The Q&A Archives: Sweet Potato Vine & Hostas

Question: Something is eating my sweet potato vine and hostas. The only thing I've seen on the leaves are occassional ants, but there is a very fine white dust-like powder also on some of the leaves - nothing under the leaves. Any idea what it is and what I need to do to fix the problem? I'm beginning to notice holes in some of my other annuals n to be spreading to the leaves of other annuals now. Thanks

Answer: Lots of insect pests chew holes in plant leaves, and most plants don't mind providing a meal to the insects. I'm in favor of allowing them to feed on the leaves - insects transfer pollen and prey on other insects so there will be a natural balance in your garden if you just leave them alone. If you find a huge congregation of insects on a particular plant you'll want to have them identified and then use an insect specific treatment. There's really no way of ridding your entire garden of all insects, and you wouldn't really want to. So, pick off the ones you see, or hose them off the plants. If there's a large population on a single branch or limb, collect them and take them to your local nursery or cooperative extension office for identification and control suggestions. The white dust like powder could be a fungal disease called powdery mildew. There's a protective fungicide you can apply to protect the unaffected plant parts but those with the powder should be pruned off or at least the infected leaves should be pulled off the plant so the spores do not spread to the rest of the leaves. Most copper based fungicides are efficient and can be used on most garden plants. Be sure to read and apply according to label directions. Good luck with your landscape plants!

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