Holes in geranium leaves are caused by a number of unwanted visitors, and you’d probably like to know the culprit! You wouldn’t believe the number of possible pests that could’ve done this damage to your scented geraniums!
Many different bugs enjoy the taste of the fresh green geranium leaf, and we’re here to help you discover your bugger! Once you’re able to identify the pest, it will be much easier to get rid of them, so let’s get started!
- What Is Causing Holes in Your Geranium Leaves?
- How Can You Prevent Pests From Drilling Holes in Geranium Leaves?
What Is Causing Holes in Your Geranium Leaves?
Pests that are causing holes in your geranium leaves include aphids, cankerworms, slugs, tobacco budworms and geranium sawflies. These can quickly overwhelm your geranium’s defenses and lead to unsightly holes. Some of these are hard to spot, and only become visible once the infestation is severe.
Geraniums are beautifully smelling bushy shrubs growing as evergreens. People often plant geraniums in hanging baskets. The geranium flowers are proudly wearing heaps of scented and pinnately lobed leaves. These leaves are covered with small follicles, making them soft to the touch!
These plants release their fragrance when crushed or bruised. From spring to summer, these plants are blooming with pale lavender and pink flowers, which are produced in clusters above the foliage. The upper petals are adorned with deep veins.
You should grow these flowers where you can enjoy their fragrance. These grow up to 18 inches tall and around the same width. The geraniums grow best in full sun, in fertile and alkaline soils and they appreciate afternoon shade in hot summers.
What ruins their beautiful appearance the most are the holes in the foliage, and today, we’re discussing the most probable culprits and how you can get rid of them!
Aphids are one of the most common geranium pests. They are often elusive to our sight, but the damage they create on our geraniums is incredible!
These will usually gather on the undersides of leaves, making them even harder to spot. They are often soft, translucent, and very hard to notice before the full-fledged infestation begins, and this is when it may be too late for your geraniums.
These are sap-sucking insects and will latch onto leaves, make tiny holes in leaves, and suck on the nutrients in the sap. They will eventually create bigger and bigger holes, as they multiply and become larger. Also, aphids secrete a sap-like substance which will attract ants too, so you’ll be in for a double-trouble.
Ants will add to the pest control and will protect the aphid population, scaring away natural predators that kill aphids. You’ll often get yellow leaves after these, as well!
Second on our list of the things that will make holes in leaves are those slimy mollusks. Slugs are often found in dark and moisture-rich places and they secrete this mucousy thing that helps them move and latch onto things.
They will enjoy feeding themselves on decaying material, but will gladly chow on the fresh leaves of your flowering geraniums. Often, leaves turn yellow after they are done with them.
Slugs will often show up when the rainfall comes, or if you have too much moisture in your area.
Even if you don’t receive much rainfall, but you water your plants in the evenings, the soil won’t have the time to dry up before the morning, and this will create an ideal nesting ground for slugs! In any case, slugs are easy to spot, and you can usually recognize their activity by dried-up slime – track them down and destroy them!
Cankerworms are another common outdoor pest that will feed on the scented leaves of your geraniums. These are also known as inchworms, spanworms, or loopers which make a distinctive looping motion that helps them move around.
These will primarily feed on cabbages, but if you’re dealing with huge populations of these worms, they will occasionally transition to your geraniums!
– Geranium Sawfly
Sawflies are a group of tiny insects with hundreds of subspecies. One of these is the geranium sawfly, and believe it or not, our little beauty even has a pest named after it. The sawflies themselves aren’t the issue here, but their eggs and larvae are. Sawflies reproduce through grayish and green larvae that are very small and will leave holes in geranium leaves.
These larvae are looking like long and slim worms which will be active mostly between late spring and early fall.
– Tobacco Budworms
When we talk about tobacco caterpillars, these will be your hawk moth caterpillars. They often bear the name of geranium budworms too!
They are one of the most destructive pests of the nightshade family of plants, and your geranium plants too! You can identify a tobacco worm as a fatty caterpillar, with white stripes running all along the abdomen.
