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Armillatox is a fantastic product I have been using in the garden and on my bonsai for nearly two decades.
A 'Soap Based Outdoor Cleaner', Armillatox has many uses. It is a very effective pesticide and fungicide. It is also an excellent way of cleaning the green algae that builds up on bonsai, particularly on the trunk, as well as on bonsai display benches and surrounding areas.
I was introduced to Armillatox during the 1990's as one of the few products that would effectively kill the eggs of vine weevil as well as vine weevil themselves, and at the time it was heavily advertised as such. It quickly became a product of choice for me.
Unfortunately, in 2003, new European legislation required that all fungicides and pesticides required review, at a cost of millions to its manufacturer, and along with a large number of other insecticides available at the time, Armillatox Ltd were forced to change the advertised uses for its product.
For this reason Armillatox is currently (2015) sold as a “Pathway and Drive Cleaner” to avoid the change in European Legislation meaning that its further uses are unknown to many bonsai enthusiasts, most of whom would never consider using a driveway cleaner anywhere near their trees!
I recently found an old copy of the literature that accompanied Armillatox prior to 2003 that outlines its uses as well as the correct dilutions for each type of application it can be used for. (It should be noted that according to www.Armillatox.co.uk , the formulation for Armillatox has not changed post-2003).
Pre-Euro-Legislation 2003 Armillatox literature that can still be applied today
As A Winter Wash And Fungicide For Bonsai
As a fungicide, Armillatox is effective at controlling fungi, including Honey Fungus/Armillaria, a parasitic fungi that is one of a relatively few that will attack the live wood of trees, rather than just existing deadwood. As a Winter Wash it can also be used to control the spores of Black Spot, Mildew and a particular annoyance of mine, Peach Leaf Curl (and related fungi) that can disfigure the leaves of Hawthorn as well as Prunus species.
During dormancy, thoroughly spray your deciduous bonsai with a mixture of 50:1 water to Armillatox, that is 20ml Armillatox for every litre of water.
Armillatox can be used to sterilize the soil around the base of trees/bonsai, however great care should be exercised not to try and sterilize the soil of tree species that are reliant on friendly fungi, or mycorrhiza, such as Pines, Junipers and most other coniferous species. Killing the friendly fungi growing in the soil of these types of trees can obviously seriously effect their health.
Although I've never had issues with Armillatox damaging leaves or foliage, as far as possible, along with the manufactureres recommendation I've always avoided spraying it directly onto them.
Cleaning Bonsai Trunks
It is common for the trunk of a bonsai to begin to turn slightly green, particularly during hot and humid periods of the Summer, or after heavy fertilizing.
Although this green can be removed with the use of an old toothbrush and water on smooth-barked species such as some Acer/Maples or Fagus/Beech, species with prized mature flaking or cracked bark cannot be brushed.
However, I spray a very weak 100:1 solution (10ml per litre of water) over the bark of the bonsai to remove the build-up of green algae. It can take nearly a week for the green on the bark to disappear; however it is extremely effective and will stop algae re-appearing for a few months.
As previously highlighted, Armillatox is not a danger to bonsai, however, any run-off of the solution into the soil itself can be flushed away by watering the soil to dilute the solution further. This must be done for tree species that are reliant on beneficial fungi, such as Pines and Junipers.
Cleaning Bonsai Benches and Display Areas......and repelling cats, squirrels and birds
Many bonsai enthusiasts like to use wooden benches to display their bonsai. Unfortunately, it is common for the wood to take on a green colour with algae and moss, particularly during the growing season when the bonsai are fertilized and watered regularly.
I mix a stronger 50:1 dilution of Armillatox (20ml per litre of water) in a watering can and thoroughly wet the benches and surrounding areas with the solution. For really effective and faster cleaning, the green surfaces can be scrubbed with brushes, however, the Armillatox will remove the algae within 7-10 days and stop its return for a few months.
A side product of cleaning with Armillatox is that it leaves quite a strong smell of disinfectant that is very good at repelling cats, squirrels and birds (although the product at this dilution is perfectly safe for animals, they simply dislike the smell and avoid the area).
However, Armillatox at this dilution will kill insects hidden in and around the benches and as such is an effective insecticide.
Some of the known uses for Armillatox as well as the correct dilution and doses for each use, taken from the pre-2003 Armillatox literature
It should be repeated again that although Armillatox, at the correct dilution, is perfectly safe for the soil and roots of a bonsai, care should be taken when using it around tree species that are reliant on friendly fungi or mycorrhiza. If you are at all worried that the presence of Armillatox in the soil will cause any ill-health in your bonsai, simply flush the soil with water to heavily dilute and remove it.
Armillatox is easily available by mail-order within the UK and Europe. I am unaware of its availability outside Europe at this current time.
Update August 2015: Roger Gibbs of the Middlesex Bonsai Society has written to me to tell me the following:
"I found your article on the use of Armillatox interesting. I have used it for many years always with good results .Recently I had a minor attack of Box Blight on some hedges in my garden. I had run out of ideas and the common advice was to dig up hedge and burn it. I thought I would spray it with Armillatox as you say originally sold as a fungicide. I spoke with the people at Armillatox who assured me the current product sold as a cleaner was exactly the same as the original product........
........I sprayed the contaminated areas of my Box Hedges with an Armillatox solution and it appears to have solved the problem, the hedges are showing plenty of lush growth now.
Yes a multi-function product with many garden uses"