Caring for Your Indoor [Miniature] Gardens
With all the hustle and bustle with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show last week, our office, home and studio quickly disintegrated into mayhem. Add a houseguest that stays for the 10 night duration and we have ourselves a perfect storm of disorganization and chaos.
But it was fun, wasn’t it?
So, I wasn’t surprised on the Monday after the show when Bruce found some eaten leaves on one of the houseplants in the front room – thankfully our miniature plant nursery is outdoors where the weather takes care of the inventory for our store – but our full-sized indoor plants were just as about as stressed-out as we were.
The one pot that came through unscathed? Our tropical miniature garden!
Whenever I find some evidence of one unwanted visitor on my plants, I go into stealth-cleaning-mode, stop everything, inspect and dissect everything around the houseplants, and look for the source. Heck, I can catch up on work later, right? Ugh.
Here are some quick pointers that came out of this latest cleaning binge. Now that the winter is waning, your regular indoor plants may be griping a bit too.
1. Inspect all leaves, stems and trunks for anything outside the norm or any sort of damage. For example:
- edges of the leaves are missing
- rolled edges of the leaves
- tiny spider webs
- weird casings attached to stems
- little green/white/black bugs hanging out on new stems or new leaves2.
2. Inspect all the pots on all sides, underneath the pot, under the saucer too. Look for tiny eggs of any sort and bugs of any kind, of course.
3. If you aren’t afraid of bugs, squish anything you find instantly with your fingers. (I know, it’s gross, but they piss me off! Lol!) I’ve heard of gardeners getting tweezers and dropping them into a bowl of vinegar and water, or water and rubbing alcohol, the main idea is to get something the bugs won’t like in the water so they die.
What to do?
What to do if you find something more than a bug or two? Then it’s time to kick some butt and take no prisoners!
1. Take apart everything in your plant area.
2. If it’s warm enough to put all the plants outside – 50 degrees is a tolerable temperature for indoor plants for a couple of hours, I think. Use the kitchen floor if the weather isn’t cooperating with your plans.
3. Hose the plants down with a gently but firm spray from the hose to knock off any bugs or pests. Give the saucers a good spray.
4. If it’s not warm enough, the shower will work. Use a screen in the drain to catch any soil or leaves so they won’t plug up your plumbing.
5. Gently wash each leaf with your fingers. Tilt the pot so most of the hose/shower spray goes over the pot through the leaves, not into the pot – you are trying to wash the bugs away, not down into the pot.
6. If the invasion is extensive, deep-six that plant! Get rid of it and throw it out. If it’s a precious or rare plant, connect with your local garden center for specific recommendations. You can bring in a leaf or stem for inspection but make sure it’s sealed in a zip-lock bag.
7. Be sure to inspect the under side of the pot, it is a perfect environment for critters: barely damp, dark and out of the way.
8. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the pots and saucers.
9. Cut off and throw out in the trash, any dead, diseased or dying foliage.
10. Remove any dead leaves from the underneath the plant – they give the pests a place to hide.
11. Churn up the top layer of soil with a rod or a fork.
12. While your plants dry out a bit, wipe all the shelving down in your plant area with vinegar and water.
13. Sweep corners, underneath and around the plant area.
14. Top-up any container that needs a bit of soil.
15. By now the plant’s leaves should be dry. Use Safer’s Soap and spray all the plants that were directly affected by the pests. Note that this spray sometimes comes in concentrated form and follow the directions carefully. Safer’s soap is an organic pest control and is earth-friendly.
16. Put everything back together and place the non-infected plants back in place. Give every pot a thorough watering.
17. Keep the infected plants separate from the healthy ones. Take a week to monitor the infected plants before putting them back with the other plants. You can baby them with a soil-conditioner like Moo Poo Tea but wait until spring give them a proper fertilizing.
18. Pat yourself on the back, you just got a leg-up on your spring cleaning.
Take a moment to figure out why the invasion? When plants are healthy, they are able to resist pests and diseases. It’s only when they are stressed out that they get “sick.” In our case, almost all our plants were super-dry and they didn’t get their regular watering with all the hub-bub going on. But all-in-all, I lost one plant but saved the 14 others. Whew!
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