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  • Paddy
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.

A - Z Plant List

A - B - C - D/E

F - G - H/I/J

K/L - M - N/O

P - Q/R - S

T to Z

 

The A - Z of House Plants is currently under construction. Plant names will be linked to their corresponding articles as they are added. Please be patient - there are a lot of plants, and there may be days when only one or two articles can be added at a time. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of these general care articles:

 

A brief Guide to Potting Mixes

 

When and how to repot House Plants

 

Grooming House Plants - the Basics

 

Indoor House Plants and Light

 

Ten House Plants tolerating low Light Conditions

 

Indoor House Plants and Humidity Levels

 

Watering Indoor House Plants

 

Fertilising House Plants

 


To save readers having to scroll through the whole alphabet when looking for a specific plant, each section will be moved to its own page once all corresponding articles have been added. 

 

Yet to come: 

 

H

Haworthia

(Haworthia species)

Heartleaf Philodendron

(Philodendron scandens)

Hellebore

(Helleborus niger)

 Hibiscus

(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hyacinth Flower

(Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids)

Hydrangea

(Hydrangea macrophylla)

 

I

Impatiens

(Impatiens hybrids)

Iron Cross Begonia

(Begonia masoniana)

Ivy Geranium

(Pelargonium peltatum)

Ixora 

(Ixora coccinea)

 

J

Jade Plant

(Crassula ovata)

Janet Craig Dracaena

(Dracaena deremensis)

Japanese Aralia

(Fatsia japonica)

Jasmine Plant

(Jasminum polyanthum)

Jerusalem Cherry

(Solanum pseudocapsicum)

 

K

Kaffir Lily

(Clivia miniata)

Kentia Palm

(Howea forsteriana)

 

L

Lady Palm

(Rhapis excelsa)

Lantana Plants

(Lantana camara)

Lily of the Valley                                      

(Convallaria majalis)

Lipstick Plant                                          

(Aeschynanthus lobbianus)

Living Stones                                           

(Lithops species)

Lucky Bamboo                                        

(Dracaena sanderiana)

 

M

Madagascar Palm                                    

(Pachypodium lamerei)

Maidenhair Fern                                       

(Adiantum)

Mandevilla Plant                                       

(Mandevilla hybrids)

Martha Washington Geranium                   

(Pelargonium domesticum)

Medinilla                                                 

(Medinilla magnifica)

Ming Aralia                                              

(Polyscias fruticosa)

Miniature Roses                                        

(Rosa chinensis hybrids)

Mona Lavender                                        

(Plectranthus hybrid)

Money Tree Plant                                     

(Pachira aquatica)

Moses in the Cradle                                 

(Tradescantia spathacea)

Mother of Thousands                                

(Kalanchoe daigremontiana)

Mother-in-Law's Tongue/ Snake Plant        

(Sansevieria trifasciata)

 

N

Nerve Plant                                              

(Fittonia verschaffeltii)

New Guinea Impatiens                              

(Impatiens x hawkeri hybrid)

Norfolk Island Pine                                   

(Araucaria heterophylla)

 

O

Oleander Plant                                         

(Nerium oleander)

Orchid Cactus                                         

(Epiphyllum species and hybrids)

Ornamental Chili Pepper                           

(Capsicum annuum)

 

P

Paddle Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe thyrsiflora)

Panda Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe tomentosa)

Pansy                                                     

(Viola x wittrockiana)

Paperwhite Narcissus                               

(Narcissus jonquilla)

Papyrus Plant                                          

(Cyperus papyrus)

Parlor Palm                                             

(Chamaedorea elegans)

Parrot Flower                                           

(Heliconia psittacorum)

Passion Flower                                        

(Passiflora caerulea)

Peace Lily

(Spathiphyllum)

Peacock Plant                                         

(Calathea makoyana)

Peperomia                                               

(Peperomia caperata)

Periwinkle Flower                                     

(Catharanthus roseus)

Persian Shield                                         

(Strobilanthes dyerianus)

Persian Violet                                          

(Exacum affine)

Piggyback Plant                                      

(Tolmiea menziesii)

Pink Calla Lily                                         

(Zantedeschia rehmannii)

Pink Quill                                                

(Tillandsia cyanea)

Pitcher Plant                                           

(Nepenthes hybrids)

Plumeria                                                 

(Plumeria rubra)

Pocketbook Plant                                    

(Calceolaria herbeohybrida)

Poinsettia                                                

(Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Polka Dot Plant                                       

(Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Ponytail Palm                                          

(Beaucarnea recurvata)

Pothos/ Devil's Ivy                                    

(Epipremnum aureum)

Powder Puff Tree                                      

(Calliandra haematocephala)

Prayer Plant                                            

(Maranta leuconeura)

Primrose Flowers                                     

(Primula hybrids)

Purple Heart Plant                                    

(Tradescantia pallida)

Purple Passion Plant                                

(Gynura aurantiaca)

Purple Shamrock                                     

(Oxalis regnellii)

Pygmy Date Palm                                     

(Phoenix roebelenii)

 

Q

Queen's Tears                                         

(Billbergia nutans)

 

R

Rabbit Foot Fern                                      

(Davallia fejeensis)

Rex Begonia                                            

(Begonia rex)

