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Praying mantis egg cases on your Christmas tree could pose problems

Plant of the week: As ground cover or shrub, blue star juniper performs like a landscape champion.
Plant of the week: As ground cover or shrub, blue star juniper performs like a landscape champion. (Courtesy of Ellen Nibali, Handout photo)

We found a praying mantis egg case on our Christmas tree. Will it freeze if we put it outside or should we keep it in a terrarium till spring?

Your warm house will cause the eggs to hatch prematurely, and you will have tiny and cute, but fragile, praying mantises running all over. They will then eat one another or die from lack of food. Move the egg case outside ASAP. Prop it in an evergreen shrub or tree if you have one — this will simulate the protected site it had on the Christmas tree, although praying mantis egg cases are tough and can even be found laid on bare plant stalks. Avoid pesticides next year so your praying mantises can do their work protecting your landscape from insect pests.

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I see that you no longer have your 800 phone number. I need to describe a plant that was given to me as a hostess gift, but I'm not too good at plant terms. It could be a shrub or a fern for all I know! What's the easiest way for me to identify it?

A pictures can be worth a thousand words. When you ask us questions through our website, you can attach a photo, too. This is one of the Home and Garden Information Center's most popular and growing (no pun intended) features on our site. It's great not only for plant identification, but also insect and disease symptoms, pruning and landscape situations.

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Plant of the week

Blue star juniper

Juniperus squamata 'Blue star'

As ground cover or shrub, blue star juniper performs like a landscape champion. Its starry needles grow slowly to form a tidy, slightly undulating blue mound 3 to 4 feet wide. Although it can reach 3 feet in height, it is usually less than 2. Barely a pest or disease bothers it. Blue star prefers a sunny site and light, well-drained soil. However, like most junipers, it will put up with a challenging range of conditions including pollution and dry, clay-like —even salty — soil. It does draw the line at heavy shade and soggy soil.

—Ellen Nibali

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