Justin W. Hancock

Watch for Hitchhikers

Mealybug on HibiscusEvery fall I bring into the house a large number of my favorite tropical plants from the summer season. Because I’m fortunate enough to live in a house with very large windows, I get enough light to keep most of my plants going through the cold months.

 

I’ve learned from experience that it’s vital to watch for pests — and treat them before they make it into the house. One of the most troublesome is mealybug. It looks like a little tiny white piece of cotton when young; it’s easy to miss. Mealybugs reproduce like wildfire — and just one hitchhiker can turn into a full-scale epidemic in just a couple of months.

 

Prevent pests from being problematic by:

  • Hosing off plants with a strong stream of water from the garden hose before you bring them in.
  • Carefully examining plants for the actual insects (a magnifying glass helps).
  • Spraying plants with insecticidal soap (available at your local garden center), making sure to get the tops and bottoms of the leaves.
  • Cutting plants back a bit, as many insects prefer to feed on the new growth.