Thrip Damage On Rhododendron & Ants On Peony Flowers

Question:

 Is there any easy way to get rid of a bad case of thrips on a medium-sized Rhododendron? The tops of the leaves have turned a silvery/whitish color, and the undersides are spotted. Nevertheless, healthy new growth has appeared.

Answer:

  • Thrips are sucking insect that has rasping month parts. The black spots on the undersides of the leaves are from the insect itself. The rasping mouth causes the leaves to turn a whitish or silvery color as it files or strips off the leaf's chlorophyll layer.
  • Thrips are found on Viburnum, Photinias, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and in gladiolus flowers and roses. Bayer Advanced Tree, Shrub Protect, and Feed granules are your best, longer-term solution. You shouldn't have any problem locating them as they are widely available. It is applied to the base of the plants and watered into the soil.
  • The thrips don't go away overnight, nor will the damaged leaves turn green again. Hence the feed is critical in encouraging the new growth to cover the damaged leaves. But, as I said, it will take time, so be patient.

Question:

 My peonies are covered with ants. A friend said that peony blossoms wouldn't open without them. Is this true? I don't care for the ants indoors, so how do I get rid of them? Also, why are the stems on my Oriental Poppies so short that the foliage hides the blossoms? 

Answer:

  •  I'm not aware that for peonies to bloom, they need to be romanced by ants. The factors influencing peonies' flowering are winter chill, light intensity, and temperature.
  • I can't think of any reasons for the ants on the flower bud other than for nectar, a food source for ants. So, I will have to disagree with your friend.
  • I would place Terro Ant bait stations or bait around the plants.
  • Short stems on Oriental Poppies are due to heavy, wet clay soils not draining properly during the rainy season. In mid to late November, I would lift the poppy clumps out of the ground and add the additional soil amendments to the backfill. It would be best if you were very generous when adding the additional amendments. A
    • lso, be sure the crown of the plants are above the soil level. This allows water to drain away naturally.