Can I wash my hosta?

bkay2000(8a TX)June 26, 2012

We have just been overrun by aphids this year. They've made a nice home in the pecan trees around here. Everthing is covered with that sticky goo commonly referred to as honeydew, including all my hosta. The flies and gnats are thick. My friend suggested that I use dawn dishwashing detergent to wash the hosta. She said her mom used Ivory regularly for insect control and didn't think that it would cause any problems.

I planned to dilute the dawn and put in in a pump up sprayer and spray the hosta leaves and then hose them off. Any ideas, pro or con?


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I too am covered in aphids and little flies although it was mostly only on my lupines and my cherry bush. I first just used the hose on high to blow as many off, I am not sure if that helped but two days later(but it was also very hot and straight sun) they all looked like they died white "skeletons" all over.

My dad had used the dish soap mix, again not hostas but I think it still might apply, and he used too much soap and the plants wilted make sure to get the right mix.

I wonder if anyone knows if the rain kills off aphids or makes them multiply. It has rained so much here I have 3 30 gallon trash cans filled with water and it doesn't look like it is letting up anytime soon.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Just to warn you--I washed my house and now my El Nino & Halycon are green instead of blue. Royal Standard never looked better! We had a terrible dust storm here back about a month ago & everything was covered in what looked like black soot. Some of the crinkly & cupped hosta still aren't 100% clean.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:58PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

The aphids are on the trees. I can't kill them. I have no equipment to spray the trees. The hosta are just covered with the honeydew, though. I think I would have to have a gallon of ladybugs to take care of this outbreak.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:59PM
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There are soaps made for botanical use, but personally I find Ivory doesn't leave residue and is a lot less expensive. I have used Ivory to wash maple sap off of my pick-up. It leaves no apparent residue.

bkay-why don't you try some on something like Lancifolia or Albo's. I don't visualize a problem. I use a spray of Ivory diluted in tap water on Japanese Beetles on my Hibiscus. It kills the beetles through suffocation, since they breath, I have read, through pores under their wings. But I have seen no damage to my Hibiscus from the Ivory.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:04PM
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I've used Ivory dish soap and warm water to wash spots off my hostas. I'm usually concentrating on certain plants and sit on a stool and wash off each leaf with a soft cloth. Ok - I'm nuts. I get stains from Saskatoon berries and tree sap on certain plants and I refuse to look at them for the whole year. I've never had a problem and don't rinse it off. Just be careful of the blues. They will change to green but good looking green plants are probably preferable to spotty blues.

As far as aphids to - I heard somewhere that if you spray them off with water it works. The problem is that the next day you look again and there they are, back so you get discouraged and give up. Evidentally the ones you are seeing are not the ones you sprayed off. It takes three (or five?) times of spraying and then you've got all the babies. I've never tried it but you might check out if that's even true. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:12PM
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ps: I am not certain of the technically correctness but I have seen many references to Ivory as a pure soap(not a detergent) and believe Dawn has a similar base. I don't think i would try any others. Try liquid Ivory in bath water - if you like to soak in the tub. Or Ivory bars when you shower. I don't recall Dawn being availabel in bar form. But recently Ivory is available in a moisturizing body wash.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:13PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

Well what is it about aphids this year? I've never seen so many. Along with the regular green ones I have a red variety that was coating then stems of a variety of plants. Plus the ones in the trees, that are doing just as you said...dripping honeydew all over the hostas.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:19PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Soap and water is fine. As long as you rinse off the residue your Hosta will look fine. Ladybugs are a waste of money unless you use them inside a greenhouse. They just fly away. Ci_lantro is right that the wax will wash off the blues.

Try this with Halcyon. Put the pot inside a plastic bag then turn it upside down and spray it with a forceful spray of the hose. Experiment with the amount of force you need in order to get the aphids off. If there are still some aphids left on the top of the leaves, then pick them off by hand. If the little buggers come back then do it again.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:23PM
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eclecticcottage(6b wny)

WAY back when...I had a rose bush get an attack of aphids, and I used a mix of dish soap and water sprayed on it to make them go away. It worked, the rose lived.

