Fuzzy white bugs on houseplants | Fall pruning of juniper
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Issue: September 2, 2000

House plants too large

Question:

Some of my houseplants have small, fuzzy, white things on them. I tried to rub one off, and it had a kind of orange or reddish blood. What is this and is it harmful?

Answer:

From your description I think you have mealy bugs on your houseplants. This is a small insect that feeds by sucking the juices from the plant. Mealy bugs are indeed harmful to your plants. The white, fuzzy, material you described is a covering that the insect produces to protect itself.

This insect can rapidly spread from one plant to another, so you might want to discard heavily infested plants or at least remove the most heavily infested plants from the vicinity of other uninfested plants. In many cases it is cheaper and easier to replace plants than to constantly be fighting a well-established insect infestation.

If you choose to fight, you have several options. Since the plants are houseplants and are probably indoors, use a product safe for indoor use. Insecticidal soap should be effective. However, you will need to be vigilant and re-treat several times in quick succession to kill new generations hatching from eggs before they mature and begin to reproduce. If your plants have clasping leaf bases or other hiding places, the insects will continue to reappear. In that case, you may need to use a more toxic insecticide. To use more toxic materials, look for one in the garden center that is labeled to control mealy bugs on the types of plants that you are growing. Follow the directions, and unless it has directions for indoor use, take the plants outside to treat them. Do not return them to the house until the chemical has dried. If an odor persists, you may need to leave it outdoors longer.

While the plant is outdoors, keep it in a shady location and water often enough to prevent the soil from drying. A houseplant suddenly exposed to outdoor conditions is very subject to desiccation, sunburn, and burning by the insecticide. Treat the plants with care. You should still have sufficient time before frost to accomplish this. Later in the fall and winter, special precautions must be taken to prevent freezing injury to the houseplant.

Once the plant is returned to the house, watch it carefully for the resurgence of the pest. Subsequent treatments may be necessary.


Fall pruning of juniper

Question:

Can I prune my junipers now?

Answer:

You may prune junipers now, but if the junipers are pruned extensively, winter damage may follow late pruning. The junipers will also not be able to cover any unsightly spots exposed by pruning now since they will not grow in the autumn and winter.

If there are a few branches interfering with traffic or your management of other plants, prune the offending branches. Save the major pruning for spring.

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Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

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