04 April 2018

pest outbreak

I should have looked closer. Another new-to-me plant, this false aralia, has been sitting in a corner more or less unnoticed.
I meant to repot it with the others, it was crowded when I bought it several weeks ago. But when I picked it up for the procedure, saw with dread it was covered in dusty webbing. Spider mites, ugh.
I upended the entire thing, threw out the soil, bleached the pot, knocked loose dirt off the roots and submerged the entire plant in a large bowl of very soapy, oiled water for good half hour while I worked on other plants. Removed some lower foliage that seemed dead, and gave it a good rinse. It looks much better now.
It also went into a larger pot to spread out. Turns out to be three individuals.
It has a few tiny new baby leaves growing, so I hope all is not lost.
This spelled the end for my six-year-old pepper plant, though. Which has just been limping along. Close look revealed all its leaves had a sickly appearance. I dumped it in the outside trash today. I think because it never has enough sun when I bring indoors for winter, it struggles to stay healthy so is the first to fall to insect pests. I'm tired of taking the risk, spreading things to my other plants...goodbye old pepper. From now on I'll just start new peppers from seed in spring.
I looked close at all the other houseplants in vicinity. Dismayed- the ice plant has suffered a steady leaf drop, so gradual I didn't pay much attention to it. I found more mealy bugs. Wiped off all I could see with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Doused this plant and others in soapy water/oil mixture.
The elephant bush is in bad shape, too. What I thought were drying-up flower stems is actually shriveling foliage. I tried to clean it up as best I could. Found no mealybugs, but gave it a dousing of soap as well.
More plant inspections. Thankfully tarragon looks fully recovered.
Parlor palms are susceptible and they were sitting right next to the false aralia for weeks. I put them in the bathtub, sprayed heavily with the soapy mix, let sit for half an hour, rinsed off well. None of the other plants actually have signs of bugs on them, but to be on the safe side I also sprayed down the spider plants, boston fern, avocado, dracanea, sweet potato vine, sansevieria, large jade and the smaller schefflera. (Avocado and dracanea so large I had to haul them out onto the front porch). Some of those just appreciate the humidity of being misted, I figured a dose of soap wouldn't hurt and they're all prone to catching the spider mites or mealybugs. Especially when they dry out. I should have done more plant spa days this winter!

Going to keep a close eye on the succulents near the window and re-spray if needed. If the bugs keep reappearing I'll use neem oil again.

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