Geranium budworms have many hairs on their bodies and will grow up to four inches long. The caterpillars are commonly brown but can be green, red, or even purple, based on the life-cycle stage and what they eat.
These will devour an entire plant in just a few days. You will usually spot their activity by their meticulous approach! These will skeletonize the entire plant by eating the thing from top to bottom, leaf by leaf!
How Can You Prevent Pests From Drilling Holes in Geranium Leaves?
You can prevent pests from drilling holes in geranium leaves by actually getting rid of them. Each pest has a vulnerability and can be dealt with by using the right treatment.
You should treat the geraniums over a longer period, to get rid of pests in all their life stages.
– Getting Rid of Aphids
Aphids are easily dealt with through the use of horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps. You can prepare a mixture of these with water and simply wash them away and make your plants undesirable to them.
However, there are some bugs you can call to aid too — wasps, ladybugs and spiders are all enjoying a bite of aphid meat, so you may want to encourage these in your garden.
There are beneficial plants that can be used in crop rotation for the control of aphid populations! Sunflowers and mint are powerful allies to have planted nearby.
Some gardeners even advise using water pressure to knock these off plants, but using this can do some damage too! If you’re using a high water pressure system, the water can easily tear your plants and poke a few holes as well!
– Eliminating Slugs
Slugs are generally big and easy to see, so some advise handpicking as a quick and efficient solution!
However, slugs are nocturnal and mostly active during the night, which means that you’ll have to stay awake in the late hours if you want to catch them all. Placing them in a bucket with soap water, or simply discarding them elsewhere in the wild will do the trick.
However, there are more efficient and long-term approaches you can try! One answer calls for a change in your watering regime! Simply try to water your plants in the morning, rather than leaving the soil moist overnight. This way, you’ll practically say that no slugs are allowed to the party!
Or you can try predators – toads, shrews, salamanders, moles and birds are always friendly faces that will be more than willing to help you out and eat the snails away.
– Dealing With Cankerworms
You can handpick them and place them inside a bucket of soapy water. If you’re looking for a more long-term solution, simply try to attract some bird species to the garden as they will happily assist you in getting rid of these caterpillars.
When your geraniums begin to bloom, they will attract the activity of beneficial wasps and bees, which will further fight and/or eat loopers and other worms!
– Getting Rid of Sawflies
Although damage made by these tiny larvae is unsightly, it’s often not enough to damage the plant as severely as to not be able to flower.
However, you’d want to check on leaves in May, so you can take proper action. You can use shorter-lasting pesticides, such as neem or horticultural oils. For long-term pest control, you can encourage and attract birds and ground beetles to the battle.
– Combating Tobacco Caterpillars
Considering their size, these caterpillars are easy to be handpicked and put in buckets of water and soap to drown them! Handpicking will usually do the trick of keeping their population in check.
But if you want some extra protection, try to invite any kind of bird to the garden, as they will happily eat these pesky caterpillars. You can also use a spray of a garden insecticide, such as permethrin or bifenthrin.
If you spot a budworm with tiny white eggs attached to it, don’t disturb it just yet. The eggs are the ones of a beneficial wasp. As these eggs hatch, the small wasps will feed on the worm and will spread to the next one in line.
Holes in your geraniums may not be the most dangerous for your plants, but they still hurt, especially when you consider how much effort and love has gone into growing them.
That’s why it’s required to act fast with these pests, and as soon as you spot damage on your leaves you can remind yourself:
- Close inspection is crucial as soon as you spot holes in your leaves. This will help you determine the culprit, and decide on the pest control method to take.
- Aphids, loopers, and caterpillars will be your worst and your most common enemies at the same time!
- Remember, caterpillars are best-taken care of when they are drowned in soapy water.
- Try to invite some birds or beneficial insects to the garden, as these will be on the watch and have those pests in check night and day!
As long as you can follow this advice and employ these pest control methods, you’ll have your geraniums carrying that special scent at all times!
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