Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "January Indoor Garden Chores" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"Let's begin by checking our house plants for hitchhikers. Such insects as aphids, whitefly, mealy bug, scale, and spider mites will begin to multiply with the increase of the length of the day and the heat from the house now.
Look on the tip of the plant first, as insects love new growth to feed on rather than the tough older growth .Insects on the new growth will be easy to spot, as they will make the new growth twist and become misshapen. Now, aphids are the most common problem and their skin color will be the same as the plant--great camouflage ability. You may also find them all clustered together on the tip, especially flowering plants like hibiscus and gardenias.
If plants are on a table, feel the table for a sticky feeling on the surface, or large houseplants will have a sticky floor under the plant. If you find this, clean the surface quickly or the sticky substance on the surface called "honeydew" will grow a black sooty mold that can stain carpeting and hurt wood floors. If this is the case, look on the stems of the plant for small bumps on the stem; these are scale insects, and you can usually rub them off with a soft soapy wet cloth.
If you should notice a type of webbing on the top of the plant you have spider mites. This is the toughest insect to control, so be sure to check other plants near it for possible infection. Any plant with mites should be quarantined from your other plants! Now, wash the plant with warm soapy water and soft cloth to remove webbing and as many adults as possible from the plant. I really recommend Bonide's Systemic Houseplant Granules to sprinkle on top of your plant's soil. This product is easy to apply--no spraying and works very thoroughly!
If you brush against the plant and small white flies fly from the underside of the foliage, you have white fly, an insect that can fly from plant to plant and room to room to slowly destroy your plant collection. If the day is nice, take the plant outside or in the garage briefly and try to knock off as many of the flying insects as possible. Anything that comes off will die from the cold and will not be able to continue to lay eggs on your other plants. For the whitefly Skillin's offers yellow sticky traps which are very effective against whitefly.
If you see what looks like pieces of cotton on the leaves or stems of the plant, you have an insect called mealy bug. This insect is not as common, but thrives where plants are clustered together or when you mist plants often to increase humidity around plants. If you see some on top of the plant look under the leaves and usually they will be covered. Wash off as many as possible with a soft, wet, and soapy cloth. I think mealybug needs a thorough dose of the Systemic Granules I discussed above followed up by a thorough spraying of All Seasons Spray Oil described below!
There is one more I forgot to mention and this one can be a real problem also. This insect is called a fungus gnat and resembles a small fruit fly, like the ones that come when you keep bananas too long on your kitchen counter. I have had great success controlling soil gnats with the Bonide Systemic Granules we describe above!
After you have washed the plant with soapy water, spray all plants with Bonide All Season Oil. All Season Oil can safely be used on herbs as well as all other house plants in your home. I love All Season Oil because there are no toxic fumes for you to breath with all the windows closed at this time of the year. This oil spray is better that all the other indoor sprays on the market today because it will kill the adults, young and eggs of the insect at the same time. Most other houseplant sprays only kill the adults; some kill the young but this product also kills the eggs of the insects before they get a chance to hatch and create new problems later.
Insects are killed by suffocation as the oil plugs up all the insect's pores and they cannot breathe--there are no chemicals in this plant spray. Because the insects are suffocated, the insects cannot build up immunity to the product like they can to chemical poisons.
The oil spray will also shine up your foliage, making your plants look bright and clean. When you apply the All Season Oil spray, apply to the underside of the foliage first and the stems of the plant. Be sure to turn the plant upside down for the best coverage as insects are more numerous on the underside of foliage and in the crotches of the leaves and stems. Spray the top of the foliage last and repeat in seven days. When spraying herbs, rinse foliage with warm water before eating and the product will wash off easily. Sunshine will destroy the oil product in just 7 to 10 days, but the bugs are now dead. It's time for a quick battle now to avoid war later. Don't wait--check your plants today!"