The Q&A Archives: Gardenia problem

Question: I planted 2 Gardenia next to each other. Both developed what looks like black dirt on the leaves and on the stems. Like a read on another Q&A, they seem to attract ants, but the dirt looking growth doesn't seem to be amphids. This has stunted the growth of these plants. I have in the past used a pest spray on both, and one seems to be ok now, growing nicely, but the other one is still stunted and has the black growth on it. What is this and how do I get rid of it? Thanks

Answer: Mary,

That black stuff is sooty mold growing on honeydew a substance secreted by some insects. It could be aphids, scale, whiteflies or mealybugs. I suspect scale or whiteflies because it is a gardenia. These insects will be found underneath the foliage.

I suggest you take a sample of the leaves with insects to your County Extension Office. They can assist you with diagnosing the specific cause of the problem and by recommending an appropriate, labeled spray product. It will most likely be a horticultural oil or perhas a systemic insecticide. Your local Home Depot garden center will then be able to direct you to the recommended product.

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