Rosary Vine                                            

(Ceropegia woodii)

Rubber Plant                                           

(Ficus elastica)

 

S

Sago Palm                                              

(Cycas revoluta)

Satin Pothos                                           

(Scindapsus pictus)

Scarlet Star                                             

(Guzmania lingulata)

Scented Geranium                                   

(Pelargonium species and hybrids)

Schefflera                                                

(Schefflera actinophylla)

Sensitive Plant                                         

(Mimosa pudica)

Shamrock Plant                                       

(Oxalis species)

Shrimp Plant                                           

(Justicia brandegeana)

Siam Tulip                                               

(Curcuma alismatifolia)

Spider Lily                                               

(Hymenocallis littoralis)

Spider Plant

(Chlorophytum comosum)

Split-Leaf Philodendron                             

(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Staghorn Fern                                          

(Platycerium bifurcatum)

Strawberry Begonia                                  

(Saxifraga stolonifera)

String of Pearls                                        

(Senecio rowleyanus)

Swedish Ivy                                             

(Plectranthus species)

Sweet Potato Vine                                   

(Ipomea batatas)

Swiss Cheese Plant                                 

(Monstera deliciosa)


T

Thanksgiving Cactus                                

(Schlumbergera truncata)

Ti Plant                                                   

(Cordyline terminalis)

Tiger's Jaw                                              

(Faucaria tigrina)

Tulips                                                      

(Tulipa hybrids)

 

U - V - W

Urn Plant                                                 

(Aechmea fasciata)

Venus Fly Trap                                        

(Dionaea muscipula)

Wandering Jew                                        

(Tradescantia albiflora)

Wax Begonia                                           

(Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

Wax Plant                                               

(Hoya carnosa)

Weeping Fig                                            

(Ficus benjamina)

Windmill Palm Tree                                  

(Trachycarpus fortunei)

 

X - Y - Z

Yucca                                                     

(Yucca elephantipes)

Zebra Plant                                              

(Aphelandra squarrosa)

ZZ Plant                                                  

(Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Sad News...

quote-10-06-2013-RIP.jpg

Stop Animal Cruelty

Instead of protecting the precious diversity of life on our planet, many countries, groups and individuals delight in performing acts of incredible cruelty to and on animals. To help stop this insanity going on, please go to The Petitions Site and add your voice to the thousands of individuals who are prepared to stand up and say: ' Enough is enough. Stop this now!' 

December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:29

The common pest usually referred to as whitefly is actually the Glasshouse whitefly, and is mostly found on greenhouse and indoor plants. Clouds of the approximately 1.5 mm (1/16 in) long white, winged adults rising as plants are disturbed are typically the first indication of infestations.

Female whitefly lay off-white cylindrical eggs (which have a slight yellowish-green tinge) either singly or in neat little circles. Shortly after, the also off-white nymphs will hatch. The nymphs spend most of their time in the same place - typically on the underside of leaves - feeding on the plant's sap and weakening it in the process.

Because they are quite difficult to detect and many strains of this pest have already developed or are able to quickly develop a resistance to most pesticides, prevention is one of the most effective measures of controlling them.

Signs of Infestation

whiteflyClouds of adults rising during watering, or when moving the plant, as well as circles of eggs and/ or scale-like nymphs, which are easily spotted underneath leaves and on stems, are sure signs of whitefly infestations. Black areas caused by sooty mould attracted by the honeydew secreted by both adults and nymphs; slow/ stunted growth and wilting/ dropping foliage also indicate infestations.

Dealing with Infestations

Immediate quarantine and pruning off all affected plant parts is essential to prevent the infestation from spreading. If a plant is suffering from a really heavy, serious infestation, it may well not recover at all. If only a small area is infested, it is often possible to remove these pests and their offspring by wiping them off with a soft, damp cloth, or by giving the plant a wash with insecticidal soap.

In greenhouses, introduction of Encarsia formosa, a tiny parasitic wasp that will attack whitefly nymphs, is highly effective if introduced before the infestation becomes too heavy. Monitoring the success of this method is made easy by the fact that parasitized nymphs will turn black. The wasp is, however, susceptible to pesticides, meaning they can not be used in conjunction with this method.

On house plants, yellow sticky traps often help to reduce adult populations. Home-made sprays may also help to deter these pests and their nymphs.

Contact sprays - Deltamethrin, urea/ mineral lattice, lambda cyhalothrin, fatty acids or plant oils/ extracts - must be used frequently, as their effect is relatively short-lived. A resistance to lambda cyhalothrin and/ or Deltamethrin may also already haven been developed, or may be developed fairly quickly by offspring.

Systemic insecticides - thiamethoxam, acetamiprid or thiacloprid - tend to be most effective, as they are absorbed into the plant's tissue and affect pests by being taken in through feeding. As these substances are toxic, taking careful note of instructions and warnings before, during and after use is of utmost importance.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:25

thripsAlso known as storm flies, thunder blights, thunder bugs or thunder flies, thrips have a slender, cigar-shaped body typically ranging from 0.5 to 1 mm (0.02 to 0.04 in) in length, although predatory thrips can grow to lengths of 14 mm (0.55 in).

