Houseplants

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Just Toss Plants Infested with Mealybugs

décembre 20Mealybugs, those little “cotton balls” that collect in the leaf axils of your houseplants, are very difficult to control. So if you see any on one of your plants, the best advice is to… simply toss it in the garbage! Next, thoroughly clean the spot where the pot was located with a cloth soaked in soapy water, because often the female lays her eggs elsewhere than on the plant. Even if you want to keep the pot, it’s best it to place the dishwasher where the intense heat of the water jets will eliminate any hidden mealybug eggs.

You find yourself unable to throw out a living plant? First, try to get over this: it’s not a good habit if you want to be a successful gardener. If not, you can try to control them with rubbing alcohol. But not by dabbing every insect individually with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, which is the usual trick you hear. That is simply a waste of time because you’ll only see the adults; the tiny larvae, barely visible even when in exposed spots, survive these treatments by hiding in cracks and leaf axils. Next thing you know, the mealybugs are back again.

Instead, try spraying the entire plant with a solution of 3 tsp (15 mL) rubbing alcohol, 2 tsp (10 ml) of concentrated insecticide soap and 2 cups (500 ml) of warm water. Be thorough: you need to get the solution into every nook and cranny.  Repeat every 3 days as needed. That might work. But tossing the plant is still the safest bet.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Pingback: Scale Insects on Houseplants: A Nasty Surprise! – Laidback Gardener

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