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Help me fill in the blank:

Dear Home Depot,

These are ________________________.

(photo taken on my phone)

I’ll start.

Dear Home Depot,

These are _hideous, terrible, so unnecessary___ .

I can’t finish, I need to go barf now.

Hello chickpeas, and happy Wednesday!

Happyish, anyway. The content of today’s post is well, sad. The Mom-n-Pop wholesale greenhouse, Corrales Road Greenhouse, that I love here in Albuquerque is done. Gone. Finito. Lights out.

I actually don’t know if that’s true. I haven’t been able to bring myself to visit for the last few weeks. Ann, the empress of green, told me the last time I saw her that if they hadn’t found a buyer, they were shutting their doors September 1st. Next week.

It’s not a huge surprise that they’re closing. I’ve written about the decline of the wholesale plant business here in Albuquerque before, many times. They just can’t compete with Lowe’s and Home Depot.

I reread what I’d written about the local nursery vs. big box store fight, and I sound so naive. I still feel naive. I’ve never worked for a local nursery – I just buy from them.

In my small business, Good To Grow, I have access to wholesalers, which is how I came to love Corrales Road Greenhouse. A few years ago, this was a bustling, thriving business.

Prettiest flowers in town, best Poinsettias [shudders with dislike]. And of course, the nicest people. Super knowledgeable, too.

I still remember the very first time I went there. They had speakers in every greenhouse playing classical music for the plants. I thought that was magically sweet of them.

Since that day, I’ve left the radio on for my plants. I think they like listening to the community station.

Do I know exactly how the business went from thriving to closed? No. I know it had to do with hurricanes in Florida, rising fuel costs and competition from bigger suppliers. I remember when it first became difficult for them to get trucks to drive from Florida to New Mexico – it got too expensive for them.

The industry appears to be in a mess these days. Certain growers have deals with the big box stores, and the local guys are getting squeezed out. It’s sad, that’s all I can say.

I wish I had the power to change the industry, to urge Americans to think like their grandparents and do everything locally. But I know that’s not realistic.

It’s easier to buy houseplants from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and frankly, there are a lot of lazy Americans out there. Ok, maybe lazy is harsh. More like, unaware. Obtuse. Self-absorbed. Introverted. Blind. Hmmm, still too harsh?

Well, I’m not going to apologize, it’s true and we all know it. There are also shit tons of creative, intelligent, motivated and wonderful Americans out there.

Most of the smart ones about us are already shopping at growers’ markets or local nurseries. But we still go to Home Depot and Lowe’s because they are convenient and inexpensive, and some of might feel sorry for the plants there and rescue them.

But then we bring those plants home and they turn out to be infected with bugs – because they always are unless its a particularly resilient plant.

And we realize if we’d just gone to our local nursery, we could’ve gotten a higher quality plant for only a little bit more money.

Remember that guy I told you about a few months ago? He walks by my house every day with his dog, who’s not on a leash so he terrorizes the dog next door. One day he came walking down the sidewalk while I was out working in the garden. It was Spring, and my Delphiniums were tall and bright green. He sees me, stops, looks at the plants, and asks me, “Is this a plant?”

It was such a hard moment for me. I thought, really? You don’t know what a plant is? Do you know what a tree is?

I smiled and told him yes, and that in a few months it would be covered with purple flowers. I have no idea if he knows what flowers are.

No one taught him any better. No one instilled a love of Nature into him. It’s shameful.

See? I told you this was a sad post. I’ll be back manana with something more cheerful.

Hello honeydews, and happy Thursday. Welcome back to the Good to Grow plant blog, and thanks for being here.

Yesterday, I ranted about Home Depot and all the crappy plants I found there. I visited the one by Cottonwood Mall on Tuesday, and every single houseplant was in the throes of death. It made me furious – what a blatant example of corporate waste. Assholes!

I tend to the naive side. After reading some of the comments left, I get that there’s no way I’m going to save the company millions of dollars. Duh. It’s not because I’m a nobody and they won’t ever hear my idea (eliminate their houseplant department), although those are true. It’s because they’re making piles of money regardless. They have no financial reason to care about a bunch of dead plants.

