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I’m Maria, the "Plant Killer Turned Plant Lady" with a mission to help you care for plants successfully, grow your indoor jungles, and cultivate more joy in your life. I've got tons of content for you here on the blog, on the Bloom and Grow Radio Podcast, and Bloom and Grow Youtube Show to help you keep blooming and keep growing.
As houseplant parents, most of us will inevitably encounter some type of pest infestation at some point. Seemingly overnight, our beautiful, thriving plants can become under attack by bugs we didn’t even know existed! Pests can quickly damage and even kill our treasured plants if left unchecked. In Episode 2 of the Grow Better Series, my dear friend Leslie Halleck is back to teach us how to identify the most common houseplant pests and take action to get rid of them fast.
Growing Joy: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Cultivating Happiness (and Plants) by Maria Failla, Illustrated by Samantha Leung
There are a few key reasons even the best cared-for houseplants can become susceptible to pests:
Hitchhikers – Eggs or larvae can travel in on new plants, in soil, or on leaves. Carefully inspect new plants before bringing them home.
Stress – When plants are struggling from underwatering, overwatering, or improper lighting, they become more vulnerable to attack.
Environment – Certain temperatures, humidity levels, or stagnant air can create an ideal environment for bugs to multiply. Know which pests are attracted to which conditions.
You’ll quickly notice the adults of this fly species by their erratic flying around plants! But the real culprits are the larvae in the soil, which feed on roots and cause stunted growth.
Signs to look for with a fungus gnat infestation: Adults flying around, overall decline in plant health
Getting rid of fungus gnats in houseplants:
These tiny arachnids look like moving dots to the naked eye. Left unchecked, they form colonies and lay webbing on plants, sucking nutrients via needle-like mouths. They thrive in hot, dry environments.
Signs to look for with a spider mite infestation: Webbing on stems, yellow stippling on leaves
Getting rid of spider mites in houseplants:
Scale insects encase themselves in a waxy, armored coating that makes them very hard to get rid of. They attach themselves to stems, leaves, and branches to feed and leave sticky honeydew in their trail.
Signs to look for with a scale infestation: Honeydew and sooty mold on leaves, leaf drop, brown “scabs” on leaves (those are the bugs)
How to control scale:
Mealybugs are soft-bodied pests that look like little cotton swabs crawling on stems and leaves. Maria called them ‘roly polys’. They produce a fuzzy white wax coating for protection. They thrive in greenhouse conditions.
Signs to look for with a mealybug infestation: White cottony tufts in leaf axils, yellowing/curling leaves, white little cotton like specs on your leaves
How to control mealybugs:
Aphids are soft-bodied insects that come in a variety of colors like green, yellow, black, or white. They feed in dense groups on stems and leaf undersides.
Signs to look for with an aphid infestation: Curled, stunted leaves, honeydew residue, swarms of the bugs on your plants – they are easy to spot
Getting rid of them:
Thrips are tiny, slender insects that love feeding on leaves. They move quickly and hide in tight spots.
Signs to look for with a thrip infestation: Discolored, curled leaves, buds failing to open
How to control thrips:
As their name suggests, these flying pests are small and white. They gather on leaf undersides and quickly reproduce.
Signs to look for with a whitefly infestation: Clouds of white flies flying around your plants when disturbed, honeydew, yellow stippling
How to control whiteflies:
Don’t feel guilty if a plant is beyond saving. An infestation allowed to persist can quickly take over a collection. When damage is too extensive or a plant no longer brings you joy, it’s okay to compost it and start fresh.
To be proactive in managing pest outbreaks, Leslie recommends assembling a plant first aid kit. The must-have items include sticky traps for early pest detection, a magnifying glass for precise pest identification, commercial or homemade insecticidal soap, and horticultural oil for effective pest control.
With some knowledge of their signs, habits, and solutions, you can catch most infestations early and get rid of houseplant pests for good. Your plant babies will thank you!
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Here are links to the houseplant first aid kit items Maria and Leslie discussed in this episode:
Option 1: https://amzn.to/3saVVj9
Option 2: https://amzn.to/3QAx0Qi
Option 3: https://amzn.to/3DLN7mC
Magnifying Glass with Light: https://amzn.to/47mxZtj
Neem Oil: https://amzn.to/3OPlRtG
Houseplant Systemic Insecticide:https://amzn.to/3OO32a6
White Cotton Gloves for Removing Scale: https://amzn.to/3OtKf2L
Latex Gloves: https://amzn.to/47rED1G
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