Fending off bugs on plants you’ve brought indoors

Posted by
By Beth Botts

When you bring in houseplants from outdoors, there’s going to be culture shock. They are moving to a world of less light, bone-dry air and no beneficial insects. That’s important: Outside, predator insects curb most problem insects on houseplants by eating them for lunch.But inside our houses, it’s up to us.

Carefully inspect any plants that have returned indoors for signs of insects or insect eggs. A spray of insecticidal soap — don’t miss the undersides of the leaves — can be an effective preventive measure for bugs you can’t see. Use a soap that’s made for plants, typically sold at garden and home centers, and not a homemade concoction that might damage the leaf surface.

If you find an infested plant, put it in quarantine for several weeks until the problem is handled. You don’t want the bugs to spread to the whole collection of plants clustered by your windowsill.

As you arrange your pots, think about providing humidity; dry, heated air stresses plants and encourages spider mites and other plant problems. If you can, include a humidifier in your arrangement. Or set the plants above (not in) shallow trays or saucers filled with water. The water will evaporate up around the foliage and give the plants some relief. Elevate the plants above the water level with rocks or bottle caps.

How dry am I? Houseplants need water, but not too much. Soil that stays wet can suffocate the plants’ roots and invite fungus gnats to lay eggs. With experience, you can learn to tell when to water and when not to, by inserting a finger in the soil to feel for dampness or hefting the pot to see how heavy it is. Don’t trust yourself? Try an easy-to-use moisture meter such as the WaterStik (sold at some garden centers or at waterstik.com; $29.95 for two).

Still time to plant bulbs: With cold rain having fallen in the prime weeks of October, you may not have gotten all your bulbs into the ground. Although it’s best for bulbs to have a few weeks to work on their root systems in fall, you can plant them until the ground is frozen with a reasonable expectation of spring bloom. Remember, though, the longer you wait in fall, the greater the chance of a sudden deep cold snap that will freeze the soil hard as a rock.

Leave a Reply

Growing Expectations, Inc. PO Box 268 Princeton, NJ 08542 Telephone – (609) 924 – 9782 FAX (609) 737 – 2344