Buddleia Pests

Q. Recently I had the gardener take out two buddleias as they were wormy and nothing seemed to help.  Now I have to replace them. The area receives sun from around 11:00 am on. One big drawback is that whatever I plant there must not be attractive to deer, if that’s at all possible.

I live on the corner of two streets and according to city ordinances my fence can be higher than 4 feet which is nothing for the deer. The gardener suggested potato bush, what do you think?

Do you have any suggestions as to what kind of flowering shrub and when to plant them?

Thank you very much.

A. Your plants probably were being eaten by the buddleia budworm (Pyramidobela angelarum). I once removed an otherwise healthy buddleia for the same reason.

Monrovia, a wholesale nursery that provides plants for many local garden centers, lists 160 deer-resistant shrubs that would grow well in a sunny location in the Monterey Bay area. We should recognize that few if any plants are deer-proof: a really hungry deer will eat just about any plant.

The blue potato bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii or Solanum rantonnetii) will grow to about 8 feet x 8 feet, and would be a suitable replacement. However, it is attractive to both aphids and thrips. This is not the same as the potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) which is also deer-resistant, but which has a different growth pattern. Another potato bush (Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevinis not considered deer resistant.

Another good choice would be the Abelia. Click here for information on ten varieties, almost all of which are deer-resistant.  I have four Abelia x ‘Edward Goucher doing well in my garden (where deer don’t visit).

If you would like to try buddleia again (with a plan to manage pests), here is information on 23 varieties, most (perhaps all) of which are deer resistant. It’s easiest to consider a variety that’s in stock at a local garden center.

There are ways to manage the buddleia budworm, but they are not easy, partly because it can have two or three generations in a single year. The method, briefly, it to cut the plant low to the ground in the winter (to eliminate over-wintering pests) and then whenever the pest shows up, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (“BT”). A widely available product is Safer Caterpillar Killer.

I hope this helps.

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