My lawn has a patch of what looks like cigarette ash stuck to the grass blades. What is it, and what can I do about it?

This fungus can cause quite a stir when it suddenly appears in spring, summer or fall, but it's harmless, so no control is required. Slime mold uses the grass blades only for support. It grows on microorganisms and organic matter in thatch and moves to grass blades when it's ready to produce fruiting bodies (the spore-producing stage.) These fruiting bodies are sticky and dark when fresh but dry to a dark or light-gray cigarette-like ash that brushes right off. Rainfall, mowing or light raking easily removes it. Slime mold sometimes will show up on liriope, grasslike flowering plants.

I planted a caladium with fabulous leaf colors in the spring and now it has lost its color. A caladium I've had for a few years has done the same thing. How can I get the color back?

Caladiums can lose color for several reasons: too much sun or total shade, too much nitrogen fertilization, or soil temperatures exceeding 85 degrees. Considering the weather we've had this summer, your problem may very well be the last.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.

Plant of the week

Dwarf lilac 'Bloomerang'

Syringa x Penda 'Bloomerang'

As expected, this dwarf rebloomer delivers classic purple-pink lilac blooms and fragrance in spring either in your spring garden or as a cut flower indoors. Then, unlike traditional lilacs, it goes through a rest period and reblooms sporadically through summer until frost. The size of the summer and fall flower heads are not as large as the spring display but are still showy and fragrant. A compact growth habit with leaves smaller than the species, Bloomerang reaches about 4-5 feet in height and width, fitting nicely in smaller gardens, mixed borders and large containers, or as a short hedge. Bloomerang is easy to grow in full sun to light shade in average, well-drained soil. The shrub is resistant to powdery mildew and deer, and the blooms attract butterflies. Light pruning or deadheading is recommended to encourage reblooming. — Marian Hengemihle