Submitted by New England Nurseries
The parties are over, the decorations tucked away, and we can enjoy a book by the fireplace and beautiful tropical greenery on the warm side of a snowy window. The indoor garden does from time to time, however, require a bit of care.
Holiday plants will last longer in cool temperatures: Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus, cyclamen and kalanchoe will tolerate 40 – 50 degrees (that cool window), poinsettias are happy 55 – 60 degrees, and amaryllis enjoy 60 – 65 degrees. Full sun isn’t necessary. Feed poinsettias with a liquid fertilizer each time you water to prevent leaf drop. You may continue to start paperwhite bulbs for enjoyment well into the spring, but toss out the old bulbs once they have bloomed.
Just a quick review of the most common problems of indoor plants: all can generally be controlled with regular spraying of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Remember that insects are constantly laying eggs, so insect controls must touch the body of the insect and must be repeated to break the cycle (egg, nymph, adult). Mealy bugs are white, powder-like 1/8” long creatures that suck life-supporting sugars from plants, causing leaves to yellow and fall. They often leave sticky deposits on plants and trays and floors beneath the plant.
- Scales are often overlooked, as they appear as brown or green bumps on the stems of plants. They also are sucking insects, and as the population increases they also drip sticky sap.
- Spider mites hatch under all but invisible webs and chew into leaf veins, also causing yellowing and leaf drop. Mites are generally present in dry conditions. Misting or spraying water on the foliage will help prevent an infestation.
- Indian meal moths are often present in the house this time of the year, and do not infest plants. If you have a small buff colored moth in the house they are not winter moths and are not colonizing in your houseplants. Check birdseed stored inside the house or garage and also cereals, crackers, flour and the like in the kitchen. If they are present you will find a small (1/4”) worm along with webbing in the container(s). These are best controlled by disposing of any infested product.
Houseplants help clean and sweetly scent the air and are welcome in our homes during the long New England winter.
Occasional inspection of plants as they are being cared for will generally prevent a problem. For help with identification and control, just give us a call. Better yet, bring in a sample; New England Nurseries is located on Concord Road in Bedford.