Common Disease Problems
Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to gray centers form on the upper surface of the leaves. Spots may appear along the leaf midrib.The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and keeping weeds under control. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Practice crop rotation and do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Rust: A number of fungus diseases that cause rust colored spots on foliage and stalks. Burpee Recommends: Make sure plants have good air circulation. Remove infected plants. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Verticillium wilt: First seen on leaves in late spring after fruit production has begun. Leaves turn brown along margins and between veins. Leaves will wilt and dry up as the disease progresses. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Do not plant in areas of infection.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.
Is butterfly weed the same as milkweed? Both are the same genus Asclepias, so both are related. Both attract butterflies, but butterfly weed serves as a source of nectar for adult butterflies.
Caterpillars are eating my plants! Will they be OK? To grow a butterfly garden you will have to expect the caterpillars to eat the leaves or they won’t be able to mature into butterflies! Make sure you have different kinds of blooming plants in your flower garden and you will be less likely to have heavy damage. Asclepias is a herbaceous perennial and will die back in fall so it is likely that the plants will be fine.
Is asclepias a native plant? Is it deer resistant? Yes and yes: asclepias is native to most of the USA and eastern Canada, and does tend to be deer resistant.
I tried digging up my butterfly weed to move it and it died when I replanted it. What was wrong? Asclepias has a long taproot what is easily damaged when it is disturbed. Only transplant seedlings which do not have the tap root as developed yet when you want to move asclepias.
I think my asclepias died over the winter, why? If it is still early spring take heart that asclepias does tend to come up later than many perennials. Perhaps it just needs more time. Otherwise the plant may have a crown or root rot, especially if the location is not well drained.