Winter blues…and greens

Winter. Seasonally dark, cold and a time of year when we spend more time in than out. But it’s a great time to do some winter assessment, cleaning and housekeeping of houseplants.

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Don’t over water!

During periods of dormancy, make sure you’re not over-watering by using this very handy and inexpensive tool for every houseplant toolbox. Soil at the top may feel very dry, even just below the surface. However, deeper at the root level the soil may still moist because plants are not drinking (as much) while dormant.

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handy tools

The metal prongs of this multi-purpose meter is also great for aerating roots when soil gets compacted.

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Rotate plants

Plants naturally lean toward light. Rotate 1/4 turn to avoid the lopsided lean.

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Leaf shine

Neem oil is pressed from the seed of neem trees and is a naturally occurring organic insect repellent. It’s also great for polishing leaves when diluted according to package directions. Read more about neem from this source: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html

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Dusty plants can’t breathe

When dust collects on leaves, it blocks the plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis. Wipe big leaf plants with a soft cloth or wet paper towel. Use a small paint brush or make up brush for fuzzy leaf plants.

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gettin’ buggy

Seeing gnats? Spider mites? Aphids? Finding bugs in your dirt or on your plants is inevitable. But don’t freak out! I assess my collection weekly for early identification and treatment to keep infestations at bay. These granules are sprinkled on your topsoil and watered in every 2 months or so.

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Homemade insect soap

Succulents are especially prone to mealy bug infestation. The active ingredient in this Safer brand soap is potassium. An easy homemade recipe is to combine 1 heavy tablespoon Dr Bronner’s Castile soap and 1 qt tap water in a spray bottle. Apply weekly for 2-3 weeks until no more bugs are visible.

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mealy bugs

Mealies are soft-bodied tiny caterpillar-like bugs that create nests resembling a cotton-y mass.

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Browning

Brown edges or tips is a sign of dryness as shown in the calathea leaf on the left. Increase humidity to avoid crispy leaves. (see suggestions in last month’s post)

The large anthurium leaf on the right has a brown spot originating in the middle of the leaf, a sign of fungus. This leaf should be cut off immediately to avoid spread to the rest of your plant. The plant will thank you by producing a healthy new leaf very soon!

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fungus

Avoid irreversible spread by early identification and prompt cutting.

Jeanne Serrano