Non-Toxic Way to Treat Insects on Houseplants

Hi Jo,

I use what I call the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    , easy to make, very inexpensive, and works really well.

This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap (like ivory), and mineral oil (available in drug stores). Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions.

If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African violets or begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    . Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.

 

Ficus Bonsai Turning Yellow

Hi Susan,

There could be a couple of reasons why the leaves are turning yellow.

How often do you feed the plant? There is not much soil in your pot and the nutrients in the soil are quickly depleted. Fertilize monthly in the spring and summer, when the tree is actively growing, with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Under watering: Ficus plants lose yellow leaves when they are not getting enough water. Now that your plant has grown for several years and I assume it is in the same pot, it needs more water.

Try fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.   and water an see if it helps the problem.

How To Care for a Euphorbia

Hi Stacey,

There is a plant called a Euphorbia drupifera. Here’s a picture. Does it look like your plant?

Euphorbias are easy to grow. They love very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., a soil that drains quickly and is allowed to dry out before you water. The only way to kill it is by over watering. Whieflies and powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it. are things to watch out for. Dry leaves and good air circulation prevents the mildew. Always wear gloves when pruning a euphorbia. The milky plant sap is a terrible irritant. The sap is poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. so please keep the plant away from pets and children.

 

What Kind of Plant is this and How do you Prune It?

Hi Fred,

Your plant is called a pencil cactus or milk bush plant (EUPHORBIA TIRUCALLI).

You can aggressively prune a pencil cactus anywhere along the stems to keep it looking full and maintain a nice shape. Always wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt when pruning the plant to prevent the irritating sap from getting on your skin. Wash your tools and your hands when finished. Be careful not to get the sap in your eyes, mouth, on on an open cut.

A pencil cactus is easily propagated using stem cuttings. Use a sharp, clean scissors or razor blade to cut a 4”-6” piece from the end of a healthy stem just below a leaf node. A node is where a leaf joins the stem. Dip the cut end of the stem into a small amount of rooting hormone that contains a fungicide. Plant the stem in a 4″pot (drip holes in the bottom) of moist potting soil. Cover the pot with clear plastic to increase the humidity and prevent the soil from drying out. Check the plant every few days to be sure the soil stays moist. Tug on the stem cuttings after a few weeks, if there is resistance, roots have developed, the plastic can be removed, and the propagation was successful.

You can read all my care tips for a pencil cactus in the Popular Houseplant section the website.

https://www.houseplant411.com/houseplant/pencil-cactus-plant-how-to-grow-care-tips-euphorbia-tirucalli

All parts of these plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants


 

False Aralia: How to Grow Care Guide-Schefflera elegantissima

Hi Michlai,

It looks like a false aralia (Schefflera elegantissima). Over the years plant experts have given this plant several different names, among them are: spider aralia and thread leaf aralia. It even has another scientific name: Dizygotheca elegantissima.

Here are some care tips

Light: Medium to bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., no direct sun

Water: Too much water, resulting in root rot, is the main reason aralia plants die. Allow the top several inches of soil  to dry out before watering. In a small pot like yours, the soil will dry out fairly quickly. However, as the plant grows, and you move it to a larger container, it will take longer to dry out. Always test the soil before watering.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.  : Feed only when the plant is actively growing and always dilute the plant food to 1/2 the recommended strength. Feed every other month in the fall and winter when your aralia is actively growing and monthly in the spring and summer.  with a plant food high in nitrogen diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Temperature: Aralia plants prefer temperatures between 60°-85° F (15.6°-29.4°C).

This is what is will look like as a full grown plant.

 

 

 

Are My Plants Poisonous?

Hi Shirley,

The first is a Chinese evergreen and it is a poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. plant. The second is a cyclamen and it is also poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets.. The third is an arrowhead plant and, I’m afraid, it too is poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. to children and pets. You can read more about all of these plants in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.

Dark green and gray Patterned leaves of Chinese Evergreen plant

Chinese Evergreen Plant

Red flowers, heart shaped leaves on Cyclamen plant

Cyclamen Plant

You can learn more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants   It’s available in paperback and kindle format on Amazon.