Typically light to dark brown in colour, most adult thrips have pairs of fuzzy wings, but many of them will hop rather than actually fly. Those that do fly will move on to neighbouring plants when disturbed, spreading the infestation in the process.

Females produce minute kidney-shaped eggs, from which the typically wingless, yellowish young will hatch. Hatching may, depending on species, take a single day or several weeks.

Though not common on house plants - they much prefer to live on outdoor flowers - thrips may hitch a lift on plants, pets or people to get indoors. Once there, their only choice is to feed on whatever is available, namely house plants. As they reproduce rapidly, it is quite possible to have a full blown infestation within a very short time.

For this reason, it is essential to carefully observe preventative measures, such as isolating new plants and plants returning inside after spending the summer in the garden; washing pots and tools carefully and inspecting plants on a regular basis.

Signs of Infestation

thrips-infestationBecause thrips rasp into flower petals and leaves to get at the sap, leaves and petals often appear distorted and feature visible scars. Thrips often also leave visible dark spots on flower petals and silvery streaks on foliage. In addition, it may be possible to detect the movement of congregations of larvae on the soil.

Dealing with Infestations

Infested plants should be isolated immediately; followed by removal of affected plant parts. Light infestations can often be removed by simply spraying the plant with water to wash them off. This should be repeated periodically (every couple of days).

Heavier infestations may benefit from sprays containing insecticidal soap or Neem oil, and placing blue (unlike most other pests, which are attracted to yellow, thrips are attracted by bright blue) sticky traps near plants will also help.

Diazinon or malathion sprays, systemic insecticides or biological insecticides, such as, for example, Verticillium lecanii or Beauveria bassiana (both of which have a very clear effect on adults, eggs and larvae of thrips) should help to control more serious, stubborn infestations.

Staff at nurseries/ garden centres or online experts will be able to advise which method will be the most suitable solution under any given circumstances. Naturally, reading labels and following instructions carefully is important.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:21

spider-mitesSpider mites belong to the mite (Acari) family of Tetranychidae, a family including around 1,200 species. Known to feed on hundreds of different plant-species by puncturing plant cells using their mouth-parts, which are needle-sharp, they can quickly destroy a plant before moving on to the next host.

Under 1 mm (0.04 in) in size, spider mites, which vary in colour, are extremely difficult to detect without the help of a magnifying glass. All too often, infestations are not discovered until the silky webbing used to protect colonies is detected, by which time they are usually well established.

The reason for this is simple: spider mite species are arrhenotochous, meaning the females are diploid, while the males are haploid. In essence, this means that both mated and unmated females will lay eggs. The eggs of unmated females will exclusively result in male offspring.

Mated females will prevent fertilisation of some of their eggs in order to produce males, while all fertilised eggs result in female offspring. The result of this arrangements is a staggering rate of reproduction.

Each female of the two-spotted spider mite (the species most likely to invade house plants), for instance, is capable of producing at least 20 minute spherical eggs per day. Considering that a female will live up to 4 weeks, eggs typically hatch within around 3 days and the young will be sexually mature within about 5 days, a single female can produce millions of offspring within as little as one month.

Signs of Infestation

spider-mite-infestationOnly regular inspections with a magnifying glass will reveal an infestation within its earlier stages. Fine webbing under leaves, or between stems and leaves and a bronzed, washed appearance of the plant indicate heavy infestations. By this time, controlling the infestation is often extremely difficult, if not downright impossible.

Preventing infestations from occurring in the first place is therefore preferable. Raising humidity and regularly misting plants helps to avoid spider mites, as they tend to prefer drier conditions.

Dealing with Infestations

Initial steps include immediately isolating the plant and removing damaged/ badly infested foliage and stems. An insecticidal soap and water solution, or a solution of fragrance/ additive-free dish washing liquid and water, can then be used to wash the plant carefully. Long ivy stems can be submerged in such a solution.

Naturally, it is essential to rinse the plant off thoroughly afterwards, and the water used should, by the way, be at room-temperature. This procedure should be repeated every two two three days for maximum effect, preferably accompanied by daily sprays - using a jet as hard as the plant can take comfortably - with water.

As spider mites are not insects - and often very quickly develop resistance to pesticides anyway - sprays of any kind can only be effective if they are designed to deal with this pest and used frequently (daily) and thoroughly for prolonged periods.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:17

scale-insectsThe scale insect, often simply known as scale, is a limpet-like sap sucking pest likely to infest just about any greenhouse, ornamental or house plant, as well as fruits and even vegetables, although some of its many species seem to have developed a particular taste for plants belonging to the fern and fig (ficus) families.

Most scale species will grow to lengths from 1 to 6 mm (less than 1/4 in), although the Wisteria scale, Eulecanium excrescens, can grow as long as 10 mm (about 1/2 in). Shapes and colours vary between species, but all of them feature shell-like coverings as adults.

Breeding continuously, some species, like the Cushion Scale (Pulvinaria) deposit their eggs somewhere out of the way, typically protecting them with a mass of white, waxy fibres. Others lay their eggs within their own protective shells.

Adults are typically fairly sedentary, but the newly hatched nymphs will happily explore new grounds all over the original host plant and any nearby plants they can reach, subsequently spreading the infestation.