As a side note, you shouldn't use dish soap on a vehicle. It strips the wax and the "oils" in the paint. If you do have to use it, be sure to use a quality polish followed by a good wax.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:48PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Insecticidal soap, after repeated spraying, can burn the leaves of some plants. I used to use it on fuchsias. Something about altering the pH on the surface of the leaf.

I have had very good results with a little gadget called a Bug Blaster. It attaches to the end of your hose wand and sprays plain old water with an adjustable force, much finer than hose end sprayers, and in a flat circle that knocks the pests off w/o damaging the leaves. I couldn't believe how well it worked on my Japanese maples which were covered with aphids on their new very delicate finely cut leaves. I even blasted my tomato plants for fun and had a bunch of green worms fall to the ground. Be prepared to get wet yourself until you figure out how to hold the thing.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:11PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

It's not the aphids. They're on the trees. The honeydew is falling on the hosta leaves. Plain water doesn't phase it. I tried hosing it off and it doesn't work. It rained 6" and didn't phase the sticky stuff on my deck and my hosta. I'm going to wash the deck with soap and wanted to know about washing the hosta. So, I guess if I rinse it well, it should be fine.



    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:44PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Don't you need to get rid of the cause (aphids) or they'll just keep dripping more sap? They multiply like crazy when it is warm. Is everything located in a place where you can use one of the Bayer systemic insecticides? They work rather quickly for me, and you just pour it around the base of the tree not far from the trunk.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:24PM
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Babka - I haven't figured out how to get aphids out of a 50 foot tall Norway Maple, and aphids love them. A couple of years ago I had an invasion of the asiatic form of lady bugs that bite like crazy. But they did the aphids in. I had those little orange beetles with black spots inside my house for twelve months for two years. Now I have seen few so I expect aphids will come back.

We can't control Mom Nature, so we have to learn to roll with her punces.

The cutworms this year are really getting on my nerves though.

eclecticcottage: I think Ivory and Dawn are an exception when it comes to washing vehicles. Detergents are what do the damage, and from what I understand Ivory and Dawn are pure non-detergent surfactant soaps.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:16PM
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BK, I've had that honeydew especially from scale insects as well as the aphids. My bougainvillea gets BLACK aphids, so I can see them very easily. I got rid of a scheffellllllllllllllllllllll--era because I read it is an aphid/
3scale magnet---and I'll never never get another one. With all the humidity down here, the honeydew quickly turns into a blackish funky mold or mildew that requires leaf by leaf cleaning, top and bottom.

I once used a bottle of Ivory liquid dish detergent in a MiracleGro hose end sprayer, mixed with a capful of liquid fabric softener, to spray on the lawn to kill fleas. You apply it after every rain, of course, but it is a cheap way to keep down insect eggs in the soil.

I think the soap is a good idea, but I would not spray it on the plants while they are in the sunlight. Ken is fond of saying the hosta sweat, or they transpire moisture, so I would not spray them when they need to be the sun they'd dry too quickly and could not keep themselves cooled down.

I have a Natria spray made by Bayer which is an insecticidal soap similar to Safer Soap I bet. But, I do not wash it off after using it. Apply it in the shade too.
Available from Lowes garden center.

I know you do not have aphids per se on your hosta, but I think it is only a matter of time before they are there. I have a product which is a leaf cleaner/polisher for tougher plants, do not know if it would work with the corrugated leaves of hosta. Might have to check it out though.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:18PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Poor Bkay. This year is not going well for you with hostas. Have you talked with your local nursery to see what they suggest you use? You might just be discovering why everyone around you isn't growing hostas. That is how I felt 2005-6, when I lost 1/2 of my collection. Then later the mites took over which required sprays that removed the bloom and changed the color of the leaves. Last year mealy bugs started hiding way far down in the petioles. Stuff happens, but you'll get through it. It seems that mostly, you only get one plague at a time, but this year you must've done something to anger the hosta gods. You had some fabulous looking plants earlier this year. Hang in there..... sticky stuff is still better than a herd of deer, or HVX.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:24AM
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eclecticcottage(6b wny)

