Another Way to Deal with House Plant Insects

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You probably don’t recognize this photo from “Gardening Resolutions #1.” It’s the variegated plant–otherwise known as a kumquat–in the picture–the one that I talked about as having fooled me by dropping leaves. It was the one that had spread spider mites to the whole rest of the plants in the window.

Well, so far so good on the rest of the plants, but this one I am a bit nervous about so I decided to give it the “shower” treatment. That way, any hitch hikers and any new hatchers can just wash away down the drain–no fuss, no muss and no sprays (other than the water) required.

I had read this past fall that Brie Arthur (who wrote the wonderful outdoor vegetable book about incorporating vegetables into your landscaping in the most creative ways! The book is called The Foodscape Revolution for those of you who want to get a head start on some ideas for this coming year’s edible garden) suggested that it was “meditative” to wipe down the leaves of your house plants as a protective way to keep insects at bay.

God bless Brie, but that isn’t going to work for me and my 180+ plants! I prefer to take a single plant (or a windowful, if that’s what’s affected) to my shower, give them a quick, but thorough spray down with some water and let them dry.

It’s easy, it’s chemical free, and it dislodges spider mites (and aphids) quickly and painlessly. A nice side bonus is that the plants get thoroughly watered as well.

But, if you only have a couple of plants, you might want to try Brie Arthur’s method to see if that works for you. Different things do work for different folks–or as I always say, if we all liked the same thing, we’d have a pretty boring world!

About Growing Those Shrubs as House Plants…..

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What are you looking at? Last year’s poinsettia of course. Are you surprised? I know that no one really keeps these things from year to year. By March, they are toast–or perhaps if they’re lucky, compost.

But they do have a long and storied history as shrubs, particularly in Mexico, which is their home country. And obviously, if they are growing as shrubs in the ground, no one is doing the crazy machinations we hear about in the news or on blogs or web sites (which you won’t read about here, by the way) about putting the plants in closets or under boxes to get them to bloom. I think those folks who have them as shrubs in their yards have better things to do with their time.

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So if you don’t mind your plants not blooming not quite on schedule (and you know I don’t–I’m the one with last year’s amaryllis in June!) this is what you can expect. And this is just the beginning.

So this year, if you have the room, perhaps consider saving over a lovely poinsettia of your own. Or at least compost it, if you can!

Gardening Resolutions #5

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This resolution is sort of an offshoot of Monday’s resolution to stop falling in love with shrubs. This is not the plant I wanted. I wanted a Norfolk Island Pine. In retrospect, it’s better that I didn’t find one in a size that I wanted to buy (I won’t even go into the reasons for that!)

But I did this same thing last year. I bought a little evergreen–which, by the way, is not intended to live indoors, even in my chilly house. I nursed it all the way through the winter. And then we got into March and the thing promptly succumbed to something. I think it was shortly after I had re-potted it because it was woefully pot-bound but I never re-pot in the dead of winter.

In any event, I have done the same thing–I have bought a completely inappropriate plant for the house. The tag says it will grow to 8-15 feet! So that indicates it’s definitely it’s an outdoor plant–but not in my climate. However, I suspect that just like last year it will succumb to something–perhaps the mites that seem to be affecting some other things in my collection this year–well before I can re-pot it and get it outdoors for the summer.

Perhaps next year, I will just content myself with my bulbs!

Gardening Resolutions #4

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The large plant in the center of the photo is what’s prompted this “resolution.” I seem to be full of them this year, most of them which I am sure that I will never be able to keep, of course!

This is a variegated pittosporum. It’s not a house plant. It’s a shrub that grows in warm climates. I saw it on my trip to Italy in 1999 and fell in love with it. I’ve also seen it, as well as its non-variegated cousin, on my trips to Texas.

My “resolution,” if you will, is to try not to fall in love with these huge plants that were never intended to be house plants. As I just mentioned, this is a shrub. The only reason it’s in my house in a pot is that I can’t grow it outside in my cold climate.

So why am I growing it at all? Well, because, as I mentioned, I saw a lovely hedge of it in Italy, outside of Rome, at a restaurant where I enjoyed a lovely open-air dinner on a warm, late summer night. My chair backed up tot this hedge and the foliage is slightly fragrant. That was all it took. When I saw a small plant offered for sale, it brought back that wonderful memory of that open air dinner and the rest is history.

I didn’t realize that this plant flowered and had lovely fragrant flowers int he spring. It won’t do it for me every spring–but that’s part of its charm too. But still–if I keep falling in love with shrubs, I’ll have to move out of my house!

Gardening Resolutions #1

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Remember this photo of my citrus from early October? I said that in a few months they would lose their leaves.

So when the large variegated one on the end began to do so about 2 weeks ago, I really didn’t even pay attention. All the citrus get scale every winter and I could see it recurring. So I figured between the scale and the unbelievably dim light that we have been having because of all the rain (but it’s still rain, not ice and not much snow, so I will take it, thank you very much!) it was just normal leaf loss.

This is a warning about what happens when you assume. Needless to say, it wasn’t normal leaf loss, nor was it due to the scale alone.

I am not even sure how I noticed: it might have happened in a rare sunny moment (because we don’t get whole sunny days).

I was watering and I noticed that the variegated plant was covered in webbing. Spider mites. So not only was that plant infested, but every other plant on the windowsill was infested–because spider mites get out of control very quickly.

Luckily I had a warm day to take everything outside to spray it off with an organic oil. I also washed the whole windowsill down and washed all the trays out.

But for the rest of the winter now,I will need to be vigilant about watching–& probably treating for spider mites.

Oh well. At least I won’t be bored.

Another Holiday Worthy Plant

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This stunner unfortunately doesn’t have one good common name. Its botanical is stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’ (or sometimes variegata). I have seen it called Persian Shield, but not often, and I have also seen it called Tricolor Prayer Plant, which is even more misleading, because it does not belong to the calathea/maranta genus which are usually called “prayer plants.” So feel free to come up with some good common name yourself.

I say it’s “holiday worthy” of course because of the colorations in the leaves. I suppose it could easily be be gifted around Valentine’s Day as well for the same reason. This photo shows the nice maroon stems fairly well. I didn’t capture the maroon undersides of the leaves though. It really is a stunner of a plant!

For me, I grow it in an east or west exposure–where ever I have more room in a given season. I have had this plant for several years and it hasn’t grown very much (and I like that in a plant sometimes)–many of my plants are outgrowing my house!

In the summer, I put it outside under a dogwood that throws fairly dense shade. Despite the outside/inside routine for at least 3 or 4 years, it has never had an insect problem.

In my cooler house, it only needs water once a week. Outside, it might get watered every day, depending on temperatures.

I definitely can recommend this as a plant. As I often say–what’s not to like?