Plants Defend Themselves Against Insects, Disease

San Antonio Express News
Gardening, Etc.
Sunday, September 19, 2004

By Nathan Riggs

Having beautiful plants and flowers in the landscape brings about a lot of responsibility for the gardener. Water, food, protection from weeds, disease and insects are all concerns for the average plant and it’s the gardener’s responsibility to see that they are met. Many types of plants actually provide their own defenses against the dangers of daily life. These plants can be found in many local nurseries and outlets and will provide color and hardiness for all to see.

While most would say these types of plants are “xeriscape” plants, they are more specifically well-suited to our environment. Whether these plants have hairy leaves, waxy leaves, produce aromatic odors or contain chemicals toxic to insects.

Plants such as cenizo, or Texas Sage, possess hairy leaves that make it difficult for insects to land and feed on them. This is true for all plants with hairy leaves.

Plants that produce waxy leaves such as kalanchoes, ice plant, aloe vera, agave and yuccas, for example, may be susceptible to feeding from insects, but they are extremely drought tolerant because they don’t transpire and lose their precious moisture.

In San Antonio, xeriscape landscapes do not necessarily need to be rocks and cactus. They can be a blooming oasis of color for butterflies and hummingbirds to enjoy. Drought tolerant flowers such as lantana, ruellia, sage, Mexican heather and verbena provide brilliant color, while delivering an ideal butterfly feeding ground. Hummingbirds adore drought tolerant varieties such as autumn sage, cherry sage, blue salvia, flame acanthus, cypress vine, firebush and firecracker plant.

While some drought tolerant varieties can be besieged by insects, come have the genetic ability to repel them. Many of the aromatic plants such as mint, mint marigolds, marigolds and sages do repel insects to a point. Marigolds under drought stress can be attacked by spider mites, so take heed.

Learning about the plants that can make your landscape beautiful, while using water efficiently and making pest insects look for greener pastures will make your thumb greener and your smile wider.

This article was written by Nathan Riggs, Extension Agent-Integrated Pest Management with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.


Comments are closed.