From my point of view, it’s plant genocide. Houseplants are living, breathing creatures, 100% dependent on a human’s care. They’re not like trees and shrubs outside, they can’t fend for themselves. Once we as humans put a living breathing creature into a situation where they are dependent on us, it’s our responsibility to care for that creature – whether it’s an infant, a puppy or a seedling. Put a plant in a pot and bring it indoors – you better water it. Or it will die.

Really, I don’t have much of a beef with Home Depot’s outdoor plant selection. That’s because you go, buy your petunias or sages, then you bring them home and plant them outdoors, where for the most part, nature takes over. Yeah, they need you to remember to water them, but at some point, you can sorta forget about them and they’ll still grow. Indoor houseplants – plants in containers indoors – are not like that. They’re completely dependent on someone giving them water and attention.

I don’t get why no one understands that. Are we really so disconnected from nature, collectively as humans, that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Am I the only one who believes killing is wrong, period?

If Home Depot thought of plants the way I do, as friends, they’d see that they have tremendous amounts of blood, er, leaves, on their hands. But the reality is, no one in that company gives a shit. So on it goes.

Oh, crap. Yesterday I promised to write something more cheerful. Even a casual glance at the word genocide is the opposite of cheerful. Not really happy Thursday, is it? My bad.

I guess I’ll do what I always do when things aren’t going the way I hope. I’ll get back to work.

For you, a cheerful photo:

Ok, ok, this was supposed to be Albuquerque Week!, because I love this city and want very much to share that with everyone!¹ Plus I’ve been upset about the cuts in funding for social services and depressed about homeless people and people in crisis in general. But if that’s what I really want, I can start another blog dedicated to those ideas. This is a plant blog, and from now on, there shall be plant talk!²  Please, feel free to take a collective sigh of relief.

Hi, nature lovers, my name is Liza. Happy Wednesday! Thanks for being here. I mean, really, thank you. It’s been depressing around here lately in regards to humanity! It’s so therapeutic to be thinking about plants again.

Do you guys read the posts by the ladies over at Garden Rant? I really like that site – they don’t really rant so much as provide important information in an easy-to-read style. There are tons of good sites out there. (I’ve been slowly updating my “Plant and Garden Blogs” blogroll to include even more favorites – I hope you check them out, and check back as I’m adding more. People are so creative!) Many of them touch on gardening or plant themes that affect us all.

One debate I keep hearing is the question of buying plants at the big box stores versus the local nurseries. I think every single one of us wants to buy from a local nursery, but oftentimes, that’s hard. As Benjamin over at The Deep Middle said, he wanted to buy a tree from a local nursery, but they charge a gasp-inducing $75 just to deliver it. Many people have talked of this subject. I’ve discussed the topic a few times myself, featuring my favorite local nursery (High Country Gardens) and ranting against the pest-infected soil you buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s.³

I have a small plant care business here in ‘burque, so I’m constantly checking out places that sell plants – wholesale, retail, big box. I would love to have one convenient place to do all my plant shopping, but I don’t see how that’s possible. And I’m ok with that because I’m bouncing around town anyway – how hard is it for me to pop into this place or that? Albuquerque’s small, but there are plant sellers everywhere. There are a ton of Home Depots and Lowe’s, and they are certainly useful for a lot of things. I think it’s important to spread money around – buy a succulent at the local nursery, or a cactus from the guy by the side of the road, or buy soil for outdoor containers at the big box place. It’s all ok, as long as we’re not ignoring the little guys.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been on the prowl for a particular type of plant. I need something tall. Now, you would think that would be sooooo easy. Just go pick out a big ol’ Ficus (like Samantha the Ficus tree) or go buy a Corn plant at my local nursery. Here’s the deal though – it’s for one of my clients, his office has no windows. A Ficus tree would hate that!

Here’s the general rule of thumb for indoor houseplants – the darker the leaves of a plant, the less light they need. So a plant with yellow leaves, variegated leaves, light green leaves, they really relish the sunshine, a bright sunny window. But a plant with really dark green leaves will be totally happy in a dark office, or a corner of your living room that doesn’t get much light. It’s not a foolproof rule, but I’ve found it works really well. I’ve also found that you can sortof force it to work – plants are amazingly resilient, and most of them will just put up with whatever conditions you provide. That’s why my Pothos plants do so well in offices with no natural sunlight – they’re plantastic. They’ve learned to love fluorescent lighting. They still clean the air while they’re being so deprived of their natural surroundings. Isn’t that adorable?

