GardenLine Profile: Poinsettia Celebration at Ellison's in Brenham Nov. 17th & 18th
In the past several weeks, I've visited several nurseries and garden centers from Buchanan's to Southwest Fertilizer to The Arbor Gate to Shades of Texas, and in each of those appearances at least one person has brought me an example of a Ficus Tree that is infested with a critter known as Black Thrips.
The first person, who brought me a sample, several weeks ago, had been told by someone at Cornelius Nurseries that it was some kind of thrip. But, like this gentleman, I too didn't' believe them at first. I've always seen thrips as much smaller, bud-infesting critters on roses and hibiscus. If we had a problem with curled up leaves on Ficus if was likely because of Leaf Miners. And, yes, Leaf Miners have been known to infest Ficus trees.
So, I went back and did some research, and lo and behold, there it was…a darker looking insect than what I've always seen on the aforementioned rose and hibiscus buds, but a thrip nonetheless. So, here's a tip of the hat to the Cornelius Nurseryman/woman who diagnosed it correctly. Technically, they are known as Cuban Laurel Thrips or Black Thrips as it might be called in other circles. It turns out that this infestation may be happening to lower quality ficus' purchased at big box stores. You see, most ficus trees, which are grown in Florida come from quality growers who treat their trees so that this will not be a problem in the future, and they wholesale them normally to independent nurseries and garden centers. Unfortunately, big box stores purchase the cheapest crops they can, or the ones that have not been treated and are likely to have the lowest possible price so big box stores get exceptionally price breaks.
So, what can you do to control these buggers? I suggest you start your treatment by removing as many of the infested leaves and stems as possible. Because most of the thrips are in new growth and new growth is always at the ends of stems, simply trimming off the last several inches of all stems will probably remove most of the critters.
If you don't mind using pesticides, Malathion is effective in treating thrips. Alternatively, you can use a fine horticultural oil spray if you need to stay organic. Which also begs the question: "Randy, if I can use refined hort oil, then why not use Neem Oil?" You can, but more to the point, why not employ the Leaf Miner technique listed above - the one where we alternate Neem Oil and Spinosad; applying one every 5-7 days, alternating between the two.
Malathion would need to be applied outdoors, because of its initial odor, while the Neem/Spinosad combo could be used safely indoors and without any malodorous threat.
November 17th & 18th 2007, Brenham, TX
I love poinsettias, so I believe it's only appropriate that I officially attend this year's Poinsettia Festival at Ellison's Greenhouses in Brenham. You see, each year Ellison's Greenhouses, one of Texas' most prolific grower of poinsettias, has their marketing celebration. This marks the 17th year for said party, where thousands of colorful varieties will be featured along with other color for the landscape.
There will be educational mini-seminars throughout the weekend, plus arts and crafts and fun activities even for the kiddos. If you're anything like me, and have a deep passion for poinsettias during the holidays you'll not want to miss the event that helps mark the entrance of the holiday season. Having said all that, and while Ellison's is one of the best, if not the best, at growing poinsettias, you can visit them year-round for exceptional color for the landscapes.
In my years as an Agricultural Broadcaster for both Texas Farm Bureau and Texas A&M University I've seen many poinsettia greenhouses and I've seen many "poinsettia trees" where they build a Christmas tree shape and fill it with poinsettias. But never have I seen anything, nor will you ever see anything like the Rainbow Christmas Tree. Click here to see what it looks like, and trust me when I tell you not only are all those colors real, the method by which they do this reverts back to normal colored poinsettias a year later. Scroll down to the bottom and the poinsettia tree I speak of is in the bottom left corner.
For those of you coming from Houston, it's very easy to find. Head up 290 until you get to Brenham. Take a Right on 577 (which becomes Blue Bell Dr.) and about 1.5 miles up on the left you'll see a sign for the Entrance to Ellison's and turn left on Stone Street. If you get to Blue Bell Creameries, you've gone too far. (MAP)
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