Archive for the ‘Houseplants’ Category

What are the white beads on my tetrastigma?

Pearl Bodies on Tetrastigma

We often get this question from customers who have purchased a Giant Grape Ivy (tetrastigma voinierianum).  The underside of the leaves on this plant have numerous white, glossy ‘pinheads’ which are often mistaken for bugs or large sand particles.  So what are they?  These are known as pearl bodies and they contain lipids (oils) that are presumed to be produced by the plant in an attempt to attract ants.  The ants get a nice meal from the plant while they protect it from would-be herbivores. 

Here is a little more information about this plant:

During the growing months from late spring through summer, you will be treated to a vibrant display of velvet-like hairs on newly unfurled leaves and tendrils.  The color of these hairs is reminiscent of fox fur.

Over-watering will begin to rot the stems at the soil.  Under-watering will prevent new growth from forming.  When keeping this plant indoors, keep the soil evenly moist (similar to that of a rung-out sponge).  A low number fertilizer (like a 4-4-4) will be beneficial.  If planted outdoors, be sure to cut the plant back to the ground before the first hard freeze and do not plant in areas that will drop below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  Medium to high indirect light will keep it happy and full of new growth.  As stated above, you may see ants on this plant because of the pearl bodies.


Something loves the heat and it’s not me…

The endless days of summer heat are not only challenging for us humans, but the heat also brings on additional problems for houseplants.  One of the challenges in taking care of houseplants during the summer is fighting off the heat-loving pests that start appearing.  We take great care to buy our plants from the best growers to ensure the highest quality, but even the best plants can be susceptible.  Some of the most common bugs found on houseplants during the summer months include aphids, spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs.  Here is a quick overview:aphid

Aphids are small white, green, brown, or black bugs that are easily visible and are usually found on the new growth of the affected plants.  These often are found on the buds of hibiscus, gardenia, and mandevilla. 

spidermiteSpider mites are tiny bugs that are usually white, but can vary in color.  These can be more difficult to see with the naked eye.  Mites are most often found on the underside of leaves and damaged leaves may look like they are losing color as tiny yellow or white speckled areas appear.  You may also see fine webs on more infested plants.  Spider mites can be found on many different houseplants, but the most common items to be attacked are hedera (English ivy), mini rose bushes, and various palms including neanthebella and ravenea. 

thripsThrips are long narrow insects that are usually brown, black, or white.  These are not seen as much as the other insects mentioned, but we do periodically see these on chrysanthemums and ficus (mostly benjamina) during the summer.  On chrysanthemums, they are fairly easy to spot quickly climbing around the blooms.  You may also notice the petals near the center of the bloom starting to curl or twist on a mum that has thrips.  Thrips are more prevalent on ficus benjamina during the hot summer months and are usually found in the new growth on the plant.  Infected leaves on a ficus will start to curl up and slightly resemble a shriveled pea pod.

mealybugMealybugs appear as white, cottony little oval mounds on houseplants.  These usually hide where the leaves attach to the stem of plants, but they can also be seen on the undersides of leaves.  Mealybugs can be found on many different plants, but dracaenas and aglaonemas seem to be more susceptible than other plants. 

There are many websites that have more information about these insects and how to treat them, but the City of Austin has a Grow Green program that has helpful information on how to treat for these common insects.  You can find more info here:

Aphids –

Spider Mites