Mrs. Anita Ballek is the matriarch of the Ballek family of East Haddam. Her family proudly boasts 350 years of land stewardship, with no end in sight! Ballek’s Garden Center is a strong supporter of CHS and now Mrs. Ballek has graciously made herself available to help you with your latest gardening conundrum. To avail yourself of her expertise, please send questions to: [email protected], subject: Ask Anita!
I’m beginning to bring in houseplants that have been outdoors over the summer. What should I do to assure they are insect-free before returning them to the house? Thanks for your sage advice!
Your first strategy is surveillance. Carefully examine them. Pull out leaves from dense centers, checking for insects, feeling for sticky sugar-syrup that nymphs leave behind as they feed.
Bringing plants into your house where the light is diminished, the temperature stays the same, where the dew doesn’t fall and the wind doesn’t blow-is stressful!
When insects and diseases are in the picture they take advantage of these stressed plants. Larger plants can be laid down outside and sprayed with water, penetrating into the dense centers (trying not to overly saturate the root ball). This dislodges scale, mealy bugs, and mites. Then spray with diluted rubbing alcohol at a 25% dilution rate. Roll the plant around 2 or 3 times to make sure every inner hiding place is covered. Stand it up and repeat in one week. Then spray with horticultural oil (or neem oil) penetrating under leaves and into crevices.
This method may be too harsh for herbs, soft leaved or hairy leaved plants. (i.e. rosemary, African violets, some ferns). Succulents are burned by oils (but that’s another topic).
Even healthy plants need help coming in. If they are in full sun outside, pull them to the north side of your house or under a porch for 2 weeks; a gradual change of light. When they come in turn on a fan, mist frequently, and group them together in an East, South, or West window where they will help each other.
Each plant has individual desires. I wish that one strategy would work for all plants, but it doesn’t. Imagine that you are in each pot. Where did I come from? A desert? A savannah? A rainforest? Give me some of “that” and I will try to adapt and be happy! Good luck!
— Anita Ballek