Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Imagine my surprise when I came across a major mealybug infestation on my succulents. Mealybugs on succulents are not rare, however I was surprised to see just how many I (or rather my aeoniums) had to deal with!  I was cleaning up some plants and as I turned this container a half turn, bam! There they were.  How did I get mealybugs on my succulents? That’s a good question. Quite honestly, they’ve probably always been there, but just not in these numbers. Stressed plants are going to be more favorable to mealybugs, so that may be an indicator which plants need some care. Mealybugs on succulents is common and since I did bring in a lot of plants from outside this fall, I may have accidentally brought these pests indoors too. When we lived in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to have an outbreak in the landscape occasionally. Hibiscus are especially prone to this and you can see how I dealt with those HERE. What do mealybugs look like? Mealybugs look like little pieces of cotton stuck to the plant. They are often found along the stem and where leaves attach to the stem is a really good place to look. The mealybugs shown here have found a nice protected place under the canopy of the leaves on this aeonium. Outdoors it would provide them protection from the elements, in my house it provides them a place to hide where I am not likely to see them! According to California Extension, “Mealybugs suck sap from plant phloem, reducing plant vigor, and they excrete sticky honeydew and wax, which reduces plant and fruit quality, especially when black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. Large accumulations of mealybugs, their egg sacs, and wax can be unattractive. High populations feeding on foliage or stems can slow plant growth and cause leaf drop; however, healthy plants can tolerate low populations without significant damage. ”   How do I get rid of mealybugs on succulents? The supplies for this are simple: Rubbing alcohol and Q-tips. I like to pour some of the rubbing alcohol into the cap and then use the Q-tip to soak up as much as possible. Then, simply touch the wet tip to the mealybugs. Sometimes they will turn black instantly (my favorite!) and if there are a lot you can kind of wipe them up with this. This is also a good time to look for any dead or yellowing leaves that might have collections of these mealybugs on them. I just remove these and throw them in the trash in combination with the alcohol rub down. Once cleaned the plant looks great again. I will keep my eye on it for a few weeks to come back and treat any mealybugs that were missed. What a simple and easy way to treat mealybugs on succulents without introducing unwanted chemicals or pesticides into your...
Creating a hanging succulent terrarium

Creating a hanging succulent terrarium

Winter getting you down?  How about creating a hanging succulent terrarium to get you through? I have been so impressed by my collection of hanging succulent terrariums that I felt it was worth sharing this again. I see so many of these online with the wrong plants and wrong supplies that they are destined to bring failure to their new home. Have you noticed these cute hanging succulent terrariums popping up in your favorite catalogs and decorating blogs? Don’t be fooled by their sleek design and beautiful colors, these are extremely simple to put together and are a great way to add plants to even the smallest spaces. Read on to learn how I made my seven different succulent terrarium and how to maintain your plants. Creating a hanging succulent terrarium: Supplies Keep it simple. All you need is some potting soil (less than 1 cup per globe), simple top dressing like these stones, succulent cuttings and your globe. Here is a list: Well draining potting soil Glass globe- I love these from Amazon and they are 6 for $15! Succulent cuttings. I always enjoy scouring my local nurseries and garden centers, but if you can’t find any locally, here is a nice collection of haworthias which would do great. Top dressing (beach glass, stones, or sea shells all look great!) First step: Add soil I know that it is tempting to add a lot of soil but trust me on this, less is more. I add between 1/2″ and 1″ of soil flat across the bottom. On this hanging globe you can see the opening dips fairly low so it is important the soil level is below that line so water can be added without spilling out. Regular potting soil will work really well for this project. You can see here that I opted for soil that didn’t have any perlite so that the little white pieces wouldn’t stand out but that is just personal preference.     Second step: Add plants Plant selection is going to be key to the success of your hanging succulent terrarium. Even though your window may seem sunny to you, the light levels are actually much lower than outside so you want to make sure to select plants that will not get stretched out and lose their beautiful shape. Because we want these to last for several years, it also helps to make sure your plants will stay small so that they do not outgrow your globe. You can see a listing of some of the best succulent terrarium plants here. I went with Haworthia retusa, “Window Succulent,” because I already had a pot of it growing and it was easy to pull off three pups for this project. I prepped the cuttings but removing any soil and trimming the roots to about an inch in length. The few roots help to anchor the cutting and also make it very easy to stick right in the soil.  I strongly recommend using cuttings for this purpose.  You can use plants but in that case you will want to put the plants in the container and then add the soil around them– it is just more difficult.   Third and final step: Add top dressing This is the stuff that kind of covers up your soil and also holds your plants in place while they start growing new roots. I chose a mix of smooth stones and some blue clay pendants that I found. I think seashells also look very cool and the possibilities are really endless on this. Pennies, sticks, glass pebbles, moss…   Watering and care I water my hanging succulent terrarium globes by using a plastic cup that I can squeeze a little bit to pour in the opening. I water these about every two weeks but I know there are times when I’ve gone a month without watering and they are doing just fine. When watering, make sure to really saturate all of the soil.     Look at the color of the soil to determine if you need to add a little bit more water to get rid of the dry air pockets. See the darker portion on the bottom? That area is nice and wet and is how you want the entire depth to look. It is a fine balance because you don’t want to submerge your plants; if you aren’t sure stop a little early and let the water soak in to the soil for a bit.   These fabulous little hanging succulent terrariums are so easy to make that you just might find yourself getting more to share with friends. My office feels so much better with some plants hanging above my computer!...
Will my orchid bloom again?

Will my orchid bloom again?

