It’s the end of January and my houseplants have been indoors since October. So should I do anything with them now? Yes!
Examine them for insects. All it takes is a missed egg or two and, indoors, with no natural predators, you can have a problem. Here are some of the most common pests:
Common Houseplant Pests
Aphids tend to cluster on the newest tender leaves and/or stems. They come in a variety of colors, so look for pale green, yellow, tan, brown, or black. They can be plentiful but, thank goodness, are fairly easy to get rid of. You can wash them off with soapy water or spray with an alcohol and water spray (mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water). You might need to repeat it a time or two in case you miss any eggs. Insecticidal soap, pyrethrins, or Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew are also very effective.
Mealybugs and Scale
Mealybugs look like little bits of white cotton fuzz. Scale looks like little oval “bumps” in tan, brown, or black that you can pick off with a fingernail. Sometimes, one of the first things people notice is a clear sticky “sap” like substance on the foliage, windowsill, or floor. Both mealies and scales produce this “honeydew”. Taking care of them will take care of that.
The alcohol and water solution is very effective against mealybugs, as well as the sprays mentioned above. For scale, either horticultural oil or Neem oil is more effective. They cover the scale and “smother” them.
If you see gnats flying about your plant, they are most likely fungus gnats. The adult gnats lay their eggs on decaying organic debris in the soil. The larvae feed on the debris and hatch into more gnats. They are not hurting your plants but are certainly annoying. AND—they are a clear danger signal that your plants are staying too wet! Even delicate leaved plants like ferns, etc. should dry out an inch or so down. Keeping the soil surface damp at all times means there is always “rotting” debris to attract the fungus gnats!
To address the gnat problem, pull a gallon of tap water and let it stand overnight. In the morning, add four tablespoons of plain bleach and drench the soil. That will take care of larvae in the soil. A sticky trap or two around the plant should take care of any adults. That said, if you do not correct your watering habits—THEY WILL RETURN!
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