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Houseplant Pest Inspection Time

October 21, 2016

When you bring your houseplants indoors for winter, be sure to do a thorough houseplant pest inspection first. (Updated 9/2017: And, it’s not just pests and diseases you want to watch for. Some of the good critters may just try to tag along too, and you don’t want to find a stressed out frog mid-winter like we did last February!)

houseplants in solarium

Healthy houseplants in a bright sunny window for winter.

When spring and summer temperatures warm for day and night, many houseplants appreciate a little outdoor vacation for the season. Not only is this a great way to open up indoor spaces for summer, but it is also a beautiful way to decorate your front porch, decks and even garden beds.

But, when your indoor plants go outside, they’re even more susceptible to various pests and disease.

Not every pest or disease will be immediately apparent when you gather your houseplants indoors. Some of the most obvious and common issues we’ve encountered don’t come to life for a few days or even a few weeks after your plants are in the house.

  • Scale: This is a pest that really gives us the willies, and it always seems to show up on our citrus trees within a week or two after the plants have been inside for fall. Look for raised lumps along the stem. They start out soft and easy to squish. Then, they harden up with a tough shell that’s hard to penetrate. Squishing can remedy it when young. Trimming out infected branches also works. You could also visit a local nursery for some of the other management options on the market.

    houseplant pest - scale on lime tree

    This is scale. Scale is nasty. Scale likes to live on all sorts of plants, but it really seems to love our lime tree. YUCK!

  • Aphids: Yep these suckers often hitch a ride inside. Inspect the undersides of leaves before you bring in your plants and keep an eye out for fresh hatches soon after the plants come inside.
  • Woodlice: Also known as pill bugs or rolly-pollies, these eaters of decomposition love to hide on the bottom of planters or just inside the drain holes. Knock them loose outside before you bring in your plants.
  • Frogs: Okay, these aren’t pests, but they really don’t want to live indoors with you. Our native Pacific tree frogs tried to make many of our houseplants high on a deck their homes. Carefully, help them find their way outside where they know how to survive just fine all winter.

    cleaning pests from houseplant

    Clean out detritus & be sure any live frogs stay outside when you bring in your houseplants for winter

  • Mold, Mildew & Fungi: You may find little mushrooms popping up in your houseplant, which shouldn’t give too much worry. But do clean up and dispose of leaf and other detritus in the tops of your planters to dissuade the growth of mildew and mold, which can readily spread to your beloved plants as well.
  • Weeds: Garden weeds love to set up shop in your container gardens. Be sure to winnow them out before you bring your plants in for winter.

    oxalis weeds in houseplant container

    Clean up weeds & detritus before bringing in houseplants that enjoyed a summer vacation outdoors.

  • Slugs: Slugs also hide in the wet, dark recesses of planting containers. Dig them free before you bring in your plants.
  • Snails: You may find young snails hatching and climbing through your plants soon after they come indoors. Smash’m!

There are any number of other houseplant pest issues that can pop up when plants move inside for winter. Picking over the plants, soil and containers carefully before you bring them inside is a good basic rule. Too, spraying any questionable foliage with a good jet of water may also knock back some of the more common problems like aphids.

If your houseplants haven’t yet made the move indoors for winter, hurry up and get them inside soon. Wind, heavy rains and sudden temperature drops shouldn’t catch you by surprise this late in the season.

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