How to treat Gray Mold (Botrytis) on Plants

Hi Kait,

 

It looks like the plant has botrytis. Botrytis, or Gray Mold as it is commonly called, is a fungus that attacks the leaves, flowers, stems, and rhizomes of house plants. Keep water off of the leaves and provide good air circulation around plants; you may need a small fan nearby. If a plant becomes infected with Gray Mold, it is usually recommended that you trim off the diseased areas, remove any soil that has mold on it, and spray with a commercial Fungicide.

If you are adverse to chemicals you can try this homemade remedy. Put a tablespoon or two of baking soda in a spray bottle, add a teaspoon or two of mineral oil, and fill with water. Shake well and spray all parts of the plant.

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How to Prune a Large Split Leaf Philodendron

Hi Marta,

Your plant is a split leaf philodendron; these plants tend to take up a great deal of room as they mature and need constant pruning to keep them manageable. If you move it to a larger pot it will just keep growing and taking up even more room, so I don’t think that’s a very good option. You can carefully separate the root ball into two sections. Plant each section in a pot a few inches larger than the root ball.

These plants like to be pruned aggressively. You can cut off some stems from the existing plant and use them to start new plants. Use a sharp, clean scissors or razor blade to cut off some healthy stem just below a leaf node. A node is where a leaf joins the stem. Remove leaves from the bottom 1/3 of the stems. Dip the cut end of the stems into a small amount of rooting hormone that contains a fungicide. Plant the stem in a 6″pot (drip holes in the bottom) of moist potting soil. The original plant will look and grow better once pruned.

You can read all my care tips for a Split Leaf Philodendron in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.

https://www.houseplant411.com/houseplant/split-leaf-philodendron-how-to-grow-care-monstera-delicious

These plants are poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Always wear gloves when pruning and wash your hands and tools well when finished. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants


Save 10% on select product(s) with promo code 10LGBR8I on Amazon.com

 

How to Prune a Bare, Leggy, Dracaena

Hi Shanamarie,

The problem of thin stems on a dracaena fragrans plant usually, but not always, occurs when there is not enough light. The only thing to do at this point to rejuvenate your plant (and I know it is really hard to do)  is to cut off the top 2/3rds of the stem. The bottom section that remains in the pot will send out new shoots and become bushier and stronger. Don’t forget, the plant will need less water since it is so much smaller now.

Next cut the top off the stalk that you removed from the plant; that would be the part with all the leaves and about 6″-8″ of stem. Always make your cuts on the diagonal to provide a greater area for root development. Remove  1/3 of the leaves. At this point you can root this section in water, wait until roots develop, and then plant it back in the original pot. Alternatively,  once the roots develop, you can plant it in a  new, small pot of loose, light soil and start a new plant. The soil should not contain any fertilizer. Water well and keep the soil barely moist as the plant develops roots. The water should not have chlorine or fluorine in it. Dracaenas do not like chemicals in the water. The option to rooting that top section in water is to plant the cutting directly back into a pot of soil.  Dip the cut end in a small amount of rooting hormone and plant it back in the original pot or in a new small pot of its own.

The remaining bare stem  can be cut into 6″-8″ sections and rooted in either of the methods mentioned above. Do contact me (askjudy@houseplant411.com) if any of this is unclear or if you have any other plant questions.


 

 

What houseplant is this?

Hi Alex,

Your plant is called a variegated “teardrop”peperomia.

Peperomia plants grow well in bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. provided by a west or east-facing window. These plants even grow under fluorescent lights. Insufficient light causes the slow growing peperomia plant to stop growing all together. Direct sunlight burns the leaves.

Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry out before you water. Over-watering, resulting in root-rot, is the main cause of serious peperomia plant problems. It’s best to water these plants from the bottom. This technique keeps the leaves dry and helps prevent plant diseases. The thick leaves of peperomia plants hold water and allow the plant to withstand long periods without moisture.

You can read all my care tips in the Popular Houseplant section of the website. The picture is of a very different peperomia variety, but the care is the same.

https://www.houseplant411.com/houseplant/how-to-grow-a-peperomia-plant-care-guide


Save 10% on select product(s) with promo code 10LGBR8I on Amazon.com