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Plant Diseases/outdoor spider plants

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Question
I have many spider plants in my garden. Several years ago I found 1or2 had leaves lying flat on the ground, they were broken off at the soil level.  I discovered beetles which scattered very rapidly back into the soil. An insecticide which was indicated for soil beetles was successful in eradicating them. This summer the same plant leaf description is randomly killing the plants yet there is no sign of beetles. At the base of the leaves there is a white substance present which is present in the surrounding soil. I presumed it must be a disease, such as a fungus but I don't want to apply a product until I know what I'm dealing with. Of interest is the randomness. Right next to the ailing one is a health plant. Thank you so much

Answer
Dear Ann, There is nothing more irritating to the gardener than the pest we cannot see.  This could be a recurrence of the beetles you saw before, it could be slugs or snails which often show this type of damage, or you could have another pest entirely.  The white substance in the surrounding soil is probably froth from some bug (spittle bugs do this, for example), or it could possibly be some soil fungus.  Here is what I suggest.  First, clear up all soil litter, dead or broken leaves, and anything else that may be attracting pests.  This will also help dry out the soil in case you have any additional fungal problems.  Then I would spray with a product containing Spinosad, AND I would put out slug and snail bait.  The slug and snail bait is in the event that your damage is being caused by slugs or snails which can cause a great deal of damage but they are rarely seen unless you happen to catch them in the act.  Spinosad is an organic ingredient that will not harm beneficial pests, but will only kill bugs that eat on the plant itself.  It will be listed under active ingredients and should be available in most garden centers, particularly in your area.  This should completely control your problem, and you should keep both these products on hand.  Spinosad is an excellent organic ingredient that can help you kill any bugs that come to feast on your garden.  Please write back if you have any additional questions.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston

Expertise

Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.

Experience

35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Organizations
Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

Publications
none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Education/Credentials
Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of Allexperts.com and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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