Monday, December 08, 2008

My Schefflera has TB...




by Michael Dymmoch

...Or scale insects, the houseplant equivalent. (Yeah, I know TB is a bacterium and scale are insects. And I know the difference between the two types of “bugs.” But both “diseases” are contagious, resistant, and difficult to treat.) Problem is, I don’t want to consider the treatment recommended by the Chicago Botanic Garden—throw the Schefflera out and get a new one. I’ve belonged to this plant for 34 years. It was 6’’ tall when I first brought it home. Now it’s 5’ 6”.

Unfortunately, it’s too big for the treatment that worked on my ficus—a shower with Scrubbing Bubbles ® (the kind in the can, not the shower-cleaner.*) followed by a good soaking with insecticidal soap. The Schefflera’s pot is too heavy for me to lift. So, periodically, I treat it in place—scrub the scale off with cotton soaked in alcohol, then hit the plant with the insect-killing soap. If I were consistent, I’d have vanquished the enemy years ago. Problem is, I forget the scale for months at a time—until the infestation has reestablished itself from the bug or two I missed, and the scales are too numerous to miss. I’m constantly starting the war over.

It’s a little like trying to overcome al Queda. Or procrastination. Or bad writing habits. You have to keep after them. You have to be determined, systematic, and relentless. Any time your efforts flag, the pest comes back in force. That’s fair. It’s a matter of survival for your enemy. And of whether or not you’re able to live with the disease.

*WARNING: This treatment will kill many plants. Try it at your own risk

21 comments:

Barbara D'Amato said...

I'm sorry to hear this. Scale is bad. I once had to pitch all my plants and start over. I think you can get a systemic insecticide that you wash into the soil, but I didn't want the insecticide in my house. Good luck.

Rosemary Harris said...

I hate to throw plants away..I always think I can raise the dead. Have you tried a horticultural oil..maybe neem oil? Sort of suffocates the little suckers.

So, uh...anything new in Chicago??

Mark Combes said...

Michael~

I'm a Darwinist when it comes to plants. Survival of the fittest. I'll give water and fertilizer if I remember, but after that, you are on your own, dear plant.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Dear Rosemary--
No, absolutely nothing new in Chicago. More's the pity.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Barb, I tried nicotine in the soil--plant didn't pick it up. If you know of a good systemic, I'd love to hear about it.

Rosemary, Thanks for the suggestion but oil--like insecticidal soap--only works if you remember to reapply it as the plant grows.

Mark, In general I'd agree with you, but organisms evolve to fit particular environments. When you transplant them to alien environments, you have to give them a little assistance.

maryh said...

It occurs to me that plants have evolved alongside humans, just like dogs and cats and men. Perhaps the schefflera occasionally wants some TLC and the only way to get it is to have a scaly ugly breakout. Then you wash it down and rub its leaves and pay lots of attention to it. Thank Goddess it doesn't want ESPN and a beer!

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