Green urn makeover: from mealybugs to strappy cool

One of the permanent fixtures of the front yard are two moss green urns on either side of the front door. We’ve had them since 2007 and they’ve been home to a variety of things, including feather reed grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and Golden Goddess bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’).


December 21, 2009: green urns with Golden Goddess bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’). Unfortunately, when the bamboos got larger, I couldn’t keep them watered enough to look good.

In their most recent incarnations, the urns contained a variety of aeoniums (cuttings from the backyard). They looked good from fall through spring. In the summer, however, aeoniums go dormant and look terrible. So ultimately, they turned out to be the wrong choice for this prominent spot. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a nasty mealybug infestation, especially in the urn on the right side. I let it go longer than I should have, but this morning I finally decided to spring into action.

Read on to find out what I did.


See the Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ in the middle of the photo? That’s where the urn is. Coincidentally, it’s the only aeonium I was able to save.


Closer view


View of the same urn from behind. ‘Cyclops’ is on the left. The green aeoniums are either A. arboreum or A. canariense; I can never tell the difference.


Rule # 1 of blogging: take pictures of everything, before and after. I remembered that half way through ripping out the aeoniums in the urn.


Not too bad from a distance…


…but up close: YIKES!


Mealybug stuff adhering to the side of the pot


These are all the aeoniums I ripped out. Into the yard waste they went.

I’d been thinking for a while about what to replace the aeoniums with. I considered a wide variety of things, ranging from dwarf olive trees to agaves. Ultimately, I decided to use what I already had. Before pulling the trigger, I thought it would be wise to do a dry run, i.e. put the potted plants on top of the urns.

Here’s the urn on the right with a pencil milk bush (Euphorbia mauritanica):


Euphorbia mauritanica

And the urn on the left with Beaucarnea gracilis, a relative of the common ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata):


Beaucarnea gracilis

Both looked great so I into the urns they went:


View of the front door area


Euphorbia mauritanica from the front


Euphorbia mauritanica from the back


Beaucarnea gracilis in the back. On the left is Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’ (soon to be removed), in the front is Agave schidigera, and on the right is Yucca linearifolia.

151024_Beaucarnea-gracilis_008  151024_Beaucarnea-gracilis_006

Beaucarnea gracilis

I’m very happy with the results and have a feeling that these two plants will do much better in these spots than the others I’d tried.

What do you think? Yay or nay?


  1. Oh, definitely yay -- I think they look excellent. (Mealybugs, eewww.) Will they get much sun?

    1. Both the euphorbia and the beaucarnea had been in pots within feet of these green urns. They don't get a lot of direct sun, maybe 2-3 hrs in the afternoon at this time of year. But that seems to be enough.

  2. That Euphorbia mauritanica is insane! (in a good way). "Into the yard waste they went" = out on the street. Ha! I will never cease to be amazed by this.

    1. That Euphorbia mauritanica will be much happier where it is now. If you ever want cuttings, just let me know.

      There's talk the City of Davis wants to stop curbside yard waste pickup in favor of bins. How dare they! That's what makes us special!

  3. Big yay. And Marg looks good still but you're a wise man for removing her when she's still a manageable size. I wanted nice, dense E. maur. amongst my agaves, and instead it did that wild octopus effect which looks great in your pot but swamped my agaves in the garden. I've since learned that pinching back is what's needed for dense shrubbiness, Pinching back with gloves on, of course. About the mealies, it's been an incredibly buggy summer. I've never had mealies on agaves before this summer.

    1. Thanks, Denise! Yes, 'Margaritaville' will go before I plant anything else in that bed. It hurts to say goodbye but it's for the best (*my* best).

      Good tip about pinching back E. mauritanica. I didn't know that. Mine is super octopus-like for sure--the antithesis of shrubbiness. I don't mind it, but I want a bit more fullness in the middle. Will start pinching!

  4. The replanted pots look great, Gerhard. I've had more trouble with mealybugs on everything, including succulents, this year. A drought stress impact maybe?

    1. There's been increased ant activity this year, and there's evidence that ants farm mealybugs (like they do with aphids). It's definitely been a bad year for pests.

  5. These look great and will do well I hope! (To be honest I miss the bamboos, but understand the reason for their removal 2 generations ago)

    Like Loree I love that it's just "into the street" with the waste. Where my son lives he gets a ticket if any grass clippings get accidentally blown into the street -- what a difference in attitudes!

    1. Curbside yard waste pickup is one of the nice things about living here. But there's talk of discontinuing it because it presents a hazard to bicyclists. BS, if you ask me. What about garbage cans and cars parked at the curb? If you're too blind to not see a pile of yard waste, maybe you shouldn't ride a bike.

  6. I like the new plants, but think I might have liked them better if they were reversed! The one on the left tends to blend in. Maybe it will look different for me when I see it in person!

    1. Unfortunately, it wouldn't work that way because the euphorbia (currently in the right-hand urn) drapes down too far and would be hidden behind the other plants.


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