Ok, so back to my dilemma – why is it so hard to find a tall nice plant for a dark office in Albuquerque? As Dottie would say, “Oy vey!” So many reasons! Please, bear with me! I can explain them!

My first stop is always my little mom-n-pop nursery, Corrales Road Greenhouses. They’re wholesalers. They’re the ones I want to buy the most plants from, they’re the ones I want to reward for their incredibly difficult work. Ann runs the place, she’s the sweetest lady, and Chris and everyone else work their asses off – they have five huge greenhouses, growing everything from Poinsettias (you can see pictures of Points here, if you really want to – I personally, do not) to Salvias to Petunias, well, everything. When I first started my plant business and started going there, I was absolutely enchanted that they played classical music from speakers in their greenhouses. They are the reason that I leave the radio on and tuned in to our community radio station even when I’m not home.¹ So, you get that I love these guys, right?

Well, back in 2003, 2004, these guys were doing pretty well. They had more employees, and were growing more plants than they are today. Then there was a hurricane in Florida, where most tropical plants are grown (I apologize, I don’t remember which hurricane, the date, or the specific sequence of events, nor do I have the time or desire to research that knowledge, but this is how I remember Ann explaining things to me), and that hurricane wiped out a big swath of nurseries. Not long after, fuel prices began to soar.  It seemed like alluvasudden, there were fewer plants on the market, and Ann couldn’t afford to pay someone to drive from Florida to New Mexico anyway. For awhile, they would just gather customers’ orders, and when they had enough to fill a truck, they’d place the order.

It didn’t take long before truck deliveries became a rare occurrence. Months would pass. I know Ann would order anything I needed for me in a heartbeat, but who knows when I would get it?

[I don’t want to get off the track of my quest for the perfect tall office plant, but I do want to quickly say that I’m hoping to interview Ann and get more specifics from her, and I’ll post that here. I went there last week, and almost cried. Their biggest greenhouse, well, the roof was just gone from the spring winds. Blown right off. I wanted to buy succulents, which they have recently started selling, and they were covered with spider webs. They’ve lost so much revenue in the last few years, they are just clinging to hope at this point, and clinging to holidays, like Christmas and Easter. Oh wait, those have already passed. What’s the next big seller? Oh, it’s Poinsettias at Christmas. Yeah, you see the face of this? It’s so sad, but I think it’s important to discuss.]

For now, back to my quest. If the wholesalers in town aren’t bringing in the tall plants, who is? Certainly not my favorite locals, who all rely (I think) on big trucks carting in plants to the desert from Florida and California. So High Country Gardens is out, Jericho is out, Osuna has some stuff but they’re so pricey it bugs me. I’ve been checking out other nurseries but most concentrate on outdoor plants. I’ve been looking and looking, but none of them had the plant for which I’m searching. That leaves Home Depot and Lowe’s. They have the resources to bring tropical plants to the desert.

Sadly for me, I need a decent plant that can handle an office with no windows. Most of those are tropicalish – Palms, Corn plants, Sansevieria (I say tropicalish as opposed to desert-loving plants, like cactus and succulents). Many Corn plants have variegated leaves, meaning they would like some sunlight, but I am looking for one with dark leaves for the dark office.

There’s one Home Depot near my house, and I know that their plant delivery days are Thursdays and Saturdays. Yesterday, though, Tuesday, I finished with a client in Rio Rancho and decided to check out the plants at the Home Depot by Cottonwood Mall. I don’t know their delivery schedule. What I saw was almost worse than the feeling I get when I think about Steve the homeless guy. I didn’t have my fancy camera, but my little Coolpix worked ok. (The pictures were largely disappointing, as I was in a hurry not to get shots without being noticed.)

Before I show you the horrifying photos, here’s what I would like to say to the CEO (or anyone) of Home Depot²:

Dear sir, ma’am, anyone, anyone at all at Home Depot,

I hope today finds you well. I am writing to tell you of a way that you can save your organization millions of dollars each year.  I know an organization as huge as Home Depot has many leaders, many departments, many “chefs” as it were. When I refer to “you,”  I mean the organization. No offense, but I didn’t even research a specific person to address. This is not a personal attack on any one person – my goal here is to point out a solution to some organizational problems.

