Knowledge to Grow Columbine Leaf Miner

The Columbine is a perennial plant which is available in a variety of flower colors, some even being bi-colored. After they are established, columbine plants are drought tolerant which makes them a good choice for rock or woodland gardens and require little care. These plants will tolerate a relatively sunny area but prefer to be planted in a shady spot with well drained soil around their roots. Their gorgeous, bell-shaped blooms appear in late spring to early summer on tall airy stems and the plant will self –seed if you do not dead-head them.

I have a variety of these perennials in my gardens and the one persistent issue I have is the mottling of the leaves by the leaf miner.  This pesky little bug is a fly larva that is small enough to squeeze between the top and lower epidermis of the leaves.  The leaf miner fly lays her eggs on the foliage at about the same time that the plant begins to flower.  The larvae burrow into the leaf where they have a merry time eating and growing.  It is during this merriness they produce meandering tunnels inside the leaf.  There are several successive generations per year and by mid-summer plants may have several tunnels per leaf that show up as snake-like  white lines.  Although these lines ruin the look of the leaf, they have little if any effect on the plant health.  Applying an insecticide may help but the down side with that is the insecticide will also kill any good bugs in its path. The most practical control is to cut off the affected leaves as they appear and discard them.  New leaves will be miner-free.

Recently, a professor from Purdue University was a guest at my B&B.  During one of our conversations he told me about a few new phone apps that, as a Master Gardener, I might be interested in.  They are the Purdue Annual Doctor and the Purdue Perennial Doctor, very inexpensive and loaded with information.  A great tool to have at the ready on my phone and I encourage you to check them out.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online.  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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