Cheryl told me to throw it out the window for good, but the stubborn in me has not given me permission to do so. Not yet.
A month ago, I wrote about the Oleander tree which we enjoy on the patio in summer and bring indoors for the winter. This is year 3 for the rotation from outdoors to indoors, and I expected no issues. But by Christmas Aphids by the hundreds were having a heyday on the Oleander, and were sucking the juice out of all the lush new growth.
I wasn’t going to let the aphids have the upper hand, so I waited for a warm day, lugged the plant outdoors and sprayed it 4 times with Insecticidal Soap. For its final spray, I drenched the plant and covered it with a plastic bag to ensure the spray would linger around the leaves and aphids. At the end of the day I brought the tree indoors.
Two short weeks later I noticed a few aphids had reappeared and began having dinner. I figure they must have come up from the soil. Surely no critters could survive my vicious attack just two weeks prior!
Not so. By January 15, less than a month after its spraying, the aphids were back with a vengeance. By this time every new bud was covered, and the leaves were sticky with excrement brought on by the multitude of bugs. Even the floor underneath the plant had to be wiped to clean off the shiny residue. I dragged the plant outdoors, pruned all the new shoots in order to remove most of the aphids, sprayed it again and moved the plant to our marginally heated shed.
Bringing plants indoors from the great outdoors has its risks. Prior to Ontario’s 2009 Cosmetic Pesticide Act we would have drenched the plant and soil with an insecticide and tackled the bugs with little thought. Most provinces now have similar restrictions, and I suspect that in due time there will also be limitations put on pesticides south of the border.
It is not uncommon for bugs to appear when outdoor plants are brought indoors. Hibiscus can host Mealybugs, scale insects, Spider Mites and Aphids. Gardenias and Begonias can attract Mealybugs and scale insects. Crotons are notorious for attracting spider mites. Geraniums can be affected by mites, Mealybugs and aphids.
For Mealybug and scale insects try dabbing rubbing alcohol on the insect with a Q-tip. Scale insects can often be removed with your thumbnail. Insecticidal Soap, although not always 100 percent effective, is usually adequate to keep insects at bay. EndAll, a spray containing natural pyrethrins will also give control. Homemade concoctions, often containing garlic and pepper will work for some applications.
We shouldn’t worry if there are just a few insects feeding on indoor plants. If infestation is light, I will often recommend keeping an eye on the plant with the hopes that damage will remain minimal until the plant can be brought outdoors in May.