Did you know? Houseplants have their own day! This day is dedicated to loving our houseplants, caring for them, and recognizing their benefits. Although Houseplant Appreciation Day was on January 10, we can still celebrate! Here are some tips for how to appreciate our plants and all they do.

In the cold winter months houseplants can bring joy and a chance to play in the dirt. Plants have also been shown to have a calming effect and help improve focus in the office (or home office) setting. It’s no wonder we love our houseplants! Unfortunately, the winter months often bring problems and pests. Luckily, most of what ails them is easy to cure.

Aphids

Aphids. Photo by Carl Davies, CSIRO

Mealy bugs

These nuisance bugs are white and fuzzy, and although their name makes them sound cute, they certainly are not! They move very slowly and may at first appear to just be a fuzzy, harmless mass. If you give them a nudge, though, you will notice that they do indeed move.

One way to take care of them is by dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and painting it onto the mealy bugs. If the infestation is heavy, spray the plant in the shower with a fairly strong stream of water followed by spraying with Bonide Eight.

Aphids

These pests are easy to see, come in a variety of colors (they’re most commonly green and yellow, though), and tend to cluster on stems of plants. Spray the plant with a strong stream of water, squish any remaining aphids with gloved fingers (yes it’s gross, but it works), or spray with Bonide Eight or an insecticidal soap.

Fungus gnat

Fungus gnat. Photo by EBKauai, Wikimedia Commons

Fungus gnats

As their name suggests, these small, flying insects feed on fungus in the soil. They’re most often noticed when a plant is being watered or moved, since this disturbs the gnats and sends them flying. Usually they don’t cause any real damage, but in large numbers they can cause root rot.

To rid your plants of these pests, let the soil dry out between waterings (but not to the point of causing stress to your plant). To prevent fungus gnat infestations, be sure not to overwater. This is easy to do in the winter months when plants aren’t growing vigorously, so use your finger to check for moisture rather than following a regular watering schedule. Bonide Eight also helps control gnats − just thoroughly spray the surface of the soil.

Scale

Scale appear as tan or brown bumps and can be found anywhere on the plant. They are very hard to pick off, so the best course of action is to spray the plant with a horticultural oil which will suffocate the scale. After a few days they will be dead and easy to brush off.

Horticultural oil, like any oil, will damage furniture and some floor surfaces. Place plants on a sheet in an area such as a heated garage or unfinished basement, or put them in the shower, before spraying.

Spider mites

Spider mites are most easily identified by the sticky, honeydew residue they excrete and the little webs they weave. The pests themselves are extremely tiny, so it’s often the damage they cause that will be noticeable. Look for poor plant health and stippled leaves in addition to webs and residue. To rid your plant of spider mites, try Neem Oil or Eight.

Houseplants are wonderful stress relievers and their green and growing habit is a wonderful pick-me-up for cold months. Pests happen, but can usually be controlled. Show your plants some love, watch over them, and they will reward you. Remember, we love houseplants, too, and if you have any questions we’re here to help!