Actually Les, none are really meant for use as a car wash. One of the mfg's used to have an FAQ on their site that specificlly stated it wasn't meant as a car wash. I think it's one of those urban legends. Think about it-the whole point of dish soap is to break up oils. While it sounds counterintuitive to WANT oils on your paint, certain oils will "feed" your paint and keep that amazing shine. It's not to say using it once will ruin your paint, but using it exclusively very well could. A friend of ours believed the myth and always used Dawn on his Fairlane. Last time I saw the car before it was sold, the paint was dull and lifeless. IF you do use it, it's best to re-polish and wax after the wash. Especially if you have a darker colored car and have never done a real detail you'd be amazed at the shine you can get...wash, paint cleaner, clay, polish, wax.

Anyway...about those hostas...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 8:30AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


Can you provide a cover for your Hosta? Shade cloth perhaps. Otherwise the sticky stuff is likely to come back.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 8:38AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Soaps (Ivory, Dawn or other mild soaps) can be used safely on hostas. It will kill aphids and other insects by washing off the waxy coating on them which will lead to dehydration and death. Spraying with a soapy solution (100/1 solution recommended) can also sufocate aphids and other insects.

As babka points out the soap will not only wash the wax off the insects, it will wash the wax off hostas; so applying this to blue hostas will lighten the color or change blue hostas green(er).

It should be very effective on aphids if you spray it under the leaves as well as on the outside. Of course aphids are everywhere and it may take some diligence to keep them in check.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 8:56AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

As a bonus Dawn is antibacterial and will kill HVX virus. Use whatever you might have left over from your war on aphids to sterilize, shovels, pruners, scissors.....

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 9:01AM
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landlady(USDA 8 or 9)

Bkay, I know this isn't what you were asking (how to safely remove the honeydew), but as to removing the aphids themselves (the source of the honeydew, I have some ideas.

When I get aphids they are usually directly connected to ants. My understanding is that ants herd and milk aphids much the way we herd and milk cows. This may not be the case in other parts of the country, but when I finds ants are making highways up my fruit trees trees, the only solution I have found is to girdle the trunk with Tanglefoot. The ants can't travel across it; if they try they get stuck in the sticky goo. None of my trees is as tall as the 50' maples you are talking about, so my other method which is a high pressure hosing off of the aphids (which can't seem to get back up once they are on the ground) is probably not useful unless you have access to a firehose/hydrant with its extreme pressure and length of throw.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 10:49AM
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bernd ny zone5

When you have a pressure washer, you could direct that into the tree to rinse off forcefully those insects. I recently washed my patio and a walkway, and that deposited debris and sand on hostas, rinsed those off with a garden hose, there was no damage.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 11:07AM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Babka, you're right about this being a bad hosta year. Now, something is eating hosta leaves. I found a dead possum in the yard yesterday morning, apparently due to Dan, my german shepherd mix. Hopefully, that's my culprit.

The aphids are horrible. They're on the pecan trees and the oak trees. My oak is about 40 ft. tall and my pecan is probably thirty feet. The neighbor has about a 50 ft. pecan which hangs over my property. I have no way to spray them.

I'll look for ants. I haven't noticed any, but there are so many moths, flies and gnats, I haven't looked at smaller insects.

I think I'll call the extention service. They may have some ideas.


Chewed up hosta (you can see where the honeydew is starting to mold on the deck, like moccasin said)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 11:37AM
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donrawson(Z 5)

Can I water my hostas?


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:09PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Well, I have a diagnosis, courtesty of the Extension service. I have yellow pecan aphids. The only treatment is malathion spray, which I will have to call a professional to do. I'm thinking about it. I really hate to spray. Then there is the the problem that my neighbors are not going to spray their pecan/oak trees. So, I'll get the problem right back and I'll have to spray again.

The bad news is that they overwinter on the trees and start again in the spring making about 30 generations of aphids per summer.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 1:27PM
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