Your ability to control the environment makes growing indoor house plants easier. Unfortunately that also benefits the growth of pests, plus a lack of "natural predators" means they can multiply quickly.  The Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension offer some tips on keeping house plants healthy and looking good.

Keeping your houseplants clean helps with appearance, photosynthesis and transpiration. It is also a great way to monitor for insects and to help control them. Use a half-and-half mixture of milk and water to clean the plant leaves. Wipe down containers, and rinse out any drainage trays. With hairy-leafed plants like African violets, avoid using liquids to clean. Instead, use a dry, soft paintbrush to sweep dust off the leaves. Always clean and check both the tops and undersides of leaves. Insects like to hide under the leaves.

Look for symptoms such as leaves that become discolored or curled, or plants that look limp even when they are watered. The most common houseplant pests include spider mites, mealy bugs, scales and aphids. Many of these insects can be removed with a good spray of water. Insecticidal soap or neem oil can be used if there is a more serious problem. For any insecticide, be sure to read the product label instructions completely before you use it to insure your houseplant and the insect is included on the label.

Get more tips on keeping indoor plants healthy with CCE's online fact sheets or talk to a Master Gardener at the Horticulture Hot Line, Wednesday’s and Friday’s from 9 a.m. to noon, at 315-736-3394.

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