They are typically found on plants' stems and the back of leaves, more often than not along the leaf's central veins. Here, they feed on the plant's sap and excrete honeydew, which may attract ants, other pests and sooty black mould.

Signs of Infestation

scale-insect-infestationScale infestations can be detected by patches of the fibrous white wax; patches of honeydew and/ or a blackened appearance of leaves/ stems due to sooty mould attracted by the honeydew; discard outer coverings (shell-like scales/ bumps), and, of course, insect activity.

Poor, stunted growth and a visible loss of vigour in the plant are also indications of scale presence, as is the appearance of weakened, yellowing areas. If left untreated, the affected plant/s may eventually die.

For obvious reasons, it is best to prevent infestations in the first place. Regular checking will ensure potential infestations can be dealt with as soon as possible.

Dealing with Infestations

Two scale species - the Hemispherical Scale, Saisettia coffeae, and the Soft Scale, Coccus hesperidum - can, if affecting greenhouse plants, be combated with the help of a parasitic wasp, Metaphycus helvolus, their natural enemy.

For indoor plants and the majority of scale species, other steps have to be taken. If infestations have been detected early, they can often be resolved by touching each one of the pests with a little cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol, although are is advised, as too much alcohol touching the plant may cause tissue damage.

Home-made sprays or Malathion may also help to deal with minor infestations. For heavy, stubborn problems, chemical solutions are often the only effective answer. 

Contact sprays - like Deltamethrin or organic sprays - have only a limited effect due to the fact that adults are protected against them by their shell and, as a result of continual breeding, several life-cycle stages of this pest will be present on a plant at any given moment during the year. In addition, these pesticides work only for short periods, so application has to be repeated frequently over prolonged periods.

Systemic pesticides - thiacloprid, acetamiprid or thiamethoxam - offer a more effective solution, but need to be treated with utmost care and should never be used if edible plants/ food items are kept nearby. Before using these sprays, it is therefore vitally important to read labels and heed all instructions/ warnings carefully.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:13

mealy-bugsMealy bugs are common, sap sucking pests that thrive especially well in warm conditions. Although they will infest a whole list of house plants - as well as greenhouse plants - they have developed a particular taste for begonias, coleus, African violets, cacti and succulents. They are active and will continually breed all year round, and tend to live in clusters, usually in protected parts - like leaf sheaths and axils, between twining stems or closely layered leaves, or underneath loose pieces of bark - of plants.

Colonies feed on the plant's sap and destroy its tissue in the process. The honeydew secreted by mealy bugs attracts sooty mould, which will form unsightly black patches on the plant, as well as ants. Some species also feed on roots, and can often be found at the bottom of pots or as woolly white masses around a plant's roots.

The adult female has an oval, soft body of up to around 4 mm (1/4 in) in length. While she may be pink, the waxy powder her body is covered in will give her a white appearance, which is enhanced by the waxy filaments projecting from her body's edges.

She will lay her eggs in a cotton-like pouch and protects them with the waxy substance she secrets. The nymphs hatching from these eggs about a week later look like tiny adults and will quickly crawl to a protected spot (earning them the commonly used name of crawlers) allowing them to feed in safety until they are mature, which will be a month or two later.

Male mealy bugs are extremely small, have two wings, do not feed, and basically live just long enough to reproduce.  Females can not fly and do not crawl far, either, so as a rule, infestations are introduced through new plants that are infested. Keeping such plants under quarantine for at least 4 to 6 weeks, regularly checking for infestations and, if necessary, treating the plant before placing it among existing plants should help to prevent problems, as will promptly removing dead leaves, bits of pruned-off stems and other waste material.

Signs of Infestation

mealy-bug-infestationSpecks or patches of fluffy white wax are typically the first sign of a mealy bug infestation. Both the females and their orange-pink eggs can be found below this substance. Accumulations of honeydew may also be visible, in particular if the infestation is heavy. In this case, blackened patches of sooty mould, which is attracted by the honeydew, may also be present. Root-feeding mealy bugs can be detected by easing the plant out of its container and looking for the tell-tale white mass among the roots. Mealy bug activity may also cause loss of vigour in the plant, as well as stunted growth and prematurely dropping leaves.

Dealing with Infestations

Infestations on plants kept in greenhouses can often be resolved by introducing Leptomastix spp., a parasitic wasp, or Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a ladybird with larvae that have an appearance similar to adult mealy bugs. It should be noted, however, that both of these natural predators require comparatively high temperatures, making them effective only from May to September. They are also susceptible to pesticides, and should therefore not be used in conjunction with chemical solutions.

Naturally, they are also not suitable for use on plants kept in the home. Here, minor infestations can often be dealt with by using a solution of insecticidal soap, a little cooking oil and water. A cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol will also work, as will many home-made sprays. Root-feeders can often be effectively removed by washing the soil - complete with the unwelcome visitors - off the roots, removing affected parts and replanting the plant in fresh soil. It is vital to use either a new pot or wash the old one thoroughly before replanting to ensure no eggs likely to re-colonise the soil are hidden in it.

If the use of chemical solutions becomes necessary, it is worth remembering that organic pesticides with plant oils/ extracts and/ or fatty acids, as well as synthetic contact pesticides such as, for instance, Deltamethrin, will require repeated, regular applications to be effective, as they work only for short periods of time. Diazinon will also work, but it is essential to thoroughly wet the invaders with it.

