NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 4, 2013

Tim's Tips: Check your houseplants for insects

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — It has been a few weeks since most of you brought your houseplants back into the house for the winter. During the summer and fall, the plants liked being outside. Insects may also have liked being with the houseplants. Natural predators such as ladybugs kept many of those insects in check.

Once you bring the plants back into the house, you don’t have those natural predators to keep the insects under control. I always advocate that you apply some type of insect control to the plants before you bring them indoors. However, you may not have killed off all the little critters.

Now would be a good time to check your houseplants for any sign of insect infestation. Don’t limit your checking to just those plants you may have had outside. Insects could be on other houseplants that you have in your home. If you see signs of insects, you should treat your plants with an appropriate insecticide that can be used on houseplants. If you have herbs or any citrus that you may be eating, be very careful to only use an insecticide that won’t be absorbed into the plants.

At this time of the year, houseplants generally need less water. They can be susceptible to root damage if the soil is too wet all the time. Cactus and succulents can actually rot off at ground level if the soil is kept too wet.

Over the years, I have found that people want to know how often to water a plant. Should the plant be watered once a week, once a day, every two weeks?

The reality is that every home is a different environment. Some homes may be warmer; some homes may have more sun, etc. As a general rule of thumb, the soil should go dry in the top inch or so of soil before you water the plant. When you do water, use lukewarm water. Many of the peat-based soils absorb warm water better than cold water.

If you aren’t sure when to water your plants, you can buy a moisture meter. This device has a probe that is stuck into the soil. The probe then measures the moisture level in the soil. A chart that comes with the meter tells you what the optimal level of moisture is for the plant.

Poinsettias are a traditional plant for the holiday season. The vast majority of the plants come with either a foil or plastic pot wrapper over the pot. This looks nice, but it can lead to the death of the plant. Poinsettias don’t like to sit in water. If their roots are kept constantly wet, the roots will die.

The decorative pot cover will hold in any excess water that flows out the bottom of the pot. If you poke holes in the bottom of the pot cover, the excess water will drain out. If you place a plastic saucer under the pot, you can catch that excess water and then you can dump the water that collects in the saucer.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.