How to Get Rid of Coneflower Mites and other Pests

Coneflower mites, also known as Eriophyid Mites or Coneflower Rosette Mites, are a pervasive and often undetected threat to your garden. These tiny pests spread easily through wind, insects, and animals, causing significant damage before you even realize they’re there. Fortunately, you don’t need to eliminate your entire garden to rid yourself of these nuisances. This article offers practical steps and proven methods to effectively control and eradicate coneflower mites, ensuring your garden remains vibrant and healthy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Early Detection: Regularly inspect your coneflowers using a magnifying glass to detect early signs of mite infestation, which often appear as tiny white specks or rosette-like deformations in the flower tufts.
  2. Immediate Removal: Upon detecting infected flowers, immediately remove and destroy the affected parts to prevent the mites from spreading further. Use shears and a plastic bag to avoid contact with other plants.
  3. Use of Horticultural Oils and Miticides: Depending on the severity of the infestation, apply horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soaps to control mite populations. Follow a regular treatment regimen for one to two weeks.
  4. Continuous Monitoring: Vigilantly monitor your plants, inspecting them at least twice a week for new signs of mite activity. Maintaining this routine over several months is crucial for effective control.
  5. Distinguish from Other Diseases: Be aware that coneflower mites can be confused with aster yellows, which require entirely different treatments. Look for specific symptoms such as rosette-like deformations for mites and green flower petals for aster yellows.
Coneflower mites, also known as Coneflower Rosette Mite, is a disease caused by Eriophyid Mites
Coneflower mites, also known as Coneflower Rosette Mite, is a disease caused by Eriophyid Mites

They are especially small to begin with and so they can infect other flowers just like how normal pollination works: simply through the wind, insects, and animals.

Coneflower mites are indeed a nuisance.

But the good news is that you don’t have to get rid of your entire plant with a series of disinfection just to free your garden from them.

This post is all about treating coneflower mites and a quick overview of other common pests in coneflowers.

Coneflower Mites: A Background

Given their minuscule size, these mites can spread from one flower to another with the help of the wind
Given their minuscule size, these mites can spread from one flower to another with the help of the wind

Coneflower mites, also known as Eriophyid Mites, dwell inside the growing flower buds, where they enjoy sipping nutrients from the base of the blossoms.

“Thanks” to their disruption, the flower tufts start to become deformed – typically emerging as a rosette-like formation.

This is why the mites are also called the Coneflower Rosette Mite. 

They are especially hard to detect with the naked eye, being a lot smaller than spider mites.

But if their population grows and becomes overwhelming, you might start noticing tiny white specks, like little dust particles, on the flower tufts.

That being said, it is most likely that you won’t be able to tell their existence unless some damage has been done.

They cause deformation on the flower’s tuft - typically rosette-like
They cause deformation on the flower’s tuft – typically rosette-like

How to Get Rid of Coneflower Mites

To be honest, I’m no expert on treating coneflower mites. But most of my attempts have been inspired by this post from Ohio State University, and the results are pretty positive. So here were what I did:

Step 1: Remove The Infected Flower Heads

Get yourself a magnifying glass with the help of some quality lighting to scan for any flower that exhibits signs of Eriophyid Mites. 

Remove with a pair of shears and put everything in a plastic bag immediately.

Don’t let them touch the ground or other parts of the plant!

Step 2: Destroy The Removed Parts

Carefully destroy the infected parts either with boiling water or burning.

Perhaps a little far away from your current garden.

Step 3: Use Horticultural Oil or A Miticide/Insecticidal Soaps

Depending on the severity of the situation which option you are going for, you may need a regime that lasts from one to two weeks.

On the other hand, if it is just a mild occurrence, spraying with neem oil can be just enough.

Step 4: Keep An Eagle Eye

The above steps are only for controlling Eriophyid Mites population and stopping them from spreading.

However, it’s essential to continue monitoring your plants vigilantly by inspecting them at least twice a week for any new signs of emergence.

In my experience, maintaining this routine could span from several months to a year for thorough and frequent checks. 