For particularly heavy, stubborn infestation, systemic insecticides tend to be far more effective. Containing thiamethoxam, thiacloprid or acetamiprid, these pesticides need to be administered with careful attention to instructions/ warnings. Gardening/ house plant experts will be happy to offer advice on the most suitable solution.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:09

fungus-gnatsFungus Gnats, which belong to the order of Diptera, look similar to mosquitoes, are a nuisance and can cause serious havoc on plants, but are harmless to people and animals. Around 2 to 3 mm (1/16 to 1/8 in) long, their delicate bodies are black and feature greyish-transparent wings, antennae and thin legs. In spite of their wings, they can hardly fly and typically crawl or or hover just above soil/ window sills.

The vast majority of fungus gnats are females. Each female is able to lay between 100 and 300 eggs into the little crevices within the soil. After hatching 4 to 6 days later, the larvae then feed on the plant's roots for a few weeks. They then go into a pupae-stage, only to re-emerge as adults and start over within under a week.

As fungus gnats are attracted to damp conditions and organic matter, like potting mix/ compost, for instance, they are often the result of high humidity, condensation in windows, poor ventilation and dampness around leaky pipes.

Allowing plants - or rather their soil - to dry a little between watering where possible; carefully checking and quarantining new plants or plants returning indoors for the winter; removing debris (dead plant material, etc)  promptly and providing adequate ventilation all help to prevent infestations.

Signs of Infestation

fungus-gnat-infestationBecause fungus gnats tend to be drawn to sources of light, large groups can often be spotted near doors and windows. On the plant itself, they are usually only visible when disturbed by watering or blowing on the plant. The adults typically do not feed on the plant, but their larvae, which remain invisible in the soil, feed on organic matter - including the plant's feeder roots and delicate root hairs - within the soil. As a result, the plant loses its vigour, growth is poor and the plant wilts. Eventually, foliage turns yellow and drops off.

Dealing with Infestations

In greenhouses and gardens, natural predators - rove and/ or ground beetles - can be used to combat infestations. On house plants kept indoors, this is naturally not a suitable solution.

Non-toxic yellow sticky traps placed next to plants or hung nearby are, however, an excellent way of monitoring and catching adult fungus gnats, while larvae can be removed and destroyed after drawing them to the surface with a couple of chunks of raw potato placed onto the soil (a couple of hours should do the trick).

Weekly soil drenches - preferably done outside - will also help. Naturally, plants should be allowed to thoroughly dry and air well before bringing them back inside. Another effective measure is to install 18 Watt insectalite fly traps, which use ultraviolet light and pheromones to attract insects. Home-made sprays containing garlic and/ or hot pepper also help to deter these little monsters.

As a last resort, chemical pesticides containing pyrthrins or pyrethroids can be used to kill fungus gnats (adults; must be administered every two to at most three days for at least a fortnight), while Bacillus Thuringiensis Berliner var. israelensis allows effective control of larvae.

Directions and safety precautions given by manufacturers of such pesticides should obviously be read and followed carefully.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 18:05

aphidsOften simply referred to as green fly or black fly, these soft-bodied, 1 to 7 mm (up to about 1/4 in) long sap sucking insects actually include a variety of species. Typically pear-shaped and featuring long legs, some of these species are wingless, while others have wings. Colours vary from pink, black and yellow to white, red, green or mottled, and some of them - such as, for instance, the Woolly Beech Aphid and the Woolly Aphid - are often confused with scale insects, whitefly and mealy bugs, because they tend to cover themselves in the same fluffy, waxy white secretions.

Some Aphid species predominantly feed on plants' stems, foliage and flowers, while others attack the roots. They will appear any time - regardless of season - and multiply rapidly, causing a whole lot of damage before moving on to the next plant. In addition to the damage their feeding causes, many species transmit viruses from plant to plant, and all of them will leave secrete honeydew, a sticky substance likely to attract black sooty moulds.

Symptoms of Infestation

aphid-infestationTypically attacking new plant growth, aphids can be found on house plants' growing tips, leaf axils, leaves (mainly on the underside) and flower buds. In addition to the actual insects, patches of honeydew and larvae, it is frequently also possible to spot accumulating cast off skins (white) on leaves' upper sides.

Visible effects of infestations include dark patches (black sooty mould), curled/ distorted leaves/ flower buds and stunted/ distorted overall plant growth.

Dealing with Infestations

While it is often possible to deal with infestations in gardens or greenhouses by introducing natural predators, such as, for example, parasitic wasps, ladybirds, lacewing or hoverfly larvae, this is obviously not a viable option for indoor plants. There are, however, many effective measures to get rid of these pests.

Naturally, the first step is to isolate infected plants in order to prevent the infestation from spreading to as yet unaffected plants.

Minor attacks can often be dealt with by simply squashing the insects between the fingers, or by spraying the plant with room-temperature water and/ or using a damp, soft cloth to gently wipe insects, eggs and larvae off the plant.

Dabbing aphids with a cotton swab doused in rubbing alcohol (should be repeated every two or three days) is also very effective, although this method should be used with caution, as covering large areas of a house plant with rubbing alcohol will result in tissue damage.

