As winter weather ramps up and outdoor flowers hit their natural decline in many regions, many consumers will look to bring plants or foliage indoors and try to sustain their growth. Indoor color can be a challenge, though Christmas cacti, African violets, orchids and miniature roses are several common and reliable options.
Unfortunately, even indoor plants can face trouble from pests and diseases. This month, we’ve got some tips for you to consider as you plan your product mix for indoor-plant remedies, and as you guide your customers in choosing the right solutions for their plants.
Solutions for The Great Indoors
One of the most ignored declarations on chemical product labels is whether or not the product is listed for indoor use. The majority of chemicals found in stores are for outdoor use only. The outdoor-only restriction may be rooted in one or more causes: The active ingredient(s) may be especially toxic to pets or children, may be a severe eye or skin irritant, or may give off pungent fumes that will linger long after the application is made.
Thankfully, multiple manufacturers and brands offer excellent products and solutions for indoor plants. The Safer brand from Woodstream includes several products with active ingredients that are well-known for being safe and effective for indoor use when applied as directed. The most popular product in the Safer line is their insecticidal soap for indoor insect control.
Be sure to clearly differentiate between indoor and outdoor products in your chemistry aisle. Remind customers to read product labels carefully, making sure the product is also applicable for the plant that they’re treating. Some plants are sensitive to certain chemistry as well: You may not only kill the pest, but the entire plant! These declarations are always listed on the label.
Remember: Chemical products are formulated to get the job done while using the least amount of active ingredient necessary. As a rule, encourage your customers to always follow label directions. It can’t be overstated. If their desired use is listed on the label, a consumer is able to use or treat as directed. Never make a recommendation for an application or use that’s not listed on the label. If you or your customer have further questions, many manufacturers offer product support via phone or website, both of which are usually listed on the label.
Fast and Furious Win the Race
When faced with pest or disease issue, many homeowners hesitate. They may be unsure of what the problem is and/or unsure of how to treat it. However, as you know, time is of the essence in these situations. Some plant problems, if left unchecked for too long, can quickly lead a plant down the path of no return! This is especially true when red spider mite, scale or even powdery mildew is first observed.
Some pest and disease issues can be enabled by where the plant is located within the home. Spider mites are a perfect example: These insects thrive in the dry, warm climates that are common in winter. Engage your customers in conversation to learn more about their plant symptoms, and listen carefully for contextual clues. In the case of spider mites, increasing humidity levels and positioning plants away from heater vents may provide quick and easy relief.
Over the course of your discussion, determine if the issue may be a conditional threat to other plants nearby. If so, you may need to advise your customer to examine all surrounding plants for similar symptoms. They’ll want to quarantine infected or infested plants to a remote area temporarily until the issue(s) are under control.
Spider mites are among the toughest insects to treat indoors. Old-time remedies like Kelthane or Vendex (which were true miticides) have been replaced by various compounds of lightweight spray oils in ready-to-use bottles, which coat and suffocate the spider mites along with their eggs. Being contact sprays, they need to “hit” the target to be effective. Many times, plants will need a follow-up application to contain and control mite populations.
For customers who seek an all-natural solution for spider mites, another technique is to cover soil and pot with plastic and remove to a sink or tub. Spray the undersides of leaves with a direct stream of water from a spray nozzle and then spray over the top. Once the plant is reasonably dry, return it to its original location after it’s been wiped down and vacuumed to remove debris, insects and dead leaves.
An Ounce of Prevention
Healthy plants are low-maintenance plants. Even with a natural slowing of plant growth during the winter months, plants continue to need water and nutrition, albeit in smaller amounts. Remind your customers to maintain a watering and feeding schedule throughout the winter, as it’s a first line of defense against many of the most common plant ailments.
Speaking of nutrition, more is not better when it comes to fertilizing plants indoors. Many gardening experts recommend low-dose volumes of nutrients, spaced a month or two apart in feedings. Suitable plant foods can come in several different forms including plant spikes, time-release fertilizers and water soluble-fertilizers that are mixed and applied using a watering can or spray-mister bottle. Depending on your store’s capacity, you may choose to stock a broad range of products or just a few.
December is the month when poinsettias find their way into people’s homes. They may also contain insect issues that aren’t noticeable right away. Encourage your customers to carefully inspect leaf surfaces, both tops and undersides, for insects including webbing near leaf stems. After the holidays, if in doubt, throw it out.
Teach your customers to get into the habit of watering with clean tap water that’s been allowed to stand in an open container overnight. This practice brings the water up to room temperature and allows any inherent chemical gases like chlorine to evaporate. Distilled water is another option consumers may consider.
The holidays are always a busy time in caring for family and friends. Consumers would be wise to make time for weekly rounds to tend to their indoor plants, too. The reward is some green or color inside while it’s dull and gray outside.