Make sure you don’t accidentally spill the tiny mites to the rest of your garden when handling it
Make sure you don’t accidentally spill the tiny mites to the rest of your garden when handling it

Coneflower Mites vs Aster Yellows

I must bring up aster yellows since the symptoms of the two are frequently confused.

However, it’s important to note that their treatments are not the same.

If it is aster yellows, there is no panacea but getting rid of your plant entirely and trying your best to disinfect your garden.

Although both diseases result in the deformation of your coneflowers, the distinct ways in which their shapes are altered remain recognizable.

Coneflower Mites:

  • Affect the tufts of the flower
  • Deformation is rosette-like
  • Infected flowers maintain their original color

Aster Yellows:

  • Flower petals turn green
  • Manifest bizarre, shapeless growths with no specific pattern.
Don’t mistake Coneflower Rosette Mite with Aster Yellows too!
Don’t mistake Coneflower Rosette Mite with Aster Yellows too!

Other Common Coneflower Issues

The key to successfully dealing with diseases and pests is identifying the threats and taking proactive measures to prevent them from infesting your garden.

Prevention is always better than cure, so let’s delve into these common culprits and learn how to combat them.

1. Anthracnose

Anthracnose is a potential infection in echinacea, although it is not very common.

Look out for dark spots on the leaves, which may turn yellow as the disease progresses.

In severe cases, these spots can merge and result in the entire leaf dying. Copper fungicide is an effective treatment for anthracnose.

Aster yellows also causes deformation in the flower tuft
Aster yellows also causes deformation in the flower tuft

2. Aphids

Aphids are tiny pests that can feed on coneflowers. There are different types of aphids, some of which have a neutral impact on echinacea, while others can be harmful.

If you don’t notice severe symptoms like sooty mold or significant leaf yellowing, you might choose to leave them alone.

However, if necessary, you can wash them off with a blast of cold water from the hose. Focus on the undersides of leaves.

Then you can use Neem oil or insecticidal soap to spray on the leaves.

  • Neem oil is a natural insecticide that disrupts the feeding and reproductive cycles of aphids.
  • Soaps with potassium salts disrupt the outer cell membranes of aphids, causing dehydration and death.
The distortion by aster yellows is random and follows no pattern
The distortion by aster yellows is random and follows no pattern

3. Deer

Although coneflowers are often considered deer-proof, young plants can still be a tasty snack for these creatures.

Protect your plants from these marauding ungulates by using the strategy below:

  • Choose coneflower varieties known for their deer-resistant properties, such as those with tough or aromatic foliage. Examples include ‘Magnus’ and ‘PowWow.’
  • Install fencing around your garden or individual plants. A fence should be at least 7 feet tall to deter deer. Also, use wire or plastic mesh netting for individual plants.
  • Plant companion species that deer dislike near your coneflowers, such as include lavender, sage, and rosemary.
  • Apply commercial deer repellents with strong scents. Reapply after rain. DIY solutions like garlic or pepper sprays may also work.
  • Hang shiny objects, like aluminum foil strips or CDs, near your plants. The movement and reflection can deter deer.
  • Strategically place coneflowers closer to your home. Deer are less likely to approach areas near human activity.
  • Create barriers with dense or thorny plants around your garden perimeter to discourage deer entry.
The flower petals will turn green, a symptom that won’t happen with Eriophyid Mites
The flower petals will turn green, a symptom that won’t happen with Eriophyid Mites

4. Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt is a common disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum.

It can cause wilting during the day and recovery at night, along with dark patches on the leaves.

Although coneflowers are not frequently affected by fusarium wilt, it’s still important to monitor your plants for symptoms.

5. Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles may have a charming appearance, but they can cause damage by munching on foliage and leaving behind unsightly holes.

While coneflowers have tough leaves and are rarely heavily damaged, the holes can still be unsightly.