Giving the plant a wash with a washing up liquid (two teaspoons) and water (4.5 litre; 1 gallon) solution (carefully rinsing with clear water afterwards) also helps, as will spraying the plant with a citrus solution.

Insecticidal soaps, which typically consist of potassium or sodium salts, are also very effective and, if used as directed, also do not harm pets or humans.

Should an infestation be really stubborn, it may become necessary to reach for more drastic measures in the shape of chemical pesticides. There are two main types of pesticides. The first group is based on natural ingredients, including fatty acids, pyrethrum, urea/ mineral lattice, plant extracts, plant oils and/ or fish oils. Typically acting on contact, treatment must be extremely thorough and will last for short periods only, meaning applications need to be repeated several times.

The second group of pesticides uses synthetic ingredients. Synthetic pesticides using lambda cyhalothrin or Deltamethrin act on contact, making repeated thorough applications necessary. Systemic pesticides predominantly use acetamiprid or thiacloprid and are very effective, although caution is advised. It should be noted that acetamiprid may be used on ornamental plants only.

In any case, reading and carefully following instructions and ensuring that the chemical pesticide used is suitable for the plant/ s to be treated is of utmost importance.
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December 16 2012 1 16 /12 /December /2012 17:58

House plants, like garden and greenhouse plants, are often bothered by a selection of tiny creatures with a taste for their sap, roots or foliage. While it is impossible to deal with each and every one of these little critters here, some of the most commonly found pests will be described separately. These common pests include:

As with problems of most kinds, prevention is usually better than cure, and there are a few things plant owners can do to minimise the risk of infestations.

New Plants and Pests

common pestsWhile growers do their best to keep unwanted visitors away from the plants they sell, it is a well know fact that most infestations are introduced into existing plant collections by newly purchased plants.

To prevent giving such hitchhikers a lift (or bringing a fungus/ disease infected plant home), it is best to thoroughly inspect plants before buying them.

If a plant shows one or more of the signs listed below, it is best to leave it on the shelf and look for another, trouble free plant instead. Signs of infestation/ disease - usually noticed on leaves (often on the underside), flowers and near leaf axils - include:

  • Brown/ dark spots
  • Egg-cases and/ or discarded shells
  • Fine webbing
  • Grey fuzzy mould
  • Holes
  • Insects visible on plant
  • Nibbled edges
  • Powdery mildew (white dusty fungus)
  • Silvery streaks
  • Sticky patches of honeydew
  • White, cotton-wool-like patches

Just to be on the safe side, it is also recommended to quarantine new plants for 4 to 6 weeks before placing them among existing collections. This also applies to plants that have spent the summer outside and are being returned indoors for the winter.

Routine Methods of Prevention

As pests will find all sorts of ways of getting at plants - and generally do not give a hoot whether a plant is old or new - it is obviously necessary to employ additional preventative measures. Such measures include:

  • Carefully cleaning pots/ planters before using them to pot/ repot plants
  • Using only sterile potting mixes (garden soil harbours all kinds of pests and diseases, and using it can prove to be disastrous)
  • Promptly removing dead leaves, flowers and other debris
  • Cleaning tools carefully after each use
  • Bathing plants occasionally (with tepid, slightly soapy water and a soft cloth)
  • Regular inspection (if necessary, using a magnifying glass)
  • Immediately placing plants suspected of being infested under quarantine
  • Plenty of fresh air, combined with the proper care/ feeding routine suitable for each plant, will ensure plants are healthy and more likely to resist/ overcome insect infestations.

Dealing with Infestations

sprayEven the most careful of owners will find that occasionally, some bug or another will make it through to their plants. Panic ye not, as the saying goes, because much can be done to get rid of them effectively - although it should be said that a speedy response is of utmost importance, because the longer an infestation is left, the more the infested plant will suffer and the more likely it is that the infestation will spread to other plants.

The first move is to get the infested plant as far away from other plants as possible. If the infestation is caught early, it is often possible to simply wipe the insects off with the help of a soft, damp cloth and a little soapy water. Some pests – in particular aphids - can be removed by giving the plant a good spraying (a jet of tepid water from a fine, but forceful seedling/ spray nozzle often works wonders).

In some cases, it is best to remove infested leaves, stems and/ or flowers (discarding them safely away from any plants). Serious infestation may also require use of slightly more drastic measures, but before reaching for chemical insecticides/ pesticides, it is worth trying one or more non-chemical grower's remedies.

Both adults and larvae of soil insects may occasionally be spotted milling around on the surface of soil after watering plants. Though mostly harmless, large populations may prune roots sufficiently to cause poor growth or wilting. Drenching the soil with an insecticidal soap solution usually clears the problem, and if all else fails, systemic insecticides/ pesticides will provide the desired effect.

Ants farming aphids, mealy bugs and other pests for honeydew are generally more helpful than harmful to plants, but may cause damage by burrowing into the soil to build nests and subsequently damaging the plant's root system. Here, too, a good drenching of the soil with insecticidal soap solutions should help, as will diazinon, malathion or systemic insecticides.