Hi! My name is Liza and I’m trying to help local Albuquerque companies thrive, mine included. I have a small plant care business in the Duke City. I frequently look at the plants at Home Depot in hopes of finding ones worthy of purchasing. I can’t remember the last time I found one that wasn’t infected with bugs, or half dead. To me, that’s like plant murder. Your employees have no idea what they are doing. I have never said – or would say –  anything antagonistic to anyone working for Home Depot, because I think they are trying, but they are not properly trained. (Not that many people strive to do a crappy job.) I actually make lots of purchases at your stores. But not plants. And definitely not potting soil. You guys (Again, I mean, your employees – as CEO, I’m sure you don’t drive the forklift to put the potting soil three stories up), leave those thin plastic bags, which always get holes, out in the elements, which invites *&^%# fungus gnats, which is my worst nightmare, as a person who puts potting soil in people’s offices. “I had clients in today, and we all kept swatting at gnats.” Super.

So what can I tell Home Depot that will save you millions? It’s this: Stop. Just stop. Cut out your houseplant department if you’re only going to do it half-assed. I sorta kinda like the attention you pay to your outdoor plant selections – you do offer some things that grow well in this climate, but you’re not great at it. Your indoor houseplant department is a mess. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you used your giant resources and big trucks to send those tall houseplants that need special attention to our dying mom-n-pops, who can generate the resources to employ people to care for those fragile plants (can you imagine, from a plant’s perspective, how terrifying a drive would be from Florida to New Mexico? “Aaaaahhhhhh,” they would scream if they could talk!) and offer people like me affordable plants?

What, you ask? Who are you to tell me how to run my company? I apologize, I’m not here to upset anyone. I only want to do good and stop the murder of living, breathing plants. I’m no one special, just a small business owner, a plant lover and a self-appointed Ambassador to Nature. That’s why it makes me so sad to post this proof that you’re squandering money.

Sincerely, and most respectfully, Liza

p.s. If you make changes and would like to thank me, I’ll take my thanks as a percentage of your profits – thanks!

Ah, if only I had their ear! And now, the parade of almost dead plants. This is my evidence that big box stores need to engage the local community. And hire professionals.

Here’s a Corn plant that suffers greatly – the brown crunchy lower leaves indicate underwatering (it’s natural on my plants for the lower leaves to become crunchy and fall off, but it’s also a sign that the plant is thirsty), and the brown tips on the other leaves indicated too much water. Whoever has been “caring” for these plants since they arrived at Home Depot is doing a crappy job.

I was so astonished – there wasn’t one single plant that I would’ve bought from this store. They were ALL in the throes of death. Plant murder, grrrr!

What a waste of money! And who would buy this? I was very proud of myself – there were several other shoppers who were checking out plants. I successfully avoided shouting things like, “Run now,” or “Don’t buy any of these plants!”

Even the new stuff on the carts are dying. Wasteful, shameful!

See all the brown crunchy leaves that have fallen off? These Crotons were starved for water. I can tell just by a glance. You would think the employees in charge of these precious fellows would’ve been able to tell as well.

I have more, mostly blurry, photos of all the dead plants, but I think we’ve all had enough. And hopefully someone from Home Depot has everything they need to make changes in his company. I think it’s probably pretty damn idealistic for me to think that someone might listen to me, but I have to hope, right? RIGHT? Seriously, it’s all we have as humans.

Ok, dandelions, that does it for this Wednesday edition of the Good to Grow blog. Thank you again for being here. I apologize if you’re now depressed over the plant genocide. I’ll be back tomorrow with something more cheerful. Until then, happy gardening everyone!


¹ This is my blog – I can write about anything I damn well please. While I like showing you my Duke city, I don’t need to be wailing about the sadness of it all. If I want to show you a cool plant nursery in Albuquerque, or interview Albuquerque farmers, so be it. But you’ll be spared from the social services part of my personality from now on. Mostly anyway. Some of it just oozes out of my pores, so you’ll just have to deal.

² Thanks Justin, for the reminder and the focus!

