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Protecting your loved ones from little Critters

Updated: Mar 11



There is something uniquely upsetting to see your precious plant has become someone's lunch. Here's our top tips for avoiding that misery. The first & most important of which is just to keep an eye out for them. Early intervention makes for swift resolution so we've included things to look out for as you water feed & clean your plants.


Know your foes

There are 3 points of possible attack. Your plant roots, its sap & its leaves. The first is the most uncommon in UK. Presuming that you are buying your plants from a reputable place you can be confident that the growing medium has no unwelcome travellers. If in doubt isolate your new plant & closely inspect it before introducing it to the rest of your collection.


The sap suckers

These are the most common & come in at least 3 colours; white, black & green. The adult #aphid fly through open windows & lay their eggs on your plants. Once hatched the tiny grubs start sucking sap. Plants with thin leaves, such as #tradescantia & #oxalis are the most susceptible but they will also have a go at a thicker leaf like a #hoya or #peperomia. The trick is to spot them early & then you can just squish them & remove the damaged plant material. If they have got a bit of a hold the isolate the affected plant & spray it with a very dilute solution of washing up liquid. Make sure that you completely cover all the bugs with it & it will do the job.


More challenging are the dreaded #Spidermites which love our dry radiator heated homes. They are hard to spot but make very fine webs over the surface of your plants. They use these not to catch prey, but to travel. Roaming easily around your plants whilst eating their sap. The result is lots of unsightly transparent, or brownish, spots on the surface of the leaves where the cells have died. The #organic option is to expose your plant to humid conditions. Keep spraying & give it a tepid shower at least once a week until there is no sign of them. If you have a #spidermite metropolis on your plants invest #phytosieuluspersimilis which will munch on them but die off if the temperature drops below 18C. If these fail & you go the chemical route look for products that contain natural fatty acids or have been formulated with a surfactant. These enable the solution to effectively coat the little critters.


The leaf munchers

There are a range of other critters whose main goal is to eat your plant's sap & cellulose. Amongst these the most common are #scaleinsects. Again these are hard to spot because they are tiny & have a hard outer shell that locks them into place on the leaf. Even if you are looking at them directly they can be easily mistaken for a natural blemish. But you can tell they are there because the leaf cells start leaking sap. This eventually turns black & creates a sooty like mould. If you spot this look under the leaves & if you can see small round or oblong brown discs on the leaves or stems you've got them. The solution is to weaken the shells with alcohol & after five minutes remove them with a damp cloth. If they are small in number you can also pick them off one at a time using the edge of a butter knife or tea spoon to avoid damage to the leaf or stem.


The harmless but annoying ones

A blog about pests wouldn't be complete without a mention of #fungusgnats or #sciaridflies. These do your plants no harm but they are annoying & unless you want little black flies round your plants you might want rid. The larvae are small worm like creatures that live just under the surface of your soil. To reduce their habitat make sure you let your plants dry out between watering. The #droughtanddrench method, which in any case preferred by many of the plants we keep, will reduce the availability of the moist soil conditions they need. This is harder if you are keeping #ferns or plants like #ficus or #tradescanta or #begonias which like it on the damp side. In which case use #nematodes to kill them off. These are readily available microscopic worms which will eat the flies in their larva stages. This is a very easy & effective method of getting rid. Chemical solutions such as Pyrethroids & Pyrethrin do give you some control but if the adults have already laid eggs before you spraying you will need to treat again every couple of weeks until there are no adults left.


For more #plantcaretips & to see our selection of lovely #pestfreeplants come & see us at www.plantyhaus.co.uk


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