Non-Chemical Remedies

Because chemical treatments often have unwanted side-effects - such as killing helpful insects or, in some cases, even the plant they are supposed to rescue, for example - most growers have over time developed their own, usually most effective remedies.

As even these remedies can affect plants in different ways (some may, for example, affect the waxy coating of succulents like Echeveria, although these effects are typically temporary), it is best to try them out on a small area of one or two plants before treating every plant in the house.

Water, Oil and Soap Solutions

A small amount of light cooking oil (in particular Canola or sunflower oil), light horticultural oil or Neem oil, shaken in one litre of lukewarm water with just a couple of drops of dish or insecticidal soap (though dish detergent should not be used) will effectively smother most, if not all of the pests if sprayed thoroughly onto every part of the suffering plant. It is necessary to spray enough of the mix onto the plant to drench it - in other words, it should run off the plant.

The bottles and nozzles used to do this will need to be cleaned thoroughly afterwards, as the solidifying soap/ oil mix will otherwise clog the nozzle up.

Hot Pepper, Citrus and Garlic Sprays

remediesThis will take a little more time and effort. Because hot pepper oils can cause serious skin irritations and are unbelievably vicious if they get into eyes, wearing gloves - and perhaps even goggles - while preparing and spraying this remedy is definitely recommended.

Ingredients include 3 hot peppers (green), 3 cloves of garlic (medium-sized) and one small onion (all of which should be pureed); 720 ml (24 fl oz, or 3 cups) of tepid water, and one tablespoon washing-up liquid. The pureed peppers, garlic and onion are spooned into a jar, to which the water and washing-up liquid are then added.

After standing for 24 hours, the pulp is strained out through cheesecloth, tights or stockings, and the liquid is transferred into a spray bottle (pump-action) to thoroughly spray infested plants.

Sucking insects will be smothered by the spray's washing-up liquid content, and chewing insects will be repelled by the scent and taste of the hot pepper, garlic and onion.

Another remedy working in a similar fashion consists of several crushed garlic cloves steeped in hot water (a few hours will do) and a couple of drops (added to the liquid after straining) of dish soap. Aphids can often be dealt with quite effectively with a spray made from the sliced rind of one lemon steeped in boiling water (600 ml/ 2.5 cups/ 1 pt).

Should all of these fail, an organic Neem oil insecticide may do the trick, although the seriousness of the infestation will determine how effective any of these remedies are. If things have been allowed to get really bad, chemical warfare may be the only remaining choice to prevent a whole collection of plants becoming infested and possibly destroyed.

Chemical Pest Control

Chemical pesticides should preferably only be used as a last resort. As some of the ingredients may be harmful to certain plants, helpful insects, pets and humans, it is vital to always read all instructions and warnings provided by manufacturers, as well as making sure the product is suitable not only for the type of pest to be dealt with, but also for the plant/s in question. If in doubt, it is better to ask for professional advice than to take the risk of killing plants.

Not every pesticide will kill every pest, and few pesticides will get rid of infestation through a single application. More often than not, repeated application is required, especially where pests with natural protection (egg cases, shells, and so on) against the effects of particular pesticides are concerned.

Treated plants should be kept under quarantine and regularly (at least once a week) checked for renewed signs of infestation. They should not be allowed to come into contact with other plants until absolutely sure the infestation has been completely removed.

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December 9 2012 1 09 /12 /December /2012 16:06

Plant Summary

flamingo-flowerBotanical Name: Anthurium scherzerianum

Type: Flowering

Origin: The Flamingo Flower originates from the tropical, warm regions of Costa Rica/ Central America.

Height: Anthurium scherzerianum can grow to heights of 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in), and it may become necessary to stake the flower stalks.

Soil: African Violet mixes tend to work well for this plant, although any quality potting mix (peat moss based) will do the trick.

Light: Flamingo flowers will refuse to bloom if they do not get enough bright light. They should, however, not be placed into direct sun.

Humidity: Relative humidity needs to be at least 50 per cent, as this house plant likes moderate to high levels of humidity. It may be necessary to use room humidifiers or humidity trays to raise humidity to adequate levels. Grouping Anthurium scherzerianum with other humidity-loving tropical plants should also help.

Temperatures: Being a tropical plant, the Flamingo Flower needs temperatures ranging between 18 and 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F). Drops in temperature to 10 degrees C (60 degrees F) or below will result in the leaves of this house plant turning yellow. Drafts should also be avoided.

flamingo-flower-gtWater: To keep Anthurium scherzerianum well and happy, its soil should be kept evenly moist - though never soggy, as this will also result in yellow leaves - throughout the year.

Fertiliser: Flamingo Flowers benefit from being fed twice a week (during spring and summer) with a diluted (50:50) liquid fertiliser high in phosphorus.

Propagation: Anthurium scherzerianum can be propagated via division of crowded clumps in spring. To provide them with the best possible start, humidity levels should be high. It is also possible to propagate this house plant from seeds.

Description and Care Tips 

Best known for its colourful, often red, oval spathes and their orange twisted spadix, which is densely covered in the plant's tiny true flowers, Anthurium scherzerianum - the Flamingo Flower - has attractive dark green, pointed and naturally glossy leaves. Surrounding the the plant's flower stems, these leaves grow up to around 18 cm (7 in) long.

