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Indoor Garden Pests

January 10, 2014

Early detection is key in controlling the pests commonly found on your house plants.  This means inspecting your plants often to eradicate a pest before it gets out of control.  Heavy infestations may require highly involved treatments, or the threshold may become too extreme with no possible treatment solution if ignored for too long.  A good rule is to inspect your plants every time you water them (usually once or twice a week) as some pests in the right indoor environment can get out of control in the matter of a few days.  Also inspect your house plants slowly and closely as most indoor garden pests are very hard to see!

Most Garden Centers have easy to apply insecticides and horticultural oils that are safe for indoor use on house plants, but try using some of the alternative control practices listed below before resorting to using chemicals in your home.

Mealy Bugs
Identification:  White, powdery masses.  Usually found on plant stems or leaf axils.
Control:  Rub off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.  For heavy infestations, try dislodging the pest with water pressure in a shower or sink, or use a medical syringe with water for tender plants that can’t take high pressure.

Spider Mites
Identification:  Very tiny, almost microscopic.  Usually the webbing is more noticeable.
Control:  Try applying a light water spray or mist to destroy the webbing.  Do this repeatedly as the webbing reforms to disrupt the life cycle and gradually lower the population.  This pest thrives in warm, dry conditions so raising the humidity level in your home may also help.

Identification:  Round, hard masses.  Often found on the underside of leaves.
Control:  Try using horticultural oils that are safe for indoor houseplants.  Otherwise try physically scraping the pest off the leaf surface (water spray will not dislodge.)  For larger infestations, removing an entire leaf or even section of the plant may be necessary.

Identification:  A larger insect, somewhat pare shaped.  Often found feeding on the tips of leaves.
Control:  Home and garden insecticide sprays that are safe to use on plants work well.  Quarantining an infested plant away from other houseplants may be necessary as this pest may have wings present to spread to other nearby plants more easily (although not always winged.)

 -Jonathan Milbrodt, TBG Plant Records Curator

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