What Is This Foam on My Plant?


What is this foam on my plant? Why does my plant look like it’s lathering up for a good wash?

I walked out into the garden this morning and saw my lavender starting to bloom, which always cheers me up.

My second thought was, “What is this foam on my plant?”

The lavender plants have foam at the stem junction…and not just one plant, but several.


what is this foam on my plant


What Is This Foam on My Plant?

A quick search later to “what is this foam on my plant” led me to the answer: spittlebugs.

Haven’t heard of spittlebugs? Don’t worry, not many people have. They are relatively harmless sucking insects, meaning they have a piercing mouthpart that punctures the plant stem and sucks out some sap.

The nymphs secrete a substance which looks like foam. Each bubble of foam actually represents several nymphs, or young, of the spittlebug family.

The good news is that spittlebugs rarely do so much damage to a plant that they hurt it. The other bit of goods news is that they are easy to control through organic methods.

The bads news? They look ugly. But that’s an easy tradeoff.

A colony of spittlebug nymphs on the lavender. They probably won’t do much harm to the plants but they are easy to remove.

Organic Remedy for Spittlebugs

The easiest organic remedy is as close as your garden hose. A blast of water from the hose will wash off spittlebug nymphs quicker than you can say “spittlebug nymphs.”

If that doesn’t work or if you have a large infestation, mix together 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap (make sure it does NOT have bleach). 6 garlic cloves peeled, and 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup diced hot peppers. Puree the ingredients EXCEPT the dish soap; add dish soap last. Let sit for 24 hours then strain the solids.  Use a paper towel to wipe the foam off of the plants and then spray the organic liquid onto the plant where you saw the foam.

Wiping the nymphs off removes them. The hot pepper and garlic spray repels future spittlebugs from moving in.  To prevent future infestations, it’s also good practice to clean up the garden and remove dead plants in the fall, fallen leaves, and any annuals that have died from a frost in the fall. Removing the dead plant material quickly prevents the insects from over wintering near your plants.

I hope that this helps answer the question “What is this foam on my plant?” Happy gardening!

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Identifying Garden Weeds

Identifying garden weeds is the first step to removing noxious weeds from your lawn and garden. Like plant identification, weed identification starts by examining the weeds in question, matching them through pictures and characteristics, then determining what to do about removing them.

identifying garden weeds

Garden Weed Identification

Plant or Weed?

The first step to garden weed identification is knowing whether or not the plant in question is a weed or something you’ve planted.

I know this sounds silly. After all, who doesn’t know what they planted in the garden?

Newly emerging seedlings and perennials often look like other plants or like emerging garden weeds. One reason why I encourage readers to use plant markers or stakes to mark all of their flowers and vegetables is to prevent accidentally pulling up a wanted plant by confusing it with a weed.

Continue reading “Identifying Garden Weeds”

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Garden Design: Admitting When You’re Wrong and Starting Again

garden design

When it comes to garden design, the best laid plans often go astray. I’ve found that it’s more important to admit when I’m wrong, dig up the mess, and start again.

garden design

Garden Design: The Weedy Perennial Garden Is Out of Control

Longtime readers of Home Garden Joy know that I jokingly refer to a portion of the flower garden as the ‘weedy perennial garden’ for obvious reasons. No matter what I do, no matter how often I weed, the weeds come back – with a vengeance.

garden design
No matter how hard I try, I can’t see a garden design left in this patch of the perennial garden. Time to start fresh.

I’ve tried hand weeding. I’ve tried digging up the worst spots. I have tried weeding and applying thick layers of mulch, using ground cover plants to smother the weeds, and pretty much all organic gardening techniques in my gardener’s bag of tricks.

The weeds come back – with a vengeance. It’s as if what doesn’t kill them (or in my case, remove them completely) just makes them stronger.

My husband and I were outside this weekend finishing up the annual weed and mulch on all our garden beds. There are 22 areas to weed, and we were down to the last six, all of them segments of one large bed in the perennial garden.

He saw me trying to hand-weed an enormous patch of wire and crabgrass and said in disgust, “I hate this area of the garden. It doesn’t do anything.”

I knew exactly what he meant. The herb garden has form and purpose. The rose garden has a shape created by the anchoring pink Fairy roses and the edging of lavender. We split the catmint and salvia in the butterfly garden to add balance, symmetry and proportion to that area. Through the borders, we have a nice, natural balance.

This area is a random conglomeration of plants.

What happened is simple. We began with a kit of perennial plants from a catalog and a nice little map that showed us where to plant them.  Joan, a neighbor, gifted us with lovely iris, so we set these randomly wherever we could find room. I added a few plants. Before long….chaos.

No form, shape or plan. Plants spread, others died, and soon we simply have a mat of dandelion, crabgrass, and various weeds mixed with black eyed Susan, sprawling monarda, randomly self-seeding Echinacea, and a few shrubs such as azalea and red twig dogwood that were the original backbones of the garden.

Starting Fresh with Garden Design

Many of you have moved into a home with an existing garden. You’re in a similar situation; you may have some plants you like but areas you want to change.

The first step to garden design is to map out what you have, identifying what you want to keep and what you wish to remove.

My Plan: What’s Next in the Garden

I am keeping the large shrubs (azalea, red twig dogwood, lilac), several perennials (peonies, foxglove, iris and daylilies) and removing or moving everything else (black eyed susan, echinacea, monarda, gaillardia, coreopsis). Many of these plants can be moved to other areas of the garden. The Echinacea, for instance, is already thriving in another large bed where it fits nicely into the garden design. The monarda can be easily moved to the butterfly garden, and the black eyed susan and yarrow will find homes with friends.

We pulled up two dead heathers and planted new peonies. The peony hedge will grace  the entrance, with e existing shrubs as anchoring points or focal points in the garden design.

Will it work? I don’t know.  I can’t keep weeding this area, year after year. All of the other garden areas took me about 1-2 hours to weed before Hubby applied mulch. They’ll look fine for weeks with only minor weeding touch ups. This section of the garden never seems to get finished because the weeds are just so thick. Digging them up entirely, clearing out the plants, moving them to new homes, and starting from scratch is the best course of action.



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