra seedlings there which are nearly four feet high and with a canopy that is just as wide. The plants bloom at the end of their stems and they keep on growing and blooming and growing and blooming, and this is how the canopy forms.

The seed pods develop and turn into little crispy balls under the canopy. When they are paper-bag brown and dry and crispy to the touch the seeds are ready to harvest. Inside the pods there is a fleshy stem which the seeds are grown from, you would crush the balls to open them, and lay them out on a plate in the sun for a few hours to help dry up the stem and the seeds of residual moisture. When I am crumbling the balls it is the inside stem that I believe contains the "whatever it is" that softens my hands.

Last night I just took a couple of dried balls off the plants and crumbled them up in my palms, and then rubbed myself up and down with the seeds and chaff. I have not tried only the leaves yet. In my garden I can't tell if the plant itself repels flys. I don't see that many except on the "morning fresh" dog bombs. I would take into consideration that SHoo Fly is a very old common name for the plant and may mean any variety of flying insect(s), and not just the ones that buzz around garbage cans or excrement. I have plenty of flowers to attract beneficial insects, there are a lot of happy bugs here so I don't know if the nicandra is keeping any of them in particular away. I don't seem to have an over-abundance or annoyance with any group of bugs this year (except for this spring's slug war....grrrr). It all seems pretty well balanced.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2001 at 11:08AM
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Another use for nicandra is as a dried "flower". The pods are nice in a dried arrangement. Sometimes I have spray painted them gold, or orange for Halloween. Mine has been reseeding for years and when it gets enough rain will get almost six feet tall. You must pull the leaves from the stems for arrangements as they aren't very pretty dried.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2001 at 11:44AM
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I went walking last night and used the nicandra seed pods to rub my skin with before setting out with Liz. I did not get bitten by anything again. I will keep try ing it.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 7:29AM
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Do you have any seeds to spare. I can't walk outside without getting eaten up at night. It is so frustrating. I use that bug spray and hate to use it all the time. It is nasty. I told my husband I feel like we live in bug city. I would like to plant it by my front door and back next year. See what happens.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2001 at 5:03PM
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Hi MJ,

I have plenty to share. Please email me for the SASE info.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2001 at 9:06AM
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Interesting,Trudi - will these grow in zone 9 or 10?


    Bookmark   September 17, 2001 at 7:13PM
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Yes, Trudi, I'd like to know too -- will Shoo Fly grow in the soutwestern low desert, a very dry zone 9? (Tucson, AZ) Korki!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2001 at 10:13AM
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Hey Trudi, Are they hardy in my zone?
If you still have seeds available, let me know the other info and I'll send out an envelope.

Thanks tammy

    Bookmark   December 18, 2001 at 1:44PM
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Will it grow here!? We live in a very large open grazing area with natural and man made water holes are our night mare every summer. Mesquitos!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2002 at 6:32PM
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Nicandra will grow anywhere in the U.S. as an annual, although (like most solanaceae) it is actually a tender (short lived) perennial (z10 only). I don't know how it will tolerate the heat and humidity of the deep south, but it will take hot and dry well enough. It has actually naturalized in California, growing during the winter and spring and dying when the soil dries in the summer (no rain for more than 5 months every year can be tough on plants).

    Bookmark   September 11, 2002 at 1:03PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

I planted in several of my gardening projects and at my farm about 15 years ago. Shoo-fly is a prolific reseeder and appreciates good garden soil and regular watering. I have planted it in Zones 10 through 7 with equal success.

I believe the plant has some limiting effects on flying bugs. Where I let the shoo-fly come to compete with sweet corn, the incidence of corn earworm was noticibly reduced. Coincidence, maybe. I tried growing it around flytraps to see if the plant could overcome the stinky attraction of the traps. Nope.

We just pulled about 200 Nicandra plants (young and mature) at the farm in prep for fall-winter crops. Gone to composting heaven now, so have only a few left in seed to offer anyone some.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2002 at 1:41AM
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Does this work with purchased seeds, or just fresh off the plant?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2003 at 10:51PM
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