Ask the Expert

Milkweed bugs feed on the seeds, leaves and stems of milkweed.

Q: I want to collect seeds from the pods on my milkweed plants but they are covered with bugs. Will they harm the pods?

A: Those are milkweed bugs and they don't harm the plants since they don't emerge until late summer and fall when the plant is nearly dormant.

Q: What are some quick and easy fall container ideas?

A: Try planting traditional fall annuals in hollowed out pumpkins. Pansies, violas, mums, asters, sedums, succulents and more can be planted directly in the pumpkin itself. Vintage containers, wicker baskets and other creative pots can be used to display stunning ornamental grasses such as purple fountain, purple millet and more, combined with colorful mums, kale, asters and other fall bloomers.

Q: I'm looking for plants with black foliage. Can you give me some suggestions?

A: Annuals, perennials and shrubs with dark foliage are some of my favorites. They are very useful in the garden for the color and texture they provide. For annuals, try many of the black coleus varieties, as well as ornamental peppers, basil and dahlias with rich, black foliage. Many perennials feature dark foliage, as well, including penstemons, snake root, some coral bells and others. For shrubs, try many of the ninebark varieties, as well as black lace elderberry or black tower elderberry.

Q: Do I need to do anything special with my prickly pear cactus during fall and winter?

A: It is not necessary to provide any special care, provided there is well-drained soil for the plants. The lobes will naturally wither and appear to be dead. However, in the spring, they will flush out anew.