Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Houseplants- Bringing the Outdoors In

Houseplants bring a touch of the outdoors into our homes—an especially welcome addition in the depths of winter. Assuming we water and feed them correctly and place them in a suitable location, they should be free of insects and healthy most of the time. However, even the best-cared-for houseplants are sometimes attacked by pests that fly inside on their own or hitchhike in on newly acquired plants. Sure signs that an invasion is underway are sticky leaves and activity that can be detected by peering closely at the plant. The culprits may be mealybugs (round, white, fuzzy creatures that usually hide on leaf stems or in the axils); aphids (small, soft-bodied, reddish, green, or black insects clustered on new growth); scale (hard, oval- or round-shelled insects attached to stems or leaves); or whiteflies (small fluttering insects that feed on the undersides of leaves). Stippled leaves covered with fine whitish webs indicate the presence of yet another pest—the tiny red spider mite. All of these common houseplant pests suck plant juices, causing stunted or twisted growth. If you don’t take action to stop the damage, the plant will eventually die.


Make a habit of regularly inspecting your plants so that you can spot insects and mites before their population has had time to increase drastically. You have a much better chance of controlling a small infestation than a major one. If you notice any pests, move the infested plant well away from other plants to keep the insects from traveling from one to the next. But don’t shock the quarantined plant by putting it in a place that is much colder or sunnier than its previous location.

After moving the plant, wash your hands so that you don’t help to disperse the pests, then inspect the rest of your collection. If you see signs that the insects have already begun to spread, you’ll want to repeat the following steps for each infested plant. WASH THE PLANT Dislodge as many insects as possible with a strong stream of water from a flexible hose hooked to the sink, bathtub, or laundry tub. Or, weather permitting, take the plant outdoors and spray it lightly with your garden hose. In the case of clinging scale insects, you might have to use a soapy cloth or toothbrush to wipe the plant clean. If the plant is small enough, it is even more effective to submerge the foliage in water. To do so, fill a bucket or sink with lukewarm water. Then place foil, a rag, or a piece of paper over the top of the pot to hold the soil in place. Next, with your fingers spread around the plant’s stem, turn the plant upside down, and swish the leaves in water for two or three minutes. Finally, set the plant in indirect sunlight, where it can dry without getting burned. Another great way to discourage pests, is by using Hot Pepper Wax. It is safe, and easy to use.

No comments: