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Insect Pests of Ornamental Plants in the Home Landscape

Publication Number: P2369
View as PDF: P2369.pdf
Text file for accessibility: File P2369_accessible.docx

Mississippi gardeners grow hundreds of different species of plants in the home landscape, and most of these plants are subject to attack by one or more insect pests. Being able to identify and control these pests when needed is an important part of managing a home landscape. However, in many cases it is possible to avoid, or at least reduce the potential of, having pest problems in the first place.

Gardeners accomplish this by being aware of the insect pests that are likely to occur on different species and varieties of plants and working proactively to minimize the potential for pest problems. This can be done by avoiding species or varieties of plants that are particularly prone to pest problems, keeping plants healthy and vigorous so they can defend themselves from pest attack, and avoiding actions, such as unnecessary insecticide sprays, that can trigger pest outbreaks. When pest problems do occur, insecticides can be important gardening tools but must be chosen and used with appropriate care and planning. See Extension Publication 2483, Integrated Pest Management in the Home Landscape, for more information.

This publication provides you as a home gardener with information on the biology, management, and control of some of the insect pests most commonly encountered on landscape plants. Some pests, such as aphids, are addressed generically, because the biology, management, and treatment of aphids is similar, regardless of the particular species of aphid and the plant on which it occurs. Other pests, such as hibiscus sawfly and lesser canna leafroller, are discussed individually, because they are so commonly encountered.

Although this publication does not specifically address all of the different species of insect pests that occur in Mississippi landscapes, smart gardeners often can adapt information to pest situations not specifically covered. For example, if you have problems with large numbers of aphids on day lilies and you determine there is a need for treatment, you can consult the section on “aphids” to see which insecticides are recommended and then check the insecticide label to be sure that particular insecticide is labeled for day lilies. Likewise, if green mapleworms are threatening to defoliate a prized maple tree, you can review the information on other caterpillar pests of deciduous landscape trees to gain some insight into possible management and treatment options.

The insecticides recommended for control of a particular pest are listed according to the active ingredient. This is necessary because a particular active ingredient may be sold under dozens of different brand names. Literally hundreds of different brand name insecticide products are available for use in the home landscape, but these represent only a few dozen different active ingredients. Thus, when shopping for insecticides, it is important to know exactly which active ingredient you wish to buy. The section on “Choosing and Purchasing Insecticides” has more information on this and discusses most of the more common insecticides.

Within the list of insecticides recommended to control a particular pest, active ingredients that may be acceptable for use by “organic gardeners” are listed in Italics. Note, however, this does not necessarily mean that all brand name formulations containing that particular active ingredient are acceptable for organic gardening. Organic gardeners should read the product label carefully to be sure it conforms to their requirements.

When choosing insecticides, always read the label carefully to verify the insecticide is labeled for the intended use and for the particular plant being treated. For example, acephate is labeled to control caterpillars on many different landscape plants, but it will injure flowering crabapple, red maple, and several other species of trees. Also, although acephate is labeled for use to control fall webworms on most trees, it may not be used to control fall webworms on pecans, because pecans are food-bearing trees.

Download the above PDF for more information.

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Portrait of Dr. Blake Layton, Jr.
Extension Professor
Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and