Battle of the bugs

Indoor plants can be found in malls, hospitals, offices and homes. If these plants are real as opposed to artificial, then someone is taking time each week to ensure that the plants are watered and healthy.

Indoor plants can be found in malls, hospitals, offices and homes.

If these plants are real as opposed to artificial, then someone is taking time each week to ensure that the plants are watered and healthy.

Plants that have their living requirements met, temperature, light, nutrients and moisture usually thrive. Plants that live in less than perfect growing conditions will reflect it in their growth.

Temperature in most buildings is acceptable to most indoor or tropical plants. Problems occur if the plant encounters a cool draft. Ones that are exposed to outside temperatures during the winter months will lose leaves and or branches if they get too cold.

Problems occur if plants are placed in light that is either too bright or dull. The majority of tropical plants are part of the understory growth in their native environment. When this is the case the plants do best out of direct sunlight. Place these plants in a bright area or in a north or east window as opposed to south or west windows. Plants that are placed in too bright a light will have leaves that turn burn and turn brown.

Plants that are in too little light will have one of two growth habits. The one that is rarely noticed is no new growth. The other is when the plant will put out a few new leaves that will be sparse. The stem will be thin and weak. All new growth will be in the direction of the light.

In either scenario, the existing leaves will eventually get old and the plant will slowly die.

Plants without the proper nutrients will not thrive. The colour of the leaves is a good indication as to what nutrients are missing.

Yellow leaf with dark green veins which indicates a lack of nitrogen is one of the most common problems.

Fertilizing with a balanced fertilizer on a regular basis eliminates most nutritional deficiencies. Always follow the manufacture’s recommendations on the fertilizer package.

Overwatering kills more plants than under watering. If watering has been a problem in the past, set up a schedule which will make sure that plants are watered on the same day each week. Stick your finger under the soil surface and check the moisture level.

Water when the soil is dry to the touch. There are moisture testers on the market that will give you the same information as touching the soil.

Insects can become a problem. These pests usually make their homes on plants that are not healthy.

Sticky spots on leaves can be a sign that aphids are in the vicinity.

Aphids release sticky honeydew as they move. Honeydew does not hurt the plant but aphids will suck the juices out of the plants leaves.

Tiny webs between the branches usually mean that spider mites are present. Leaves that are mottled with yellow can be evidence that an insect has

been feeding on the leaf.

If any of these signs are present on the plant turn the leaves over and look for insects and eggs. A magnifying glass will make finding insects and eggs easier.

Spider mites are small and can be confused with small specks of peat moss. The difference being insects usually move when they are given a nudge; peat moss does not.

Aphids are usually bigger and easier to find. These insects are translucent and can be green, white or black. When a colony has become too big for the plant to support them they will develop wings and head to another plant.

Eggs are often laid on the backside of leaves, along veins. They blend in well, looking like slight bumps.

If the insect has infested the whole plant it is often easier to dispose of an infected plant as opposed to treating it.

Small infestations can be treated with repeat spray applications of soapy water. The soap coats the insects and kills them. Repeat applications are needed as it does not hurt eggs that will continue to hatch, and lay more eggs.

Time and planning will ensure that houseplants thrive.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com

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