³ I’m not referring to Target stores when I reference big box stores. I love Target, for many reasons. I know they sell plants in some stores, but not the ones in Albuquerque – the garden centers here are pretty much a few pretty pots and some herbs you can start in a container. Great, but not what I mean when I’m comparing stores for buying plants specifically.

4 Huh, this is supposed to be my fourth footnote, but it looks to me like WordPress only allows you three. So I started over again at 1. I feel like there should be at least a small “a” or “b” option like in an outline. But that’s just me. Oh gosh, I almost forgot what the footnote was for – I just want to clarify, there are two community stations in ‘burque – and I like to leave one or the other on for the plants to listen to.

5 I didn’t research who runs Home Depot. I lost interest after I didn’t get to see Tony Stewart as much. But I am hoping to catch the eye of some member of the marketing department, and will definitely research that sometime when I’m not, well, you know, working.

One thing I like about life is its unrelenting cheerfulness.

Yesterday, I wrote about a pet peeve of mine – buying potting soil, only to get it home and realize there are Fungus Gnats inside. Grrr, I wrote.

Today, like magic, the pet peeve’s gone. Poof! The problem is solved – I no longer am going to worry about those annoying little Fruit fly lookalikes.

I had an interesting day, that’s for sure!

Before I tell you what happened to change my perspective, let’s back up a sec.

Fruit Flies Vs. Fungus Gnats

Both Fruit flies and Gnats are small, annoying bugs that you’ve probably seen before flying around your kitchen, or perhaps floating dead in your lemonade. Gnats are darker, but really, it’s hard to tell the difference with the naked eye. (Maybe that’s because I just don’t care – neither are acceptable in my home.*)

Fruit flies don’t normally live in houseplants – they live where there’s rotting food, like in composts, refrigerators, kitchen trash cans. Often, they’ll come home from the grocery store with bananas or other fruits. Hence the name. Get it? GET IT?

Haha, just kidding. Fungus Gnats, on the other hand, like wet places – wet soil, standing water, drains, plumbing. If there are plants in the house, they should be suspected first.

Clearing the Air: How to Kill Fungus Gnats

I’m going to assume that if you’re still reading, you’re generally a clean person and not one who would leave say, rotting chunks of pineapple at the bottom of your trash can creating a Fruit fly invasion. Why? Because I like to believe that of my readers – you’re adorable and clean!

So, from here on out, we’ll assume you’re battling Fungus Gnats. Here’s what to do:

First, check the soil of your houseplants to see if Gnats live there. Usually, you can see the adults crawling all over the soil. If you’re still not sure, stick your finger in the dirt – they will fly right in your face, leaving no doubt.

Second, once you’ve located the infected plant (or plants, as the *&^% Gnats multiply fifty million times faster than rabbits), pull it away from your healthy plants.

Third, check the plant’s saucer to see if it’s full of water. If it is, empty it.

Here’s the thing about Gnats – they need moisture to live. So either there’s standing water or the soil is really wet.

There’s no shortage of chemicals and toxins out there to kill insects. But they are not necessary.

Here are four safe alternatives to using pesticides to kill Gnats.

1. Use fly traps.

These yellow sticky traps are great! The adult Gnats are attracted to the yellow color, then they get stuck. Lay them on top of the soil, or attach them to the side of the pot. They get gross once they get filled up with dead Gnat bodies, but I suspect you won’t mind as long as they’re not flying in your face.

You can make your own yellow stickies using yellow paper and Vasoline or some other gooey substance. These were $6.99 for seven traps (which I cut into smaller pieces, easily doubling the number of traps).

The traps won’t help you with the larvae in the soil, however. For that, try one of these treatments:

2. Either repot the plant, replacing the dirt entirely. Or, scoop out the top two inches or so of soil and replace it. They lay their eggs in the topsoil, not the bottom. Remove the eggs, remove the problem.

3. Cover the soil with a few inches of sand, suffocating the eggs and forcing the moisture out of the soil.

4. Use clear plastic wrap to suffocate the eggs.

I had a Ficus tree that was infected with Gnats at one of my client’s office. It made me mad, because I had gone to Osuna nursery to get potting soil, Black Gold soil, because the last few times I’d bought Miracle Gro soil at Home Depot, the bag was infested with Gnats. The nursery people kept their bags of soil inside the store, so I figured the chances of it being infected was low.

