Monday, February 20, 2012

Controlling Pests on Houseplants

 Houseplants are susceptible to many unsightly insect and mite pests. Some pests cause extensive damage, while others are merely a nuisance.
Here are some control measures:
·        A healthy plant is much more resistant to insect and mite injuries.  Keep house plants well fertilized and adequately watered. Keeping the soil excessively moist favors the development of root rot along with an increase of nuisance pests like the fungus gnat.  When soils are kept too dry, plants are prone to mite problems.
·        Many infestations are brought home with a newly acquired plant. Carefully inspect all plants that are taken home. 
·        Syringing plants - many household plant pests can be controlled, at least in part, by washing the plant periodically with a vigorous jet of water. This is particularly effective for spider mites and aphids, which are readily dislodged.
·        Vacuum – if you have whitefly problems, the regular use of a small, hand-held vacuum can assist in controlling this pest.  Careful not to vacuum up the plant!
·        Sanitation - Seriously infested plants are often best discarded. They can serve as a source for infesting other plants.
·        Alcohol – use  Q-Tips dipped in alcohol to wipe small infestations from the plant.
·        Pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethrins (known as pyrethroids), insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, Neem (derived from seed extracts of the neem plant) and Neem oil can all help in controlling most houseplant pests. Some insecticides, especially the oils, can burn some of the more delicate houseplants.  When in doubt, spray one or two leaves and wait 3-4 days before spraying the whole plant. 
·        There are also systemic insecticides which are absorbed into the plant. As the insect or mite feeds on the plant, they will die.  Look for an insecticide with the active ingredient, Imidacloprid.
                                                                        Mealybug on Palm

Safety Issues:                                    
Only use pesticides that are specifically labeled for use on houseplants. Most yard and garden pesticides do not allow this use.  If possible, take the plant outdoors before spraying to minimize pesticide exposure within the home. When using aerosol sprays, do not apply closer than 18 inches to the plant or injury may occur from the spray.