Meet the mites who’ll keep plants bug-free
With the exploding interest in houseplants, I am increasingly flooded with questions about how to deal with indoor pests. It seems to be a particular problem at this time of year as people bring plants, which have been holidaying on the patio over the summer, indoors and with them come unwanted hitchhikers. The closer confines of plants now arranged more densely facilitates the spread of the pests from host to host, and sealed in the warm, cosy environment of a living room, without the normal summer predators, populations can quickly start to build. And as plant growth rate tends to slow in the lower light levels of winter, they can become more susceptible to infestations, which they might shrug off in summer.
While I tend to adopt a far more laissez faire approach to pests outdoors, this unique combination of factors means that many normally relatively fuss-free plants, such as alocasia, plumeria and brugmansia can become a real challenge (if not almost impossible) to overwinter. That’s before we get on to the dripping of sticky honeydew these critters can create, ruining upholstery and wooden surfaces. As someone who has had his fair share of all the above (and, trust me, it pains me every time), I decided to go straight to the source to ask commercial growers for their evidence-based techniques for tackling pests in the great indoors.
What makes dealing with indoor pests particularly tricky is that many pesticides that could tackle them aren’t approved for indoor use – and for good reason. Phytoseiulus persimilis, Hypoaspis miles, montrouzieri,
Alocasia brightens any room with its impossibly exotic leaves and, with biological controls, overwintering ng it becomes less impossible, too. Brugmansia flowers its socks off all summer long outdoors, but often succumbs to red spider mite within a few weeks of being brought indoors. But now there’s a solution…
Curry leaves cost a fortune, but are so easy to grow as houseplants – as long as you can keep the pests off them.
Winter wonders: brugmansia and (right) alocasia