It’s about time to have another chat about the reality of keeping a houseplant collection… by that, I am referring to the arduous task of pest control. I got such a positive response about my first post on this topic I wrote in May, I wanted to follow it up with another as I’m currently treating a few more plants and wanted to share this process with you. Hopefully it will offer some confidence in tackling these tiresome issues if you find yourself in a similar situation. If you haven’t read the first instalment click HERE and then come back to this post to pick things up again.
As I said in the introduction of my previous post, if you have a houseplant collection, tackling pests will be inevitable at some point. This current wave of HPH casualties have definitely been exacerbated by the dry heat from the high temperatures currently in the UK. In this post, the pests I have been dealing with are spider mites and mealy bugs, both of which (but particularly spider mites) have a tendency to appear when there is a lack of humidity and dry, hot conditions. Of course, prevention is better than cure so daily misting, whist trying to keep humidity levels up are actions to take if you are wanting to keep your plants healthy and happy.
*FOR REFERENCE I USE DR BRONNER’S CASTILLE SOAP – DILUTED AT A RATIO OF 1TSB/1 CUP OF TEPID WATER (AND SOMETIMES ADD SOME MARSEILLES SOAP IF I’M BATHING THEM IN THE BATH IF THEY ARE TOO BIG FOR THE SINK) TO SAVE WATER I TRY TO TREAT MY PLANTS IN THE SINK WHERE POSSIBLE*
DRACAENA FRAGRANS (DRAGON TREE)
I wanted to start with my beloved dragon tree I have had for a few years which I have grown from a really small plant, so for this reason, am quite attached to it! This wasn’t too badly affected but was next to the main culprit plant (coming up later in the post) and after a castille soap spray yesterday, I decided it needed a deeper treatment. This is a castille and marseilles soap bath (ratio given above), where I soak the plant for 30 mins – 1 hour, agitating and rotating regularly. I’m going to come right out and say that it’s a messy job. You’ll need to deep clean after and between plant treatments and disinfect all pots and get some fresh potting mix prepared. It’s not something you can rush or shortcut, so bear this in mind before starting.
HPH tip: where there is a trunk, I don’t like to submerge the plant entirely, but fill is as in the photographs here, to discourage over saturation of water.
CALATHEA WARSCEWICZII AND VARIEGATED ASPIDISTRA
Whilst I like to try solve any plant problems as soon as possible, I’ve recently had to dispose of two of my larger plants because they were at the point of no return. I had been persevering with both of these below for a while now, but spider mites took hold and I didn’t want to risk any larger issues in my apartment…so they’ve gone. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my calathea warscewiczii but my aspidistra was really special to me and it took a lot to get rid of it. I wanted to admit defeat here and say that sometimes this can be the safest option if you have a large collection.
My newest plant purchase is this beautiful ficus audrey / ficus benghalensis from Wilko. If you are a regular reader you’ll know that I am EXTREMELY hesitant about buying plants from chain stores as their plant care regime leaves a lot to be desired. The soil was covered in mildew so when bringing it home I kept it in quarantine (aka on my kitchen floor) before carrying out a castille spray and soil change. If I don’t do a full soak, I use a spray bottle to clean the leaves (top and bottom) then shower off after 20minutes. I do this if I want to be cautious about a new plant , or if it has a couple of mealy bugs (this did on close inspection, but not many).
STROMANTHE SAUGUINEA TRIOSTAR
This plant was the one that started this recent ‘situation’ off in the HPH household. It’s always been a bit battered so excuse it’s dishevelled appearance… I got it for a bargain last year. Stromanthe are part of the prayer plant (marantacae) family that are quite susceptible to red spider mite because they like hight humidity, so bear this in mind before purchasing if you find this environment hard to replicate at home.
I was taking a photo of it after it’s recent repot when I noticed the tell-tale speckles on the underside of the leaves and quickly took it into isolation. I inspected the surrounding plants to find that my dracaena (above) was affected too. The only positive here was that I only repotted the stromanthe just two weeks ago and it was ok then, so I have hopefully caught this attack relatively quickly.
I gave it a bath and went through the process as with my dracaena above and have summarised the points below, to make it clear to follow:
🌿 1. Identify affected plants and isolate.
🌿 2. Determine course of action – light treatment / intense treatment / soil change / dispose of entirely.
🌿 3. Begin treatment using ratios above for castille soap. Rubbing alcohol and neem oil are also very useful to have in your ‘cleaning arsenal’ – read some reviews online if you are interested. Submerge plant and soak for 20minutes – 1 hour, agitating regularly. You can remove the pot so that the plant can be re-potted in fresh soil mix. It’s still really messy.
🌿 4. Remove plant and clean bath/sink/bucket. Rinse off plant with warm water. Inspect to ensure all pests are visibly removed. A second soak is sometimes necessary (if so, repeat above).
🌿 5. Allow plant to dry out of direct light in a warm place.
🌿 6. Disinfect all surfaces and cache/plant pots.
🌿 7. Treat with SB Invigorator and follow instructions on bottle.
🌿 8. Monitor plants closely for a period of 4-6 weeks following up with SB invigorator spray once a week.
🌿 *GENERAL: In terms watering, I like to water lightly after repotting and then get back to the plants’ normal routine after that. Don’t fertilise for a month while the plant is recovering. The whole process can cause some shock for the plant so you might lose a few leaves etc. This is completely normal.
I also record a lot of this process over on my Instagram page and on my Insta stories then save the information under the ‘PLANT CARE‘ highlights so be sure to check that out too. If you are battling pests at the moment I wish you the best of luck!
Thanks for reading!