Alien Invaders In Your House Plants
blurb: It doesn't take long for a few invaders to start a major infestation
of your favorite plant.
Exercising your green thumb is a year round opportunity, even in the coldest,
darkest days of winter, when you bring new potted plants into the home. That
bold, bright amaryllis can really liven up your interior spaces when you
can't be outside. But the joys of indoor planting are sometimes tainted by
bugs that hitchhike on your new plants from outside or from the nursery. In
the hospitable confines of your home, it doesn't take long for just a few
invaders to start a major infestation of your precious plant. The money you
spent at the nursery soon goes down the drain.
Fortunately, half the battle is just knowing how to identify the critters.
Then you can use the right control strategy to eliminate or keep the
population under control. On a cautionary note, be sure to look on the
pesticide label before you start applying it. Is the specific pest listed?
Is the product approved for indoor use? Follow the label directions
carefully, they're designed to keep you safe and make sure the product is
effective. You can also limit your exposure by treating the plant outdoors,
weather permitting, or in the basement utility sink. You may need more than
one treatment to cure the problem.
Here are several obnoxious critters and helpful cures.
Mealybugs: Minute, white and oval shaped insects, hanging out in cottony
masses. They suck the plant's living fluids and kill it if not controlled.
Solutions include dabbing bugs with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, spraying
with horticultural oil, or using a pre-formulated insecticide containing
pyrethrins and labeled for indoor use.
Spider Mites: Tiny, almost invisible bugs that usually manifest their
presence in yellow stippling (dots) on top of the leaves. Once they're really
bad, you'll notice webbing. One way to confirm this pest is to hold a white
notecard or piece of paper under the leaf while gently tapping the leaf's
upper surface. The buggers should fall off and become visible on the paper.
Treat with superior grade horticultural oil or a miticide.
Aphids: Green, black or yellow oval-shaped insects. They're sap suckers that
can cause distortion, discoloration or stunted growth on leaves. Spray with
horticultural oil or insecticide using pyrethrins.
Whiteflies: Gross little flies that secrete a sticky substance called
honeydew. They feed on the underside of leaves, which then become mottled or
yellow. As if that weren't bad enough, a sooty mold can develop on the
honeydew for a disgusting combination of bug and gunk. Again, the solution is
to spray with horticultural oil or insecticide using pyrethrins or
Slugs and Pill Bugs: Bigger, more obvious critters. Slugs eat holes in the
leaves at night. On a smaller plant, just remove it from the pot and check
around the root ball, and around the inner sides of the container near the
drain holes for the invaders, or tunnels that lead toward the center of the
root ball. Usually, slugs and pill bugs can be removed by hand.
Sources used to create this article include H.S. Stevens and The Dallas