Native to Central America's warm tropical regions, the Flamingo Flower needs lots of bright light, moist soil and high humidity, although some of the newer hybrids - many of which are quite compact, extremely lush and will bloom almost all year (taking just a short break during the winter) - tend to be a little less fussy about the levels of humidity around them.

flamingo-flower-woIt also needs to be kept quite warm and, although it tolerates temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F), it does best within a constant temperature of 21 degrees C (70 degrees F). Drafts and temperatures below 10 degrees C (60 degrees F) should be avoided at all cost, because they will cause the plant's leaves to go yellow, as will over-watering.

The glossy leaves of this house plant can be kept clean and dust-free by wiping them with a damp cloth. A fine misting with water at room-temperature will also work (as well as helping to increase humidity), but it is vital to ensure no droplets are left on the foliage, as this will encourage fungus growth. Appearing as brown, dry spots, such infections will have to be treated with fungicides.

When the roots of young Flamingo Flowers fill the plant's container, they need repotting. This should be done in spring. Older plants typically only need repotting every two to three years. 

In any case, the new pot should be only a single size larger than the old one, and must have drainage holes, as good drainage is vital for the prevention of root rot. 

The plant should be set fairly high, so its crown should sit just above the line of the soil. Should roots make it to the surface before repotting is due again, they can be covered with a little additional potting mix. 

Repotting is also a good time to divide Flamingo Flowers for propagation. Taking care not to damage the somewhat tender roots of this plant both during repotting and division, it is important to ensure that each separated part contains a minimum of two rhizomes.

flamingo-flower-stIf seeds are used for propagation, it is essential to ensure they are fresh and still moist, as old, dry seeds simply will not germinate. Each seed should be placed into its own 10 cm (4 in) pot, which should then be covered with a mason jar in order to maintain high humidity. The temperature of the growing medium should be kept constant at 26.67 degrees C (80 degrees F) until germination - which should take 20 to 30 days - is complete. 

Flamingo Flowers, like other types of Anthurium, are susceptible to invasion by aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and thrips. Regular inspection of the plant for signs of such infestations is therefore important.

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December 8 2012 7 08 /12 /December /2012 21:25

Plant Summary

Flaming-KatyBotanical Name: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

Type: Succulent

Origin: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana originates from Madagascar

Height: Flaming Katy will grow to a height of around 20 to 38 cm (8 to 15 in).

Soil: This lovely house plant will do best in a 2:1 mixture of general purpose potting mix and perlite or sharp sand.

Light: Plenty of bright light and some full sun will keep this plant happy.

Humidity: K. blossfeldiana is most comfortable in average levels of humidity.

Flaming-Katy-gtTemperatures: Average temperatures should range between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F) for Flaming Katy plants.

Water: As this plant can cope with dry conditions much better than it copes with soggy soil, it is vital not to over-water it. Keeping the soil just slightly moist, allowing it to dry a little between watering sessions and providing adequate drainage will keep it trouble and disease free. During its resting period (after flowering), watering should be reduced. 

Fertiliser: Flaming Katies only need to be fed once a month (spring to autumn), preferably with a liquid, balanced fertiliser.

Propagation: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana can be propagated from stem cuttings. The best time for propagation is late spring.

Description and Care Tips 

Unlike most other succulents, Flaming Katy is grown predominantly for its blooms, rather than its glossy, scallop-edged green leaves, which can develop a red tinge when the plant is exposed to full sunlight. 

Flaming-Katy-woAlthough quite thick and apparently sturdy, these leaves are quite brittle in reality, and need to be handled with care to prevent their tips breaking off.

When blooming, Flaming Katy provides a spectacular display of tiny white, pink or red; yellow, orange or purple flowers which emerge in bright clusters and will last for weeks. 

Some of this gorgeous house plant's hybrids will produce multiple clusters of as many as 50 flowers at a time. Deadheading the plant and cutting off spent flower stems will encourage more flowers and keep the plant looking tidy.

Once all flowers have faded, watering should be reduced to give Kalanchoe blossfeldiana a well-earned rest. Although this plant is generally quite easy to care for, getting it to flower a second time can be a little problematic. 

Essentially, to set buds, it needs a period of long sunny days, which then needs to be followed by 'shorter days'. If placed outside for the summer it should be kept in a shaded position where it will only get a little morning sun.

Starting in the first week of October, it should be given only moderate light during the day for two weeks, during which it needs to be kept in a darkened room for around 14 hours per night.

Watering should be reduced to a bare minimum during this period, although it is vital not to allow the soil to get too dry, as this will cause the leaves to turn yellow and shrivel up.

Flaming-Katy-stAround 6 to 8 weeks later, the first buds should start appearing, at which point normal care - keeping the soil just moist and feeding monthly - may be resumed. Even if flowering is not as abundant - and perhaps a little more erratic - than the first time round, the plant's attractive foliage still makes it worth keeping.

There are comparatively few pests that will bother Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, but it is certainly recommended to watch out for the fuzzy white patches underneath leaves and near leaf axils indicating the presence of mealybugs, a fairly common invader of succulents. Root mealybug in particular may cause wilting, so it may become necessary to ease the plant carefully out of its container and inspect the roots for this little critter.

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