Answers on wax scale and orb spiders

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Many gardeners are thinking about the holidays, but a few gardeners still have questions about their landscapes and other outdoor chores. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension over the past few weeks.
Q: I planted fescue in October and it has grown about 7 inches tall. It seems to be somewhat frail; should I go ahead and mow it now or wait until the spring?
A: Yes, mow your lawn at 3-4 inches or at the highest setting. It is important that the blade is very sharp. Avoid using a riding mower, if possible, on newly planted lawns.
Q: Our newly planted Japanese maple has some type of growth or waxy substance on the limbs. The growth is waxy with red centers. What is this and will it kill the tree?
A: What you have described sounds like Japanese or India wax scales. They look like bits of chewing gum stuck to stems of trees or shrubs. They are not noticeable until the stems are exposed, especially in the fall or when plants have been pruned. Picking them from the stems is one method of removal, but if this isn’t practical, use combinations of horticultural oils and insecticides to kill the insects. It may take multiple applications to control the pest. Don’t spray when the weather is excessively cold.
Q: When is a good time to fertilize my pansies?
A: Now is a good time to fertilize pansies and violas. Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer when temperatures fall below 60 degrees. Avoid fertilization during unseasonably warm temperatures. Excessively warm temperatures cause the plants to stretch and become weak and frail.
Q: I found this unusual orange spider outside the house. Can you tell me what type of spider this is and is it dangerous?
A: It is a common garden spider known as orb weavers. It’s called this due to their orb-shaped, delicate webs. The webs of garden spiders are notoriously strong. The orb spider uses its web to capture its food.
Q: A friend of mine uses ice to water her houseplants. She really likes to use ice because it melts slowly and does not over-flow onto furniture. Is this a safe way to water houseplants?
A: Most houseplants can withstand cold water from melting ice. The only exception that comes to mind is African violets. These plants prefer tepid water.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 on Facebook or online at