Friday, April 25, 2014

Put Plant Health First

 So, I've had some controversy on my last post about insects on your houseplants. First, the use of imidicloprid was brought into question. Of course, I am not telling you to run out and  buy an insecticide and use it on every plant you have to kill everything in sight and out of sight. I always try the least toxic solution first. This includes using soap and alcohol, or neem oil in the form of Rose Rx. Now, if that doesn't work, I will use a houseplant insecticide. Some of my plants are over 30 years old and belonged to my great-grandma. I am not going to lose those plants to scale or mealybug.  I have also listed the biological controls that one could choose to use in their home. Whereas this may seem contradictory to some, these bugs are the good guys. They destroy the bad guys and the plus is that you don't have to use insecticides in your home.  After those good bugs have eradicated the bad bugs, they won't take over your home. In fact, without something to eat, they will probably die.

A well grown crown of thorns
The number one thing to remember is that a healthy houseplant is a happy houseplant. A healthy houseplant also is much better able to ward off insect pests and disease. That being said, everyone is going to deal with pests at one time or another. Bringing houseplants home from a store or even a  friend's house can bring unwanted visitors into your home. Even if a plant looks pest free, quarantining your plant from your other plants is very important. Four to six weeks should be long enough to allow any pest or pest eggs that are lurking to show themselves. Checking your plants on a regular basis for insects can help prevent them from becoming a problem. Every time you water, take time to inspect your plants. Look under the leaves and in the areas where the leaf petiole meets the plant stem. Insects love to hide in these areas. Keeping them clean is extremely important. A dusty, dirty plant is blocked from photosynthesizing, preventing the production of  food they must have to live and grow. I like to put my plants in the shower on occasion. Of course, this only works for the ones I can lift. The other plants are washed with a sponge and mildly soapy water. I like to use Ivory dish soap or Murphy's Oil Soap. Using a de-greasing dish soap can mar the foliage of some plants.
Refreshing their soil, or re-potting them on a regular basis is also beneficial. The growing media your plant is growing in can break down and disintegrate over time. Giving them new soil can be like fertilizing the plant. It gives them renewed vigor and strength. 
Another way to ensure your houseplant stays happy and healthy is to place your plant in the right light for the plant you are growing. A high light plant growing in low light is a stressed plant. And just as stressful is a low light plant growing in high light.

Watering your houseplant correctly is also a huge factor in the health of your plant. Too much water can suffocate your plant and rot the roots. Not enough water can shrivel your roots and your plant will wilt. It may come back from being under watered, but it still takes its toll on the plant's health. 
And lastly, air circulation is a plus. I have a ceiling fan running 24/7 in my greenhouse and in my African violet room. Pests do not like wind and by running a fan, the stems of your plants are strengthened. This also helps prevent diseases such as powdery mildew and fungal diseases that can result from wet leaves.
Just remember, healthy plants are pest and disease resistant plants. Try to nip those problems and pests in the bud before they negatively affect your plants.


  1. Thank you for sharing this .... I always give my indoor plants too much love via watering. Your tips and advice are useful. Thank you!