Q The past couple of falls I have noticed tiny white objects become airborne near my azalea plants, especially when I disturbed the bushes. Could these be a stage in the life cycle of the lacebug?
A A lot of people have been asking about tiny white insects that take wing when they water these days and from a huge variety of plants. I had them on everything from annuals to tropical flowers and vegetables. I dismissed them as some type of gnat since they were so small. This weekend I got serious about looking at them, and I believe they are white flies. White flies are a sucking insect that can cause some damage to the foliage. I didn't think that was what they were originally because they were so tiny, but that is what I have. They kind of shake off like dandruff around the plants. They are pure white and will lay eggs on the underside of evergreen foliage. On my annuals, I will just do a thorough sanitation and no sprays are needed. For your permanent plants, you could use a dormant oil this winter to kill the eggs that are overwintering, or simply wait until spring and see if the problem returns.
Q Here is a photo of some volunteer oakleaf hydrangeas, about 40 feet from the probable parents. Did birds transfer them? Well, they obviously chose the wrong place. They are not diseased, I think, but badly sunburned with the afternoon sun. (Those are mainly ajuga underneath.) Do you have a suggestion about how I might rescue them? They are about 4 feet tall. How deep are the roots on these hydrangeas?
A Transplant season is almost here. Give it another few weeks, and then dig them up and move them. You will never get all the roots, but get a root ball you can move and replant quickly. Oakleaf hydrangeas will tolerate full morning sun and afternoon shade, or filtered sun in Central and southern Arkansas. The farther north they grow, the more sunlight they can handle. Keep them watered if we don't get any natural rainfall, even in the winter.
Q Why didn't my crape myrtles bloom this year? Lots of balls but no color. Seems many around Little Rock did the same. I didn't trim in February, and the trees are over 20 years old. Have done fine in the past.
A The flower buds and the seed pods of crape myrtles both have the ball-like shapes. If you have a picture of them, that would help identify. It either means they set flower buds that for some reason didn't open (not sure why), or those are seed pods and you somehow missed noticing the blooms. They had the conditions they needed to bloom if they set buds. For now, there isn't much to do, but pay close attention next year, and if you see the small balls appearing and no color, take a picture and send it to me.
Q As shown in the attached photo, the leaves on my sugar maple are turning black and falling from the tree. I do not see any black on the tree trunk. Is this a fungus? If so, what's the best treatment?
A The leaves do look slightly diseased, but there is nothing you should do this late in the year but rake them up and dispose of them as they fall. The late heavy rains and wind have caused a lot of plants to have some late season problems. Luckily, it will not affect how they come out next spring. This year, early cold snaps and rain did lead to tar spot on maples and some anthracnose, which caused some trees to defoliate early; but they leafed back out. Depending on how many leaves are affected, it could reduce your beautiful fall foliage display.
Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email