How to Identify and Treat Insects and Diseases of Houseplants
1) Healthy looking roots – most nursery and garden centers will allow you to gently slide the root ball from the container. The roots should extend to the edges and be mostly white and pliable. If the roots are black, or brittle, put it back. If the root ball is smelly or very wet, put it back. The continued dryness can be the cause of the brittle roots, whereas the soggy, smelly soil around slimy roots is an indication that the plant has been over-watered many times.
|High Salt Content Turn Roots Brown|
2) Spotted leaves – If the leaves have a brown tip, this plant has probably been watered with chlorinated tap water, or fluoridated tap water. Don’t buy this one!
Take a good look at potential houseplants before leaving the garden center. Clean, healthy plants will bring a lovely addition to your home.
.3) Spots in Patterns on Leaves
Once home, the houseplants can get infected with diseases and insects. These pattern spots are a sign of disease in the houseplant. Some are tan, while other spots seem to have a ring or halo. There is no remedy for bacterial diseases in houseplants. Remove infected portions of the plant. If the bacteria is in all portions of the plant, discard it.
Virus infections are indicated by spots, mosaic stunting, and crinkled leaves. Virus infections cannot be cured, but rarely harm the plant. Isolate the infected plant from others and don’t cross use tools that have been in contact with the sick plant to healthy ones. Wipe with a bleach solution and mild soap.
|Powdery Mildew on Ivy|
Molds and mildews may appear on your plant if the temperatures are too cool, and allowing the soil to remain too moist. Insect pests seem to be the most cause of houseplant concerns but actually, watering issues cause much of the demise in houseplants. Use a Neem oil specifically for indoor use to keep molds, mildews and root rot from too much water in check.
Here are a few insects that you may see, and some simple remedies that are safe and effective.
Once home, inspect the plant for insects and give the whole plant a good wash. Using a hard spray will knock off insects like aphids. A dish washing liquid in solution will also work to wash off your new plant. The dish washing liquid makes the water wetter and will remove dust and dirt as well.
|Spider Mite Web|
|Spider Mite Damage|
Spider mites are not insects, but are related to spiders! (amazing!) Too dry of environment, and dusty conditions will allow these mite to thrive. Here again, that water blast will drive the spider mites off. Misting the plant frequently, 2 – 3 times a week, will help from re-infestation. Mites do not like water.
|Remove Mealy Bugs with Alcohol Swab|
|Infestation of Mealy Bugs|
|Spray solution of Safer(R) Soap|
Thrips are not as common on houseplants, but if you take the plants outside during warm weather, thrips can hitchhike indoors on your plants. Adults and larvae will suck plant juices from plant cells and the damaged leaves of the plant will have a white or silver-flecked section on the leaf and is easily seen with light passing through.
|Thrips and Their Damage|
Scale looks like brown spots on stems of plants, but these spots move! Initially scale is nearly invisible, but as they age they turn darker, and the outer shell is more visible.
|Sooty Mold from Honeydew|
|Sooty Mold - from Thecitrisguy.blogspot.com|
The amount of light for a specific plant, it’s watering needs, and ideal temperature are cultural requirements for a healthy houseplant. Humidity, and type of soil also specific for a plant. A care sheet for a houseplant is usually available at the garden center. On line sites like Guide to Houseplants can give a great amount of information. Don't let these pests stop you from enjoying houseplants. They really require minimal care for a great reward.
What houseplants do you grow? What problems have you had? If I can’t answer you questions, I’m sure many of our gardening community will be able to help. Leave your comments, I love comments.