Solve Your White Fly Problem Permanently

Ficus hedges have been a popular choice in south Florida for many years but recently they have been decimated by the ficus whitefly (Singhiella simplex). The pest is small and often goes unnoticed until the damage done is severe enough to cause yellowing of the leaves and defoliation. By the time the damage is noticed the infestation is usually severe and difficult to control.

The ficus whitefly, courtesy H. Glenn, UF IFAS.
Severe whitefly infestation.
Closer look at whitefly infestation.
pesticide warning sign

Chemical Solutions

Insecticidal soap or oil sprays may be used but must be applied every 7 to 10 days and a thorough soaking of the underside of the leaves is necessary. Stronger systemic insecticides can be applied every 6 months by a licensed professional but this can get expensive and can contaminate ground water and ponds. These chemicals are toxic to fish and more importantly to bees through pollen and nectar, and are suspected in teh decline of bee populations. Whiteflies have also been known to develop a resistance to insecticides.

podocarpus

Podocarpus the Permanent Defense

A better, more economical solution, is to replace ficus plants with podocarpus. Podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophylla) or yew pine is a handsome shrub that makes an excellent hedge. It is low maintenance, takes shearing well and is disease and insect free. It has a slow to moderate growth rate, which means it will maintain a neat appearance longer and need less trimming than ficus. Podocarpus also does well in full sun or shade, and can withstand out hot Florida summer. It will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, and salt spray. This is a great plant for south Florida.

clusia

Clusia, Another Great Substitute

Clusia (C.guttifera),also know as pitch apple are becoming popular, and with good reason. It is low maintenance and trouble-free. Clusia is branches low and has large, thick leathery leaves, which work well as a privacy screen. It also makes great container plant for the patio or pool deck. Clusia does well in the summer heat, in full sun or partial shade. It is drought tolerant and salt toleran, and can be trimmed to stay within 5 or 6 ft. It prefers full sun, or partial shade and requires good drainage. Scratch your initials on a leaf and it will stay forever.

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