Pruning Russian Sage & Whitefly Control

Question:

My Russian Sage has turned brown and looks really sad. How far back can I prune it? Also, when will it be beautiful and full again?

Answer:

  • It’s typical for Russian Sage, as well as many types of ornamental grasses to turn brown and die back from cold temperatures.
  • I’d prune it off at the ground with a pair of hand shears or an electric trimmer. The new growth will appear at the base of the clump, as the days get longer and warmer. Don’t be overly concerned if when raking up the debris, you disturb the surface roots, or you cut off any early new growth.
  • This shouldn’t have any ill effects. After Memorial Day, the growth rate accelerates, and the plant should reach full size by mid-July and in bloom in August. Now, this all depends on the weather. You can encourage the new growth with a hand full or two of an organic  All-Purpose Fertilizer around the drip line in April. 

Question:

I had a severe infestation of Whiteflies last year. Can I spray a dormant spray to prevent them from returning?

Answer:

  • Whitefly is a summer, pest problem that plagues vegetable gardens, evergreen shrubs, and herbicides plants such as Escallonias, Pyracantha, Geraniums, and Fuchsias.
  • It’s beneficial to make one application of an oil spray to evergreen shrubs during the winter months. It will clean up the over-wintering Whiteflies; however, it will not eradicate the problem from returning.
  • Whiteflies are moble, so they can migrate in from other yards. Whiteflies are a serious problem on tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant, melons, and pumpkins.
    • The population starts slowly, and they build up rapidly when the temperatures warm up. When the temperatures are over eighty-five degrees, whiteflies can complete a generation in as little as eighteen days.
    • You must be proactive before this happens. It is very difficult to control the Whiteflies once the population explodes.
    • The first thing you need to due is to be diligent in looking for them early on. In April, I’d place several yellow sticky traps in the area where they were a problem last year.
      • The adults are attracted to the color yellow and are then caught when they land in the clear sticky resin. The traps monitor the activity and level of adult Whiteflies in your garden.
      • Once I see Whiteflies in the traps, I then start looking at the underside of the leaves of the host plants. Early on, you can just pick the infected leaves off and discard them. When the population starts to build up, you spray with an oil product.
    •  The best time of the day to spray is in the early evening just before the sunset. Your goal is to keep the population at a manageable level, so you need to be pro-active all summer long. The biggest mistake in a vegetable garden is waiting to do something. By mid-summer, when the population is huge, your best alternative is to dig the vegetable plants up and discard them.