Issue: October 18, 1999

Check houseplants before bringing them indoors


As I bring in my houseplants from outside for the winter, what should I do to be certain that they are healthy?


The first thing to do is carefully inspect the plants before you bring them indoors. Look for insects and diseases as well as their signs and symptoms. Signs of insects and diseases are the direct evidence of their presence, the insect itself, their eggs, their shed skins, signs of feeding, or the fruiting structures of fungi. The symptoms are the response of the plant to the pests. Plants will exhibit color changes in response to some pests, leaves may curl, and there may be discolored or dead patches on the leaves or stems. If the evidences of insect or disease problems are present, then you will need to identify the problem and the organism responsible so that an appropriate course of action may be taken to alleviate the problem. If the problem is disease, spraying an insecticide will not be effective. If it is a disease or insect, you must determine which specific disease organism or insect is responsible. This is necessary to choose the safest, most effective means of dealing with the problem.

There are books which may give you an idea of which pest or disease is present. You may also take samples of the plant with the insect, or signs and symptoms, to your local nursery or local Cooperative Extension Service office to have a professional help identify the problem. Many counties also have Master Gardener programs in which there are trained volunteers, experienced gardeners in your area, who help the Extension Service and will also help confirm the diagnosis. These professionals or volunteers will also be able to recommend one or more methods of treating the problem. Information in books relating to chemical treatment methods should be confirmed by Extension or nursery personnel. This is because the chemicals, organic and synthetic, used to treat insects and diseases and the laws regulating their use are subject to frequent change. You should also consult the label on the container of any product you have selected (before purchasing it) to confirm the product is labeled to treat the identified problem and to confirm that it may be used on the plants that you possess and in the environment where you plan to use it (indoors or outdoors).

It is best to treat the plants outdoors a few days before bringing them indoors. This allows time for the product to dry and any odors to diminish before bringing the plant indoors. Some insect and disease control products are not labeled for use indoors so, for your personal safety, they should be applied outside. Besides, it is easier to apply pest and disease control products outside where there are no carpets, curtains, furnishings, or other things which may be stained or damaged by the product.

Plants spring flowering bulbs now


The stores are now selling daffodil and tulip bulbs. Can I plant them now? I thought they should be planted in the spring.


Now is indeed the time to plant the ěspring flowering bulbsî. They will develop new roots through the fall, then in late winter begin pushing their flower stalk up through the soil so that when it seems too early, the flower stalks will appear. Donít worry if it is still freezing at night when the flower stalks appear.

The most important thing to remember is that these plants will need some moisture in the soil from the time they are planted through the time that they flower and until the foliage yellows and dies down. In the summer, many of these bulb plants can tolerate fairly dry conditions, but a little moisture in the soil through the summer is beneficial. Donít let them dry too much in the late winter. That is often a very dry time here in New Mexico, but it is a time when these plants are active and need water. Donít overwater. Because of the cool temperatures, the water evaporates less rapidly than in the summer.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!