Last round of the plant problems series! Don’t mistake that to mean that all the plant problems are covered in these last few blog posts - just that I’m wrapping it up here for now.
As promised, this week I’ll be tackling the wonderful world of pests and diseases and dishing out a few of our favourite remedies. If you take anything away from this post though make it this: healthy happy plants are far less likely to suffer from any pest invasions or be struck down by some disease. They won’t be immune to them, but they’ll be able to defend themselves better if they do have an encounter. So do right by your plants and you’ll find you won’t be battling a new pest every other day.
Let’s start with Pests:
Any crazy indoor plant person would have had a run in with a pest or two. Think aphids (small, green or black insects that hang out in groups and suck on new growth), Mealy bug (white, almost fluffy in appearance that feed on foliage and excrete a sticky residue that can attract mould), Scale (little black bumps on the leaves and branches) and Spider Mite (tiny red/brown specks that feed off the leaves).
The good thing is, the strategy here is pretty similar for a lot of them.
For aphids: You’ll notice most of them will be congregating around the fresh new growth of the plant as that’s where the tasty stuff is. If the plant size allows, take it into the shower or outside and hose them all off. Then remove them using a very mild soap and water mix and wipe down the affected parts of the plant.
For mealy bug: These guys look like little bits of white fluff hanging out in the leaf nodes (joints where the leaf and stem meet), stems, new growth and leaf veins. Good news is they’re pretty easy to manage. They feed on the foliage which can turn it yellow and they excrete a sticky residue that attracts mould (sooty mould). The good news is you can literally take a damp cloth wipe these guys away. Give the leaves a good spray with a natural pesticide and repeat after a week or so to get any stragglers.
Scale: It’s a little more work with these things. They can cause the plants to yellow off and eventually wilt and die. They look like tiny black bumps and they are real clingers. You can take a damp cloth and gently scrape them off the leaves. Using a good, natural pesticide in conjunction with the scraping will help catch anything you missed. We like to give the plannt a good spray before touching the leaves (make sure you get the undersides!) and then a light one after we’re done.
Spider mite:THE WORST! You don’t want to have a spider mite infestation in your house. If you do end up dealing with them, quarantine the infected plants immediately as these little pests will spread and spread fast. Clean the leaves with a very mild soap and water mixture, then follow up with a spray of natural pesticide. Repeat every 5 days and keep the plant quarantined until you’re sure you’re in the clear!
If you can provide good air circulation, free draining potting mix and a pest free environment, you’re generally going to have a disease free plant. The most common indoor plant related diseases are usually the result of excessive moisture (both in the air or the potting medium) or because of an untreated pest problem. Here we go:
Sooty Mould:Sooty mould is a black, sticky fungus that grows on honeydew - the excrement of pests like aphids and scale. If untreated, it can affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesise. Best way to manage it is to treat the pest problem, but in the meantime give the leaves a wipe down with a damp cloth and a good natural leaf shine.
Leaf Spot:This shows up as little yellow or brown spots on the leaf. Remove the affected leaves and give the plant a spray with a good natural fungicide. Make sure the plant has good air circulation and avoid misting unless absolutely necessary.
Crown Rot:This disease moves in when the potting medium is too wet. It will cause the roots to rot and turn black. The leaves might yellow off too. To treat, drench the soil with a natural fungicide and make sure it’s free draining. You may need to repot with a new mix. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
Bacterial Blight:This disease shows up as little pale-green spots that blister up and causes the leaves to wilt. To treat, remove the infected leaves and give the plant a spray with a natural fungicide. Don’t mist! Avoid getting the foliage wet and don’t let any dead foliage sit on the soil surface. Make sure the plant has good airflow around it.