Help!! Scale, I think?

jennyrios3March 28, 2013

Hi everyone,

I am new to GardenWeb and new to gardening. I have tried in the past and gotten tired of spending money on plants and having them die, but this year I've decided to try again and educate myself a little more, and thus .. my coming to this forum :-) There seems to be so much knowledge here, and I thank any of you who respond to this in advance for your help.

I have multiple problems but I'll start with the holly in my front yard since it seems you can only upload one photo to each post (is that correct?) This holly is in a bed in front of my house that faces north. It came with the house so it's established (we've been here 7 years) but a section of it has recently started dying. I noticed the leaves and branches are covered with white spots a little smaller than 1/8 inch in diameter. If I squeeze them, they burst with a reddish/brownish liquid inside. Is this scale? I've tried researching scale and found references to neem oil? Is that the best solution? Can I still use it given it's about to really start warming up here? I am in Houston, TX, zone 9. Thank you so much for any advice!

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Yes, you're correct. It's scale. Lots & lots of scale. Such a heavy infestation indicates the plant is stressed.

If you're truly ready to learn more about gardening, I suggest you start looking for a replacement shrub.

I know, I know. Some folks will criticize that suggestion. (Probably many folks!) But the bottom line is that you need to decide how much time & expense you want to pour into a failing plant.

Bluntly put: Sometimes it's not worth it.

Your decision.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:43PM
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Thank you for confirming my fear. When you say replacement, do you mean a different type of shrub? Or another holly plant? This is actually one plant, maybe two, out of a row of them that stretch the whole front side of my house. I attached a photo of the whole row. I need to look more closely to see how many of the other ones are affected, but if at all possible, I would like to try to save it/them. I have had a really hard time getting anything else to grow in this area besides the holly plants which were already there when we bought the house. If I end up having to replace one or two of them, is there anything I need to do to keep the scale from coming back, treat the soil or anything? Should I treat the plants next to it, just preventatively? One more question .. can you transfer scale from one plant to another with your tools? If I used shears to trim these, do I need to disinfect them some how? Thank you again for the advice. I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey newbie...

straight talk ...

that is a nightmare... ON THE FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE ...

get the utilities marked ... and get rid of it all..

its not worth trying to fight it .... and it appears to look like every house down the street ...

and improperly planted too close to the house ...

then build a nice 6 foot bed .. with some dramatic lines.. not straight across..

amend the soil in the whole bed a bit..

and then plant some things..

and if this takes you all summer.. so be it...

if you want bed design ideas .. new post.. and pic across the front of the house...


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:51AM
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Oh man .. wow .. well, I thank you for your honesty. I was hoping it wasn't that bad and that they were still salvageable. I wish I would have started paying attention sooner .. MUCH sooner. Do you really think it's not worth trying to treat them at all?

I would love to rip them all out and re-do the bed (it actually is a pretty big bed with a nicely curved line and a stone border), but it seems like such a big project and I would be doing it mostly on my own. I just finished removing some knockout roses on the other side of my front door and replacing them with something else so I don't know if I'm up to starting another big project right now. (I wish I would have discovered this forum before I replaced the roses .. I would have asked for recommendations. I asked a local nursery that has a good reputation so I hope what they recommended will survive ..) In any case, I will create a separate post with pictures of the whole front of the house begging for design ideas since mostly likely at some point I am going to end up replacing them. Thanks again for the advice. I appreciate it :-)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Jenny_Rios , OK! It all looks bad - very bad. But you can try one strategy.
It is based on a principle of reducing the pest population to a manageable extent.
Cut back (not down) drastically, all the plants in this area, bag the cuttings and dispose of them at a brush site or similar facility. Clean up the ground and apply a systemic insecticide; Merit⢠is one such. Be very careful with it because it will get into the plant system and can kill beneficial and harmless insects like honey bees and butterflies. This is specially important for flowering plants. If possible cover the ground thinly with cedar or eucalyptus mulch. Thinly - because you will have to repeat this fairly regularly, until it gets to about 2 to 3 inches thick. Please understand that the repellant properties is mainly anecdotal but you should attack the problem on all fronts.
Scale insects have a crawler stage and they are quite susceptible to oil sprays. I have found that the oil spray has to be applied every 7 days in central Florida to be really effective against the cycad aulacaspis scale insect, (Aulacaspis yasumatsui) on sago palms. Again, use caution.
Try to preserve all stages of all lady bugs; do not use any contact insecticides.
It might sound arduous but you will most likely rid your landscape of a "plague" and do minimal harm to the environment.
Thanks for the opportunity to revisit some interesting vignettes of my past.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 8:55AM
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Find your local state universities Cooperative Extension Service office and talk with them about this problem, especially if these plants are what should be in your neck of the woods. People put in inappropriate plants and then spend a lifetime trying to keep them healthy and free of insect pests and plant diseases with little success because those plant simply do not belong there.
Then take a good, in depth, look at the soil they are growing in. Is the pH appropriate for this plant? Are nutrients available to the plant, or is it slowly starving to death? Is adequate moisture available to the plant, or is the soil they are growing in too wet?
There is a reason these plants are so infested with scale and as Jean said it may not be worth your time and energy, much less your money, to try and save them.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:23AM
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