Common Pests and Popular Trees, Plants in Georgia

The best defense is a good offense when it comes to landscape pests. According to UGA’s Extension, an effective pest control program begins with proper plant selection.  When creating a new landscape design, or when you are replacing plants in your existing landscape, it is a great opportunity to select plants that are less prone to insect problems.

While some plants are heartier than others, no plant is completely immune to pests and the second line of defense is early detection and treatment. Particularly in Springtime, as many pests thrive in warm, moist conditions and new plant growth is particularly vulnerable. 

As part of our commitment to maintaining beautiful, healthy landscapes, our teams are constantly on the lookout for telltale signs of damage caused by garden pests, particularly during the Spring growing season. Many pests are very small and hang out on the underside of leaves, making it hard to spot with the naked eye.  But routine thorough inspections may reveal plant damage that indicates the presence of harmful bugs, if not the bugs themselves. 

Sometimes a simple wipe-down with a diluted soap or vinegar solution can mitigate insect damage. In other cases, more extreme measures need to be taken.  We encourage all of our clients to contact us immediately if they find garden pests and damage that needs to be addressed. Want to join the pest patrol?  Here is a handy guide to popular plants and the pests that prefer them here in northern Atlanta:

Hostas versus Nematodes and Slugs

Beautiful varieties of Hostas proliferate and thrive in many landscapes here in Atlanta, however nematodes may be lurking in the small pools of water found in the leaves and stems. These pests feed on plant cells and lay eggs within the leaf tissue.  These are extremely small creatures, and it is easier to spot the damage (light streaks running parallel to the leaf veins) rather than the pests themselves. 

Slugs, on the other hand, are easier to spot and remove from Hostas. Don’t feel like hand-picking slugs off your plant?  Here’s a fun fact: Slugs are attracted to beer, and a shallow container of beer placed near the plant can act as a trap (although we don’t recommend this method around pets or children!).

Azaleas versus Lace Bugs

Azaleas are a signature plant here the South, and proudly punctuates landscapes with their showy Spring flowers. The lace bug, which is only one fourth inch long at full maturity, feeds on the underside of azalea leaves and can cause extensive damage.  Signs of a lace bug population are yellow, or speckled green and yellow, azalea leaves due to loss of chlorophyll.  Timing is key, as it’s much easier to control lace bug populations in Spring and early Summer rather than in August.

Other Woody ornamentals, Trees and Shrubs versus “Sucking Pests”

Lace bugs fall into the “sucking pest” category, along with aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs, white flies and spider mites. These pests earned this moniker because they suck the sap out of woody ornamentals, trees and shrubs. Signs of infestation include wilting leaves, curled or distorted new growth, spots on the leaves, a sticky substance or black fungal growth on the upper part of the leaf.

Fruit Trees, Oaks, Sweet Gum and other Shade and Ornamental Trees versus “Chewing Pests”

Chewing insect pests cause damage by literally chewing or burrowing into tree tissue. Symptoms of chewing pests include holes in leaves, silvering of leaf tissue, complete removal of leaf parts and small holes that indicate burrows around plant stems, branches or trunks. Pests that fall into the category include tent caterpillars, webworms, bagworms and beetles.

Weak Trees and Shrubs versus “Boring Pests”

No, we are not talking about being caught outside by a talkative neighbor. Boring pests tunnel into bark and foster fungus growth as a food source.  These pests include Japanese beetles and typically target trees and shrubs that are already weakened by damage such as drought, or trees that have recently been transplanted.  Dust and waste that is pushed out of the burrows indicate this pests presence.

Whether you are ready to populate your landscape with heartier plants sourced by trusted vendors and installed by our professionals, or just need a more proactive approach to your landscape’s health, contact us today!