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Keep Your Houseplants Healthy

Below are the most common houseplant problems and suggested treatments. In some cases where disease or insect infestation is severe, plants may need to be isolated, or even destroyed, especially in the case of bacteria or viruses that might endanger your other houseplants. It's best to keep constant watch on your plants to try to catch early infestation or disease. (And, they do better with constant attention. :)) If you get a houseplant as a gift from a friend, put it in an isolated spot for a while and make sure it doesn't carry any disease before you incorporate it into your household greenery.
PROBLEM DESCRIPTION/SYMPTOM SUGGESTED TREATMENT
BROWN LEAVES Leaves develop brown tips and margins. Plant growth may be checked. May be caused by buildup of mold or salt, dry soil, or low humidity. Leach salt from soil by running water through pot. Increase humidity by placing pebbles or marbles and water in a tray under the plant.
YELLOW LEAVES Old leaves turn yellow, brown-spotted, dry or curl and drop. Leaves yellow but remain firm. Caused by overwatering, poor drainage, excessive light, or too much lime in soil or tapwater used to water plants. Limit light source and aerate soil (gently poke small holes down into soil), water less frequently. Remove damaged parts of plant. Use filtered water when watering and replant using acidic potting mix.
LEAVES DROPPING Yellow and dropping leaves and buds at various levels on plants. Can be caused by either over or under watering, shock due to sudden change of light or temperature, mealy bugs, spider mites or scale insects. Change your watering procedure. Remove plant from drafts, and provide better lighting. If this doesn't work, see Formulas for Insects in the Garden for remedies for insect damage.
LEAF SPOTTING Leaves have water-soaked spots with yellow margins. Entire leaf wilts and stem rots. Possibly caused by bacteria leaf spot, cirus, edema or dropsy. Improve light conditions, reduce humidity. Do not overwater. Pick off and destroy infected leaves.
LEGGY GROWTH Small leaves and elongated stems. Plant grows lopsided. Caused by incorrect light, humidity too low, temperature too high. Move plant to a better light source. Increase humidity (place marbles or pebbles in water in a tray underneath the plant) and the temperature.
 
STUNTED OR WEAK GROWTH Leaves are light green or yellow, crinkled, mottled, deformed or undersized. Can be caused by underwatering, poor drainage, excess warmth and/or light, lack of fertilizer, and low humidity. Move plant to a cooler, less lighted location. Fertilize, and increase humidity. Aerate existing soil or replant using more porous soil.
ROTTING Leaves or stems turn mushy brown or black. Plant wilts, dies or rots. May be caused by soil borne bacteria or fungus disease. Remove infected parts of plant. Treat soil with fungicide and/or systemic pesticide, avoid overwatering.
 
WILTING Plant produces small leaves and wilts often. Possible causes: pot too small, air too hot or dry, over or underwatering, root rot. Check drainage and change watering schedule. If soil is dry, add moisture and spray leaves frequently. Repot if necessary.
INSECT GUIDE
For insect remedies you can make at home, visit Formulas for Insects in the Garden.

APHIDS
Small brown, green yellow or red colored insects with pear shaped bodies. Aphids cluster on buds, leaves and tips of shoots. They feed on plant juices causing poor plant growth and distorted leaves.

FUNGUS GNATS
Adults are small, gray, fly-like insects. They're attracted to light and tend to swarm around windows when inside. Immature larvae are whitish maggots and tunnel into soil, destroying plant roots. Plants wilt, yellow or develop mold on surface.

SPIDER MITES
Reddish-brown, greenish or yellow, barely visible oval bodies found on the undersides of leaves. Mites suck plant juices, causing whitish or yellowish speckled areas on tops of leaves. Heavy infestations produce frail, silky webbing and can cause plant to die.

WHITEFLIES
Adults are white and have white wedgelike wings. They resemble bits of ash when plant is moved. They feed by sucking juices from leaves. Infested leaves may turn yellow, die or drop off and are covered with sticky substance.

MEALYBUGS
Small white, waxy insects with powdery appearance that cluster at undersides of leaves and stem junctions. Foliage curls and yellows. Mealybugs suck plant juices, stunting plant growth or killing plants.

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