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Proctor's Garden: Keep pesky insects and pests away from your houseplants

Houseplant bug problems can be prevented with a few steps: Buy plants from a reputable source, inspect plants before buying, and regularly check for infestations.

DENVER — We’ve been talking about houseplants since the first of the year and I hope you have been inspired to add some living color to your home.  While having the correct light and watering your plants properly are the two most important steps to houseplant success, you must be on the lookout for insects and pests.  Houseplant bug problems can be prevented by following a few simple steps…act so you don’t have an infestation.

Here are some prevention tips:

● Buy plants from a reputable source

● Inspect plants before buying

● Regularly check for infestations

RELATED: Proctor's Garden: Don't be afraid of your houseplants

This is a list of the most commonly found bugs indoors and how to treat them:

Mealybugs gross me out the most.  They are a small white soft bodied bug that look a little like mold or fungus and they can hide in plant crevasses, attach themselves to stems or the underside of leaves.  Mealybugs need to be treated several times to rid them completely but if caught early they are easy to kill.  Swabbing individual mealybugs with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol is an effective treatment.  To be on the safe side, dilute 1:1 with water so the alcohol doesn’t hurt tender leaves.  You can also add a teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap.  The soap helps break down the waxy coating on bugs so the alcohol will be more effective.

Spider Mites are a sap sucking plant that would be impossible to locate if not for the fine webbing they spin.  These buggers thrive in warm, dry conditions and I don’t mean dry soil, but lack of humidity inside our homes.  The easiest way to get rid of them is to regularly spray them off with cold water and then gently wipe them off with a soft cloth.  If your infestation is bad, then use a Neem Oil spray.

Tip: to add a humidity to your houseplants place pebbles or marbles in a saucer, place your houseplant on top and as you water the excess water will drain out and add a beneficial humidity.

Aphids are common on indoor and outdoor plants; they like tender new growth on foliage and blooming plants.  As with Spider Mites, knock aphids off with a spray of cool water and add a teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap.  Insecticidal Soap and Neem Oil will also work.

Fungus Gnats are annoying flying bugs that are caused by over-watering.  The easiest way to cure fungus gnats is to stop over-watering!  Yellow sticky traps placed in your pots will capture the adults.  Spraying insecticidal soap or Neem Oil may help short term, but correct watering will solve the problem…period.  If you don’t know how much to water invest in a soil moisture reader…under $10, it’s a fool proof way to make sure you’re watering enough but not too much.

If you need more help on riding bugs from your houseplants enlist the advice from a pro at a local garden center.  Take in an infected leaf or a good photo of the offending bug so you get the correct treatment plan.

Good luck houseplant bug fighters!

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