If it is Aster Yellows, you’ll need to get rid of the entire plant immediately, because it is a chronic virus
If it is Aster Yellows, you’ll need to get rid of the entire plant immediately, because it is a chronic virus

6. Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are characterized by small black or brown spots on echinacea foliage, along with necrosis and stem lesions.

To prevent leaf spots, water at the soil level, avoid overcrowding plants, and consider using fungicides like Mycostop or copper fungicides.

7. Leafhoppers

Aster leafhoppers are pale green insects that spread aster yellows disease.

To prevent leafhoppers from infesting your coneflowers, remove weeds and debris from your garden in the fall.

You can also use floating row covers or introduce beneficial assassin bugs into your garden.

Leafhoppers can spread Aster Yellows to nearby plants
Leafhoppers can spread Aster Yellows to nearby plants

8. Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a common garden issue caused by the fungus Erysiphe cichoracearum.

It appears as a white, powdery coating on the foliage.

While rarely fatal for coneflowers, powdery mildew can diminish their aesthetic appeal.

Combatting powdery mildew requires a combination of preventive measures and effective treatments.

Here’s a guide to help you tackle powdery mildew on your plants:

1. Prune for Airflow:

  • Why: Powdery mildew thrives in crowded and humid conditions.
  • How: Regularly prune and thin out dense foliage to improve air circulation around plants.

2. Water at the Base:

  • Why: Wet foliage promotes mildew growth.
  • How: Water the soil at the base of plants, avoiding overhead watering.
Another common coneflower issue is powdery mildew, a result of high humidity
Another common coneflower issue is powdery mildew, a result of high humidity

3. Morning Watering:

  • Why: Morning moisture dries faster, reducing the risk of mildew.
  • How: Water plants early in the day to allow sufficient drying time.

4. Choose Resistant Varieties:

  • Why: Some plant varieties are more resistant to powdery mildew.
  • How: Opt for mildew-resistant plant varieties when planning your garden.

5. Neem Oil Spray:

  • Why: Neem oil has antifungal properties.
  • How: Mix neem oil with water and spray on affected plants every 7-14 days.
You can treat powdery mildew with neem oil, milk spray, or fungicidal soap
You can treat powdery mildew with neem oil, milk spray, or fungicidal soap

6. Baking Soda Solution:

  • Why: Alkaline environment disrupts mildew growth.
  • How: Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, and 1 gallon of water. Spray every 7-14 days.

7. Milk Spray:

  • Why: Milk’s antifungal properties combat mildew.
  • How: Mix 1 part milk with 9 parts water and spray on plants every 7-14 days.

8. Fungicidal Soap:

  • Why: Soap disrupts the cell membrane of mildew.
  • How: Use commercially available fungicidal soaps and follow the instructions for application.

9. Copper Fungicides:

  • Why: Copper disrupts fungal growth.
  • How: Apply copper-based fungicides following product guidelines.

10. Remove Infected Leaves:

  • Why: Removing affected leaves prevents the spread.
  • How: Prune and dispose of mildew-infected leaves in sealed bags.
Find a new spot for the plant with more balanced air moisture
Find a new spot for the plant with more balanced air moisture

11. Apply Sulfur-Based Products:

  • Why: Sulfur inhibits fungal development.
  • How: Use sulfur-based fungicides as directed.

12. Ensure Proper Spacing:

  • Why: Adequate spacing reduces humidity.
  • How: Plant with recommended spacing to allow for air circulation.

Remember to monitor your plants regularly and intervene at the first signs of powdery mildew for the most effective control.

9. Stem Rot

Stem rot is more likely to occur in areas with excessive moisture or poor drainage.

For fungal stem rot, improve soil drainage and air circulation.

Environmental stem rot can be prevented by reducing moisture around the roots.

Adding well-rotted compost to the soil and watering less frequently can help manage stem rot.

Other coneflower problems can be pests like aphids, spider mites, with different types of fungus infections such as anthracnose and fusarium
Other coneflower problems can be pests like aphids, spider mites, with different types of fungus infections such as anthracnose and fusarium

How to Protect Coneflowers From Pests 

Elevate your coneflower game with these expert tips:

Water Wisely:

Pro Tip: Water at the base, avoiding foliage, maintaining a balance between dry and soggy conditions.