As the last bloom falls from my orchid I find myself asking the important question, “Will my orchid bloom again?” How do you know what to look for and is there anything you can do to encourage another flower? This lovely little miniature orchid was an impulse by from a visit to Home Depot. I am a sucker for all of the things near the checkout line, so a display of small orchids for $6.99 wasn’t even worth fighting.   Large or small, you can get an orchid bloom again. I find that most orchid flowers last 3-4 months in our house if they were purchased in good condition with a several of the balloon-like blooms yet to open. What a deal these orchids are compared to cut flowers! Along the stem of the orchid you can see small white lines that circle the green stem. These are called “nodes” and it is at this point the plant is able to produce new growth or where flowers were previously attached. It is worth noting that the stem must be green for your orchid to bloom again on this stem. If it is brown go ahead and cut it off at the base and wait for the next bloom stem in 6-9 months. The arrows on this image show where the nodes are at along this stem. Some folks will recommend to cut the orchid bloom stalk in half to encourage new flowers but I don’t find that is necessary. Almost without fail, the new bloom stem will develop at the third node from the base of the plant. See the little nub on the image below?  That is where a new stem is starting to grow and new orchid blooms will develop. It will take 4-6 weeks for this to mature and flower buds begin to form, but it is worth the wait. In my experience this secondary flower stem is usually smaller than the first, but always a joy to see. At this point just continue to maintain your orchid in the same manner as before. If there is already a stake on your old orchid bloom go ahead and leave that there to help support the new flowers that are...
Too late to plant tulips?

Too late to plant tulips?

In a word, No! Now is a great time to get out there and plant tulips before the ground freezes. Until recently the weather was really warm and although the calendar said it was a good time to get these planted, my shorts and t-shirt indicated it was a little early. Well that has certainly changed and the time to plant tulips can’t be put off much longer. When to plant tulips? When your elephant ear bulbs quit looking like this… And instead start looking like this: My bulbs from Colorblends arrived in mid September but the warm weather was keeping all of my tropical plants looking great. I tell myself that they actually do better with a hard freeze to knock down the growth, but that may also be because I just don’t have it in me to remove these really great looking plants. More on removing and storing tropical plants in our next post! With the alocasias and colocasias removed it was the perfect time to work the soil. Using a long spade, the soil was deeply tilled and turned over to incorporate some of the leaf litter on top and also to make it easier to plant. Once the prep was done, I decided the best way to plant tulips in here was to divide my 100 bulbs among the two beds to help get an even amount in each. I ordered the Colorblends Pink Cubed mix and I know from experience that I am a little heavy handed on the planting! This blend includes three varieties of tulips with varying bloom times which should help extend the color display until its warm enough to return the elephant ears to their place of prominence in front of the house. The instructions for this blend say to plant tulips 5″ deep with 7-8 per square foot.  To keep it simple, I tossed them onto the bed, adjusted a few to help even out and started planting right there. The soil in these beds is very light so it was easy to plant deep enough with a hand trowel. I considered removing all of the needed soil, laying out the bulbs and then refilling, but that seemed like unnecessary work. Each tulip bulb was set upright as it was placed in its new home.   The total planting time for these 100 tulip bulbs was about 30 minutes. I’ve heard it said that gardeners are the world’s most optimistic people. It might be starting to get cold out, but rest assured, it is not too late to plant tulips in your garden. When spring comes you will be so glad that you...
Baby Robins… Throwback Thursday

Baby Robins… Throwback Thursday

Our busy spring included many changes and one of the things I really enjoyed was watching this clutch of baby robins. The beautiful blue eggs are like little jewels in the spring months and I was so excited to see these inside an electric panel box near our house. With a small opening about two inches round, this was a perfect protected space for these baby robins to grow.  So for this Throwback Thursday (perhaps I should call it “catch up on things you forgot to share” Thursday?) I hope you enjoy these images of “my” baby robins.   Baby Robins May 1: Robins usually lay one egg per day, creating nests of 3-6 eggs. The Iowa DNR says, “She then sits on the eggs for 16 to 17 days and spends another 16 to 17 days at the nest feeding the little hatchlings. Iowa robins usually try for two successful nest attempts between April and August.”  It looks like a lot of room in this box now, but just wait until the last photo! Baby Robins May 10: Its hard to say exactly how old these baby robins are here (somewhere between 1-9 days?).  Oh these little guys are not cute… What does the robin life cycle look like?  Here is a breakdown of each part of a baby robin’s development broken down by the number of days. Egg 12 – 14 Nestling 9 – 16 Fledgling 10 – 15 Total 31 – 45 Baby Robins May 13 As you can see, the nest is starting to get crowded!  The other feathers seen here are from our chickens and must have been picked up by the mother robin in the course of building her nest. Q. How long do robin babies stay in the nest (nestling stage)? A. Baby robins jump from their nest when they are about 13 days old (but the range is 9 – 16 days old). Q. When do young robins learn to fly? (fledgling stage) A. After leaving the nest (fledging), it takes another 10-15 days for babies to become strong fliers and independent birds. Baby Robins May 17: If my the camera on my phone hadn’t marked the date for these images, I would never believe how different these baby robins look after just four days. Eyes wide open, feathers developing and certainly more activity. It is hard to tell, but at this point one of the babies died. It was still in the box and later in the day the adult robin had pushed it out.  Developing five strong robins this far is still much better than most averages. Baby Robins May 23: This is the final image of “my” baby robins before they left the nest.  When I teach classes on butterfly gardening I usually give folks a hard time about how carefully the watch over “their” caterpillars and make sure there is enough food for them to pupate. It isn’t really ours at all, but it is easy to develop an attachment to the show nature provides us.  ...
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