At least when gardening outdoors, Nature helps quite a lot. I can dig a hole, amend the soil, put a plant in a spot where it is most likely to survive, water occasionally when there hasn't been rain for awhile, and the odds are good for survival. But houseplants... houseplants are an entirely different beast. They depend entirely on me for survival.
Them odds aren't as good.
I closed my greenhouse up for the winter, as it got too expensive to heat for the few plants I had in there. So in came all the cuttings and the few tender plants I had. I also got a few houseplants this fall from another gardener that was moving away. Many of these went into the guest room, with a few houseplants scattered on windowsills or ledges around the house. After a while, however, I've noticed many of them haven't been doing too well. I spent a few days in denial, but finally resigned myself to diagnosing the problem.
Turns out I have several of them.
Problem #1: Spider Mites
I hate Spider Mites. They are so tiny that it takes forever to figure out what the problem is. A couple tell-tale signs of Spider Mites are speckling of leaves from all the little hordes of mites sucking the juice out of them...
...and a fine webbing that appears around the plants, much like spider webbing.
But by the time you finally figure out that there are Spider Mites, you are in a war for the survival of the plant. In two weeks, a female Mite can lay up to 300 eggs. In a warm, dry climate (say, the climate of a heated house in winter), the eggs can hatch and grow into adults within 5 days. At which point, of course, the cycle repeats, and before you know it, a bazillion Spider Mites now call your plant home.
Did I mention how much I hate Spider Mites?
Problem #2: Fungus Gnats
Since noticing those little black gnats that like moist soil flying around my plants, I've tried to let the plants dry out between waterings, but that is hard with some of the small cuttings and seedlings that I have. I've also gone to my go-to solution of watering the plants with water that has Bt in it. (Bt is the bacteria in Mosquito Dunks and other products that kills larvae.) My Bt must be old or have expired, though, as the Fungus Gnats have only increased in the last few weeks! Ack!
Problem #3: Aphids
Really? How in the world did I get Aphids?!! As if I didn't have enough problems with the Spider Mites...
Problem #4: Root Rot
So far this has been limited to one of the plants given to me by another gardener. She did tell me that it was fine with neglect. I obviously showed this plant way too much love and care, and it got overwhelmed. Or overwatered. Back to the neglect route... I think I can handle that.
Problem #5: This one is the largest problem of all. Literally, the largest. This one pest weighs about 13 pounds, and its sharp teeth and claws allow it to eat and destroy an entire plant in around 5 seconds. (See my poor defoliated plant in the white and blue dragon pot near the top of the post for reference of the damage.)
This one problem is also the main reason I don't usually keep many houseplants.
I have two cats. One comes begging when I make tuna fish, like a proper cat. This one, on the other hand, comes begging when I make salad. Boy, oh boy, does she love her greens.
|I managed to rescue this plant with a few leaves intact (mostly).|
So, my solutions?
#1 Spider Mites: I have been giving my plants showers to try to knock some of them off the leaves. I also have been spraying with Neem Oil once a week. That seemed to slow them down but not stop them. I have now been trying Insecticidal Soap.
#2 Fungus Gnats: I have bought new Bt and have started watered with that to kill the larvae. I have also put sticky tape around, which the flying adults land on and get stuck to.
#3 Aphids: Same solution as #1. Also, whenever I see one, I squish it.
#4 Root Rot: I removed part of the plant and am going back to the neglect route. We'll see what happens.
#5 My plant-eating cat: I have resorted to caging...
Anyone else having problems with houseplants?
Anyone have some good suggestions for getting rid of the pests?
Anyone want a free cat?