Is your Ficus Hedge Dying? The following article will shed light on the whitefly problems of Miami Dade County and privacy hedge plant options to choose from.
Whitefly have become a serious problem here in South Florida over the last 5 to 10 years. We all know what whitefly is by now right? It’s that cute little, little, little white fly looking thing that attaches itself to the back of plant leaves like ficus hedges and palms. Whitefly has a white fuzzy appearance, when the leaves are shaken, there becomes a cloud of dust, then you see little bugs flying all over. Is your ficus hedge dying? If so, it’s probably whitefly.
In Miami, some species of whiteflies can become serious pests of certain vegetable crops, hedges, greenhouse plants or ornamental plants. Two of the most important species are the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum, and the sweet potato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci. In colder climates, whiteflies die outdoors, but in warmer climates, as well as indoors and in greenhouses, they can reproduce throughout the year with several overlapping generations.
Adult whiteflies are about 1⁄10 to 1⁄16 inch long and look like tiny moths (Figure 1). They have four broad, delicate wings that are held rooflike over the body and covered with a white powdery wax. Adult females usually lay between 200 and 400 eggs. Sometimes the eggs are deposited in a circular pattern in groups of 30 to 40 because the female will often keep her mouthparts in the plant to feed while moving her abdomen in a circle.
Within about a week, the eggs hatch into flattened nymphs, called crawlers, that wander about the plant, usually our prize ficus hedge. Soon, they insert their mouthparts into the plant and begin to feed. After their first molt, the nymphs lose their legs and antennae. They attach themselves to the undersides of ficus leaves with several waxlike rods coming from their bodies, giving them the appearance of small white oval scale. The nymphs remain fixed to the plant and feed for about four weeks. After a pupa stage, the adults emerge and live for about one month. Within a population, all life stages are present, and generations often overlap.
An adult whitefly.
Ficus Hedge Dying? Whitefly kill ficus by sucking out plant juices. Because large amounts of sap can be removed, primarily by the developing nymphs, heavily infested plants can be seriously weakened and grow poorly. Leaves often turn yellow, appear dry and drop prematurely. (Figure 2).
Also, whiteflies suck out more plant juice than they can digest, and they excrete the excess as a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. The honeydew covers leaf surfaces and acts as a growth medium for a black, sooty mold. Both the removal of plant juices and the presence of the black, sooty mold growing on the honeydew can interfere with photosynthesis.
In some parts of the country, some species of whitefly can transmit several plant viruses.
Whiteflies suck out plant juices. This seriously weakens the plant.
Solutions for dealing with whitefly? Treating ficus hedges with toxic chemicals each month gets very expensive. The toll on the environment is significant as it poisons our water and soil. In my opinion, it’s easier to work with landscape plants that aren’t susceptible to whitefly than to spray harmful chemicals in an attempt to control them.Hedge material is a great place to start when it comes to dealing with whitefly. Here’s my top ten hedges for South Florida and Miami that are pretty resistant to whitefly.
Is your ficus hedge dying? If so, choose from the list below for hardy shrubs that can stand up to whitefly.
1. Cherry Hedge-
The shrub or tree, to 25 ft (7.5 m) high, has slender, spreading branches and resinously aromatic foliage. The opposite leaves, bronze when young, are deep-green and glossy when mature; turn red in cold, dry winter weather. They are ovate to ovate-lanceolate, blunt- to sharp-pointed, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in (4-6.25 cm) long. Long-stalked flowers, borne singly or as many as 4 together in the leaf axils, have 4 delicate, recurved, white petals d a tuft of 50 to 60 prominent white stamens with pale-yellow anthers. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit, oblate, 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) wide, turns from green to orange as it develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish maroon (“black”) when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh orange-red, melting and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or 2 or 3 smaller seeds each with a flattened side, more or less attached to the flesh by a few slender fibers. Full sun
Native stoppers (small trees/large shrubs in the Myrtaceae) are excellent choices as low- maintenance, salt-tolerant, medium to tall privacy hedges, accepting full sun or partial shade (growth denser in full sun). Growth is slow to moderate, but patience will be rewarded as they mature into definite landscape assets. Stoppers have little to no problems with whitefly and are fairly bug resistant all together. All have striking foliage, new growth often tinged red to pink, and (if not heavily pruned) produce colorful fruit (attracts birds). Full sun.
