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Tips and Advice

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Hey there Suns, Cecilija here!

A question we have been asked a lot this year is ‘what on earth has happened to my Viburnum hedge?!’

Viburnum tinus tends to be the species used for hedging, and unfortunately they are famous for being attacked by a pest called Thrips. They survive over winter in old foliage, leaf litter, soil, or weeds underneath the shrubs, with adults feeding on plant tissues as the weather warms up. They leave host plants – including your Viburnum hedge – looking discoloured and ugly, and a heavy infestation will often leading to thin foliage and leaf drop. They may also transfer virus’s from plant to plant. The foliage on the plant will become silvered and brown, with tiny black spots of excrement visible from the insects.

So what can we do about it? My first answer to any plant health issue is this – if your garden is healthy and biodiverse, your plants have a much better chance of standing up to pests and diseases. A healthy garden has soil that is teeming with life, has plenty of diversity in plant species (especially flowering species that will attract beneficial insects).

Sprays, such as an organic-certified horticultural oil, have limited success in controlling Thrips, as both the upper and underside of each leaf needs to be fully saturated. Always be aware that anything you spray may negatively impact beneficial insects in your garden, so be sure to do your research and read all labels carefully before using any products.

If you do have a Thrips infestation, it is important to try to catch it early and practice good garden hygiene. Remove all affected leaf litter from underneath the shrubs, as well as any visibly affected material from the plant itself. Removing weeds or other plants from underneath the shrubs will help in removing habitat for the Thrips. Increase soil health by adding good-quality compost underneath your hedge.

If the problem keeps getting worse and the Thrips begin to affect other plants in your garden, it may be worth considering replacing Viburnum tinus with another species more suited to our Canberra climate. Shrubs such as Correa glabra or Leionema ‘Green Screen’ make very handsome hedging plants, with the bonus of enhancing biodiversity in your garden.

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