I was wrong. Within a few days, everyone in the office was complaining about the flying bugs. So I broke out the yellow sticky traps first, and then, I went to town on the grower’s pot with clear plastic wrap. I kept it as tight as possible, so adults couldn’t escape and eggs would be suffocated. Took about a week, but it did the trick.

Rant? What Rant?

Yesterday, I was ready to rail against soil companies and places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, who store their potting soil bags outside in the elements, making them vulnerable to Fungus Gnats.

I’ve been really frustrated because it seems like there’s nowhere in Albuquerque to buy decent potting soil. When you’re in the plant care business, that’s important! Even if you’re not, you should be able to buy soil that at the very least isn’t already infected with Fungus Gnats.

But then something nice happened.

I stopped by a different local nursery, Jericho Nursery, which some of you may remember from my post about holiday plant gifts.

One of the employees was outside when I pulled up, so he immediately asked if he could help me find something. I asked about the yellow sticky traps for Gnats. As he was showing me where they were, he started to tell me that Fungus Gnats are a classic symptom of over-watering. I laughed and said I knew.

We got to talking, and I asked if he’d noticed how many bags of potting soil are already infected with Fungus Gnats. He looked at me quizzically and asked what I meant.

He said the potting soil they use isn’t infected. It’s called FoxFarm soil. Check out their website, they’re a family-owned farm, and seem really nice!

And there it was. Just like that, my pet peeve was gone. Why would I worry about Fungus Gnats again when I know now where to buy bug-free soil? This is my second visit to Jericho, and I do believe they have a customer for life.

There’s a Lowe’s five minutes from my house, and a Home Depot that’s not too far. It’s been so convenient for me to shop there for potting soil or the occasional plant. But I’m starting to realize how widespread the consequences of shopping there can be – I unknowingly buy infected soil, bugs break out in an office, my clients get annoyed, I scramble to kill the bugs.

Now, I know how to avoid all that hassle. Life’s fun like that.

Not to Kick a Big Box Store When It’s Down, But…

I visited the Lowe’s downtown (the one at 12th and I-40) yesterday to take pictures of the potting soil outside. Before I left, I couldn’t resist checking their houseplants for Mealy bugs.

Can you see the bug? It’s that white spot at about nine o’clock on the inside of the leaves. That’s pathetic, it was the first plant I picked up!**

Coming Up Tomorrow!

We’ll back manana with a new edition of Ask the Experts. Hope to see you there! Until then, happy indoor gardening everyone!


* It’s only fair to note my hypocrisy in my view of bugs. Awhile back, I scolded my then 13-year-old niece because she killed a spider she’d found on the wall by putting a band-aid over it and smashing it. “Why are you killing spiders?” I demanded. “What’s that spider ever done to you?” At the same time, I conveniently neglected to mention that I was in my own personal war against a steady stream of ants determined to invade my kitchen. I probably killed ten thousand ants to her one spider. So who I am to decide that Gnats must die? Because I’m human, and this is my house. I also decide what gets to live in my yard. Sorry, Gnats and Goatheads, better luck next incarnation!

**I’m totally taking advantage of the growing trend to ignore the rule of not ending a sentence with a preposition (I say lest you were just about to call the Grammar Police).

“Do you know of any safe pesticides?” asked Susan, an employee at one of my client’s offices yesterday. “I have small children at home so I’m worried about using the bug-killers they have at Home Depot.”

In my small plant care business, Good to Grow, I get questions like that a lot. Most of my clients are in office buildings, very few of which have windows that open and allow for circulation. I can’t spray toxic chemicals in them – I wouldn’t do that to those employees! But that’s ok, because there are plenty of safe alternatives.

I told Susan that she should use a safe pesticide whether she had kids or not (her own health is important, too!), but before I could steer her in the right direction, I needed to know more.

“What kind of plant is infected?” I asked. “And with what kind of bugs?”

“Well, I bought a plant at Home Depot a few weeks ago,” she answered, “And now it’s covered in what looks like clumps of cotton. But it’s not cotton, it’s bugs”

“Ew. Mealy bugs,” I told her. “They’re gross, aren’t they?”

