Despite the best care no plant, outdoor or indoor, is 100% immune from insects and diseases. Sometimes it seems that one day your plants look great and the next day they appear sick or just not quite themselves. I’m a firm believer that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and I recommend that at least once a week you check your houseplants and make sure that they are healthy and happy. Pests and diseases can enter your home in several ways, but there are things that you can do to make sure they don’t become “permanent” residents.
If you have your indoor plants that spend the growing season outdoors, pests and diseases can impact your houseplants when you bring them back inside. Due to their small size Whiteflies, Aphids and Spider Mites are difficult to spot and they can easily be transported indoors along with your plant. When bringing a plant indoors I try to thoroughly check the leaves and the soil to make sure I don’t see any unwanted guests. For good measure I also spray my houseplants with insecticidal soap, making sure I spray the underside of the leaves, the area between the stems and the leaves and the soil. Finally, I make sure I check the plant several times during the first week to ten days it returns indoors just to keep an eye out for anything I might have missed the first time.
Another way that pests and diseases can get into your home is when you purchase a new plant or receive one as a gift. Since you don’t know where a new plant has come from you want to be sure you inspect it closely and look out for visible insects or evidence of insect damage, such as brown spots or holes in the leaves. You should also be on the lookout for diseases such as white or gray fungus which can easily spread on plants that have been placed in close proximity to one another in a display where air circulation is limited. Powdery Mildew can also be a problem, particularly with African Violets and Begonias. Once you get the plant home it is a good idea to isolate it before displaying with your existing houseplants. Keeping it separated from your existing plants allows you to contain these problems if they do develop.
Ultimately, the best defense against insects and disease is keeping your houseplants healthy. Growing the plant in the proper conditions is the best way to make sure they are healthy. Focusing on the following goals will make your houseplants happy and healthy:
• Be mindful of air circulation; putting plants too close together can promote fungus and other diseases.
• If the houseplant thrives in humid conditions in the wild it needs to have the same conditions in your home. Most houses are dry during the winter months, so spraying the leaves of your plants 2 to 3 times a week may be necessary.
• Be sure to remove dead foliage and don’t allow it to sit on your soil. This can create a thriving environment for insects and diseases.
If you follow these suggestions you can keep your houseplants happy and healthy!