Firebush is a showy, fast-growing, semi-woody evergreen shrub that can get up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall under ideal conditions, but usually stays much smaller. It has whorled leaves, usually with three but occasionally as many as seven at each node. The leaves are elliptic to oval, about 6 in (15 cm) long, and gray-pubescent underneath with reddish veins and petioles. They are reflexed upward from the midvein. Throughout the year, firebush produces showy terminal clusters (cymes) of bright reddish-orange or scarlet tubular flowers, each about 0.75 in (1.9 cm), long. Even the flower stems are red. The clusters of fruit also are showy. Each fruit is a juicy berry with many small seeds, ripening from green to yellow to red and finally to black. Do to it’s fast growing and dense foliage, firebush makes for an ideal privacy hedge as well as a nectaring plant for butterflies and hummingbirds. A firebush plant usually has flowers and fruit in various stages. Loves full sun. Knoll Landscape Design highly recommends this material for a long lasting hedge.
Rounded, shiny green leaves are set off by red-tipped new growth on this most commonly sold variety. The plant produces small white flowers, followed by fruit that’s often made into jelly…or as an attraction in a wildlife garden. The plum is pink and ripens to purple with a fairly bland flavor, and the almond-flavored seeds can be roasted and eaten or crushed for use in cooking. Terrific as hedge shrubs or privacy plants, these native Florida plants can grow to about 15 feet if you let them – though most of the time they’re kept trimmed to around 4 feet. This is an easy-care plant that can be kept more manicured for a formal look or left to grow in its naturally pretty rounded shape in a casual landscape style. There is a “horizontal” cultivar which can be grown as more of a groundcover shrub and is more salt tolerant than “Red Tip” cocoplum.
6. Jamaican Caper-
This 6- to 20-foot-tall, native shrub is an upright to spreading plant that is related to plant producing edible capers. The evergreen leaves of the Jamaica Caper are lightgreen above, with fine brown scales below. These glossy, oval leaves are folded together when they first emerge and give the plant’s new growth a bronze appearance. The leaves also have a notched tip. Twigs are brownish gray and pubescent. Jamaica Caper flowers have very showy, two-inch-long, purple stamens and white anthers and white petals. The inflorescence is comprised of terminal clusters consisting of 3 to 10 individual flowers. The fruits are 3- to 8-inch-long cylindrical pods containing small brown seeds that are embedded in a scarlet pulp. This is a fabulous privacy hedge and is whitefly resistant.
Orange Jessamine is a small, tropical, evergreen tree or shrub growing up to 7 m tall. The plant flowers throughout the year and makes a fabulous hedge no and has little to no problems with whitefly. Its leaves are glabrous and glossy, occurring in 3-7 oddly pinnate leaflets which are elliptic to cuneate-obovate to rhombic. Flowers are terminal, corymbose, few-flowered, dense and fragrant. Petals are 12–18 mm long, recurved and white (or fading cream). The fruit of Murraya paniculata is fleshy, oblong-ovoid, coloured red to orange, and grows up to 1 inch in length. This is a full sun hedge and Knoll Landscape Designs favorite!
8. Areca Palm-
The Areca Palm, scientific name Dypsis lutescens (synonym: Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens) is a beautiful palm tree from Madagascar. This plant is also known as Butterfly Palm, Yellow Palm, Golden Cane Palm, Madagascar palm and Areca Lutescens and is a superior hedge material. It is a common ornamental in subtropical and tropical regions around the world. Probably it is the most cultivated nursery palm tree. However, it is endangered and very rare in its natural habitat Madagascar.
The Areca palm is a low maintenance plant and a fast grower. You can grow this exotic plant as a house plant. It will bring a tropical touch into your home and purify the air. The Areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins.
The graceful Areca Palm tends to grow in clumps. The adult plant looks like a large bush that can reach 20 feet or more in height with a spread of 5-10 feet making it a great hedge plant for privacy. As a houseplant it is usually grown much smaller. Landscape designers love this plant for it’s simplicity and grace. Full sun to part shade.
Green buttonwood Conocrpus erectus (and the silver leaf form) is another Florida native sometimes grown as a hedge. Buttonwood hedges often loose density at the base due to insufficient light (more so the silver leaf form) and misplaced sprinklers. This detracts from what can otherwise be an attractive hedge, and an especially good choice for coastal properties. Buttonwood experiences a prolonged period of winter dormancy during which there is little leaf renewal at which time the hedge may lose some density. If installing green buttonwood as a hedge, look for ‘Momba’ a more compact growing cultivar. These are full sun and make wonderful hedges in Miami.
10. Fishtail Palms
Need a privacy hedge but don’t want to do the work!?
Landscape Designer Brent Knoll of Knoll Landscape Design is there for you. Brent has over 20 years of landscape design experience in Miami and South Florida and is ready to help you. Call Brent at 30549651555 to schedule a consultation and get the privacy you need today!!!