Mulching Mastery:

Pro Tip: Mulch for weed control and soil insulation, but keep it away from the stem bases.

Resilient Varieties:

Pro Tip: Opt for hardy coneflower varieties like ‘Magnus’ and ‘PowWow’ for pest and disease resistance; drought-tolerant coneflowers such as ‘Kim’s Knee High’ for water-efficient gardens.

As a general tip for a healthy coneflower, try munching - for both weed control and separation from the soil
As a general tip for a healthy coneflower, try munching – for both weed control and separation from the soil

Self-Seeding Varieties:

Advantage: Embrace self-seeding coneflowers like ‘White Swan’ for natural garden sustainability.

Vigilant Monitoring:

Pro Tip: Regularly inspect coneflowers for signs of pests or diseases; early detection is key.

Pruning Precision:

Pro Tip: Trim spent flowers and yellowing leaves to promote continuous blooming and plant health.

Beneficial Insects:

Introduce helpful insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and ground beetles
Introduce helpful insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and ground beetles

Pro Tip: Attract beneficial insects like ladybugs to naturally control harmful pests.

  • Ladybugs (Lady Beetles):

Role: Predators of aphids, mites, and other soft-bodied pests.

Attract Them By: Planting dill, fennel, or cilantro; providing a water source; avoiding the use of pesticides harmful to them.

  • Hoverflies (Syrphid Flies):

Role: Effective aphid predators in both larvae and adult stages.

Attract Them By: Planting nectar-rich flowers like alyssum, dill, and marigolds; avoiding chemical insecticides.

  • Parasitic Wasps:

Role: Parasitize and control caterpillars and harmful insect eggs.

Attract Them By: Planting nectar-producing flowers such as sweet alyssum, dill, and yarrow; providing shelter.

  • Ground Beetles:

Role: Predators of soil-dwelling pests like slugs and cutworms.

Attract Them By: Maintaining ground cover for shelter; avoiding excessive use of mulch.

These types of insects feed on harmful pests
These types of insects feed on harmful pests
  • Predatory Beetles (Rove Beetles, Soldier Beetles):

Role: Consume a variety of pests, including aphids and caterpillars.

Attract Them By: Planting a diverse range of flowers; avoiding broad-spectrum pesticides.

Companion Planting:

Pro Tip: Surround coneflowers with herbs like basil or dill to deter pests and enhance growth.

  • Basil:

Benefit: Deters aphids, mosquitoes, and tomato hornworms.

Companion to Coneflowers: Plant basil near coneflowers to enhance their growth and repel common pests.

  • Dill:

Benefit: Attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps.

Companion to Coneflowers: Plant dill near coneflowers to encourage the presence of beneficial insects.

Additionally, get some guards for your coneflowers: basil, dill, and yallow, etc. Several harmful pests hate them to their guts!
Additionally, get some guards for your coneflowers: basil, dill, and yallow, etc. Several harmful pests hate them to their guts!
  • Marigolds:

Benefit: Repel nematodes (microscopic soil-dwelling worms) and many other pests.

Companion to Coneflowers: Interplant marigolds with coneflowers to discourage soil-borne pests.

  • Alyssum:

Benefit: Attracts hoverflies and other beneficial insects.

Companion to Coneflowers: Plant alyssum as a ground cover near coneflowers to support beneficial insect populations.

  • Yarrow:

Benefit: Attracts predatory wasps and other beneficial insects.

Companion to Coneflowers: Grow yarrow near coneflowers to create a habitat for beneficial insects.

Marigolds are also wonderful companions that can protect Coneflowers. They repel soil-borne pests
Marigolds are also wonderful companions that can protect Coneflowers. They repel soil-borne pests

Final Thoughts

By remaining vigilant and implementing these preventive measures and treatments, you can maintain healthy coneflowers and enjoy their beauty year after year.

Remember, a little care goes a long way in keeping your garden flourishing!