Ask Dr. Hort: Skunk vines, whiteflies and dwarf ginger

Skunk vine, Paederia foetida

Times (2009)

Skunk vine, Paederia foetida

Smelly weed attacks bushes, plants

Q: My yard was not given much attention for a year or so after my husband died. By then, weeds had pretty much taken over all the bushes and plants. I've been told it's either stinkweed, skunkweed or a similar name. When I search the Internet for those names, I don't seem to find anything like this. I've heard this weed is impossible to eliminate. It is a thin vine that tightly wraps itself around every branch or limb and is very smelly. Trying to pull it and get the root never seems to work. It always breaks off. Chris Wilson

A: It is skunk vine, Paederia foetida, and you are right, it stinks. It is best to use a product that contains triclopyr, such as Brush-B-Gon. For best results, find where the vine goes to the ground, cut it and paint it with your product. The top will die, and the root will be killed. Don't spray over your existing bushes or damage will result unless it is so thick you can't find your bushes. Pick up and destroy any marble-sized seed pods to stop the cycle. Follow label directions.

Best to let pros handle fig whitefly problem

Q: My husband and I have two very large Cuban laurels in our front yard. The trees have been dropping their leaves for at least two years. We took some leaves to a local nursery, and they said there were tiny bugs making them curl up. But the trees also drop perfect new leaves with no signs of bugs. What should we do? We hate to think of taking them down as they are more than 35 years old. Sharon Thornhill

A: "Fig whitefly" is a rather new pest on the scene that wreaks havoc on the Ficus spp. genus, causing major leaf drop and, in many cases, death of the tree. Systemic products that contain imidacloprid, dinetefuran, thiomethozam or clothianidin are effective. For trees the size that you mentioned, you will need a professional pest control company that specializes in trees to identify and treat the pest. This is a tough critter to get a handle on, so it is best left to the pros. Don't forget to ask them what they are using.

Supposed dwarf ginger grows too big

Q: I have some variegated ginger, which were supposed to be a dwarf variety. But they are easily 5 feet tall now. I've been told to cut them to the height I want, but I fear that will sacrifice future blooms. Paula R. Messina

A: There is only variety of variegated shell ginger with the yellow and green variegation: Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata Nana', which reaches only 6-8 inches. It appears you didn't get a dwarf species. Prune a stalk to the ground to thin out the clump. Be careful. Blooms occur on stems that are 2 years old, so you may sacrifice some bloom. You can also dig out and replace your current ginger with a true dwarf.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Ask Dr. Hort: Skunk vines, whiteflies and dwarf ginger 10/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 11:49am]

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