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The Joy of Gardening

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Time to Bring in Those Houseplants

I have a number of houseplants and tropical plants that I have given a summer vacation out of doors on the patio. It will be cooling off soon and they will need to be brought indoors. Should I do be doing anything to get them ready to be brought back in? Do I need to be worried about 'hitchhikers'?

Houseplants generally thrive when they are kept outside over the summer as they enjoy the natural light and air movement. Following such healthy growth it can be quite an upsetting experience when those same plants deteriorate drastically in quality after coming back indoors. And as if this were not enough, these same plants can introduce pests to our homes and perhaps even infest our healthy houseplants. So how we can try and avoid this, or at least reduce it significantly? Here are three steps I find helpful. Ensure your plant is kept in optimal health, inspect it for pests and then treat it accordingly.

Step one, always keep in mind a healthy plant is less likely to get attacked by pests and diseases than a weak and susceptible plant. Be sure to acclimatize your plant to the indoor conditions so it will not suffer from shock. Then try and find a suitable location in your home to meet its needs. Next keep in mind that the plant's water requirements will be drastically different when indoors, oftentimes greatly reduced, so be careful not to overwater. By keeping your plant in optimal health it is less likely to suffer pest or disease damage. Further remove any dead, diseased or oversized plant material.

Step two, inspect any plants thoroughly for signs of pests or related damage. Oftentimes pests will hide on the underside of leaves or be tucked away in the new bud and shoot growth. Tip the plant out of its pot to inspect for any earth dwelling pests.

For step three, if pests are present there are several methods for removing these unwanted hitchhikers. All these methods can also be practiced preventatively. Use a garden hose to wash off pests with sufficient pressure to remove pests, yet not damage plant parts. Submerge the plant in lukewarm water completely so any pests will drown or attempt to flee. Which method is most appropriate will depend on whether the pests occur on the plant or within the soil, as well as the size and therefore practicality of the plant. Some pests will occur both on the plant and within the soil at different stages of their life cycles and may require several modes of treatment. If this proves unsuccessful, as a last resort there are insecticidal drenches and systemic insecticides available to apply to the soil or plant, both preventative and curative.

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