Monday, November 2, 2009

Butterfly Weed

yellow aphid infestation

This butterfly weed has been through a lot. I bought it in April as a spindly little seedling from an organic nursery in Dallas. It was planted in one of the cinder block holes around our apartment garden and grew to be about 2 feet tall and a little bushier by mid-summer. Out of nowhere, we had a crazy hailstorm in July that destroyed about half of the herbs in the raised bed, stripped every leaf off of my 10 foot moonflower vines and completely beat down the butterfly weed. It just looked like a few little stumps sticking up out of the ground. We were sure that it was a goner. Wrong. When we dug everything up for the move in late August, it was about 3 feet tall with tons of new stems poking out everywhere. This one plant dwarfed everything else in the garden. The roots had grown down through two cinder holes and into the hard packed clay below. It took both of us yanking on the stems to get it out. A large percentage of the roots and several leaves were lost in the process. I was pretty sure that would do it in, but we threw what was left in a bucket of worm castings and tossed it in the back of the U-Haul, just in case. All of the plants suffered severe neglect during the first few weeks of September. We were so busy unpacking (and dealing with a WICKED case of poison ivy) that I'm not sure if they were watered more than once the entire time. We lost a few, but the butterfly weed just kept growing and blooming.

For all of these reasons, there is no way that I'm going to let it succumb to the terrorism of these yellow aphids. Today, I've spent a few hours reading about organic ways to control them. Of course, ladybugs are ideal, but I haven't seen any and don't have time to make an order. The next best thing seems to be spraying them off with a strong stream of water. This is working pretty well for me. I hold each leaf and spray off as many as I can. It's time consuming, but I feel like I owe it to this plant after all it has put up with in the last year. I've sprayed it twice now, and there were maybe only 25% as many aphids the second time. It's still blooming and putting out new shoots. I'm hoping that a few more sessions will do the trick. I've read that it's best to leave the foliage on for the winter and not prune until spring. I'll just mulch it heavily in November and hope to see my new favorite perennial blooming again in a few months.


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