Ignorant Gardener

bfoygirl69July 17, 2014

Hi everyone! First, I should probably explain that I have NEVER been much of a gardener.. However, got a new house this past year... bare yard. One flower bed doing beautifully... Although, not sure how to maintain it.. I did some trimming and they don't look so hot! :( but that's for another day..... Hubby bought some milkweed (tiny ones) and some plants with little lavender flowers that spread like crazy... so in an oval (7-8 ft diameter) there are milkweed in the center maybe 20-30 and the creeping purple flowers around the outside. Milkweed is now about 5 ft tall. Pods are FILLED with what look like lightning bugs.. and now have a white stringy look to them. Are they dying? What is with the bugs???? What do I do? In the beginning we had LOTS of caterpillers, now I only see a few. Do I need to do anything special to help the caterpillers? I have NO IDEA what I am doing... Hubby buys plants, I take care of them... HELP!!! :( An ignorant gardener!!!

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Welcome to gardening! It sounds like you and your husband make a well balanced team. The most important part of gardening is understanding what plants you have and what they need to thrive. Milkweeds are an easy plant to start with, because they are pretty self sufficient. There are many varieties, but the most common types don't require much water and can grow in almost any type of soil. The "lightning bugs" could be one of the common milkweed pests. I tend to ignore them, but you could also take a bowl of soapy water out to the garden and knock the bugs into the bowl to get rid of them. Please avoid applying any chemical pesticides or weed killers, since they are toxic to most wildlife.

As you add more plants to your yard, be careful to read labels thoroughly and choose the plants and their planting site carefully. Remember to consider how large the plant will be when it reaches maturity. If you have question for folks here on GardenWeb, it is critical that you know the name of your plant, and preferably have a picture to share.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:39AM
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If you started with "tiny" milkweed plants from a garden center in Michigan, and they were 5 feet tall by July 17, you can only have planted swamp milkweed or tropical milkweed. Nothing else sold commonly would grow that fast to that height. Probably swamp milkweed.

There are two bugs that specialize in eating milkweed seeds. They are called the large and the small ��" guess what? ��" milkweed bug. They do look something like lightning bugs, so that's what you've got. They are part of the milkweed community, but from our view, a pretty obnoxious part. They prefer seeds and pods when available, but will eat all parts of a milkweed plant and anything on it, including small monarch caterpillars and sometimes chrysalises.

The veiny white stuff is probably just the tough fibers of the seedpods that the bugs can't eat ��" all that they leave.

As Martha suggested, get rid of them any way you can short of herbicides. Obviously, spraying milkweed with any herbicide will kill any monarch caterpillars that try to feed on it. You can bend a stalk over right into a bucket of soapy water and swish them off, or even blast them off with a hose (after checking for monarch eggs and caterpillars, of course). Unfortunately, there is no one easy method of pest control on milkweeds, for that reason. Even "organic" pesticides are as deadly to monarchs as anything else on the market. So it's hand work to get rid of the bad guys.

In closing, what she said: Welcome to gardening. It's worth it.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 9:31PM
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