When a houseplant gets attacked by an insect pest, the problem can quickly spread to other plants. Preventing insects from entering your home is key to indoor insect control. |
The more plants we get, the higher the risk of getting new pests and viruses. According to University of Missouri Extension, prevention and detection are the first line of defense in keeping bugs from eating your houseplants.
It's difficult to discuss pest control generally when we live in different climates and grow on different scales. Obviously, if you live in a place where it's not unusual to have a hedge infested with mealybugs, then mealy control is going to be difficult. If you want to move plants in and out of the home and not use the "big gun" chemicals, then of course you're more prone to all kinds of pests.
It seems that one day they're fine and the next they're dropping leaves and are infested with aphids, mealybugs or spider mites. It's actually not that difficult to keep houseplants happy, but you do need to pay attention to their basic needs, and take care of any pest problems right away.
Check houseplants for disease or insects before you buy them. Then isolate them for a couple weeks, just to make sure there are no problems. Each time you water your plants, inspect both sides of the leaves for signs of pests or disease. If you suspect anything, isolate the plant from your other plants until you have eliminated the problem.
Inspect newly acquired houseplants for bug problems before putting them near others. Inspect your plants every time you water, keeping an eye out for honeydew, the sticky liquid that is a sure sign of sucking insects.
Also check for stippled leaves and webbing, a warning that spider mites may be at work. If you see signs of trouble, a magnifying glass can help you identify the culprits. Seen through a glass, aphids resemble little dune buggies, mealy bugs look like cotton covered armadillos, and spider mites have eight legs and lay lots of clear or reddish eggs.
It is also a good idea to wash the leaves of your plants several times a year. Dust and grime on houseplants doesn't just look bad; it is also bad for the health of the plant. Dust clogs the "pores" of plant leaves, making it difficult for the plant to respirate. In addition, dust filters sunlight before it reaches the plant, decreasing the amount of photosynthesis the plant can undertake. Dust and grime can also attract and harbor spider mites and other insect pests.
Wash smooth-leaved houseplants with a moist, soft cloth and some insecticidal soap. For plants with many small leaves, use a hand sprayer or sink sprayer to douse them with water. Another option is to place the plant under a shower head and spray it. In all cases, the water should be lukewarm — not cold or hot. You can add a few drops of mild liquid dish washing soap or insecticidal soap to the water as well.
Even though it's important to wash houseplants often enough to eliminate dust and grime, it's not a good idea to mist them frequently. Moist leaf surfaces allow fungal and bacterial organisms to get established. By keeping leaf surfaces dry most of the time, you'll reduce the likelihood of disease.
Choose houseplants well-suited to the indoor environment you can provide. It will go a long way towards avoiding problems. Healthy, actively growing plants that receive plenty of light are in a better position to fend off insects and diseases.
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