I got this photo of an infected Janet Craig from the web, I believe it originated at the University of Kentucky. See what I mean? Gross!

I had to ask several more questions before I figured out that she had bought a Dragon tree (Dracaena Marginata) that was infected with the bugs. The Dragon tree and the Janet Craig pictured above are both Dracaenas, and both are susceptible to Mealy bugs. The Dragon trees in particular are also susceptible to Spider Mites, which are also gross and will kill your plant if left to their own devices.

She probably didn’t check the plant for bugs before buying it. But even if she had, she may not have been able to see the bugs at the store – they certainly didn’t have the same appearance they have now. They tend to “hide” and then suddenly “come alive” once you get them in your house. Grrr!

You should always check carefully for bugs before bringing a plant into your house because oftentimes, you can actually see them or see signs that the plant is not as healthy as it should be. But again, even if you do check, sometimes they slip by because they are buggery little boogers.

It’s ok, I know how to get the plant healthy again.

I wrote this down for Susan (even though it’s laughably easy, people get busy and forget).

Recipe for Non-Toxic Pesticide:

1 spray bottle

1 bottle of rubbing alcohol (you won’t need the whole bottle, but it’s good to have)

3-4 drops of dish soap (Palmolive, Dawn, it doesn’t matter – they all work the same)


Take the spray bottle and pour a 50-50 mix of the rubbing alcohol and water. Then add a few drops of dish soap. Shake well. Spray the plant thoroughly with the non-toxic mixture.

The rubbing alcohol will fry the Mealy bugs, but won’t hurt the plant. The dish soap helps the alcohol stay on the leaves, and also cleans the leaves at the same time. The rubbing alcohol will stink up the joint for a few minutes, but at least it won’t cause any harm to you or the plant.

I told Susan that she would have to wipe the dead Mealy bugs off the plant – I suggested using the shower since it’s a little cold this time of year for the garden hose – and that she should keep spraying the plant once a week until she’s sure they are gone.

The rubbing alcohol mix also works like a charm on Spider Mites, which is probably the most common houseplant pest. It can work on Scale if you are dedicated and persistent, although Scale is the one pest that I generally think you need to pull out the toxic stuff to kill (if one of my plants gets Scale, I usually throw it away, because Scale is difficult to kill).

She could also use rubbing alcohol directly on the leaves, using cotton balls or Q-tips to wipe the bugs away. I like the spray mixture because it’s easier.

Non-Toxic Pesticides Are Cheaper, Too!

A bottle of rubbing alcohol will set you back about a buck, maybe a buck fifty. Compare that to myriad harmful pesticides out there selling for ten bucks or more for just a few ounces. What a racket!

Susan also asked me if my rubbing alcohol mixture would work on flying insects (Gnats, Fruit flies) as well. Seems she bought some potting soil at Home Depot and it was infected with Gnats, which are now flying around her house.

That’s one of my biggest pet peeves, so tomorrow, I’m going to go on a RANT about Fungus Gnats and the crappy potting soil we’re being offered these days. It’s going to be aimed at the manufacturers who are selling us already infected soil, as well as the retailers who make matters worse by leaving the bags outside in the elements where the Gnats can multiply by the thousands. Drives. Me. Crazy.

I will also provide a few tricky, but safe, ways to rid your home or office of those pesky Gnats – without pesticides, of course.

So check back tomorrow! Until then, happy indoor gardening everyone!

As if you really need any more reasons to buy local.

Holiday plants can make great gifts, but only if they are healthy. I went to Home Depot yesterday to check out their supply of holiday plants. Look what I found.

About 90 percent of their holiday flowers were already mostly dead.

Who would buy that? They also had some washed-out looking Poinsettias and some Christmas cacti with dead blossoms.

They also had some Bromeliads, but I don’t find them particularly festive.

No self-respecting local nursery would mistreat their plants the way the big box stores do. That’s because employees who work at nurseries actually care about plants.

I often find dead or dying plants at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. But even I’m surprised by the number of already dead holiday plants – didn’t they just arrive?

If you live in the Albuquerque area, consider visiting a local nursery for gift ideas. I went to Jericho Nursery on 2nd and Alameda.

They not only have lots of beautiful Poinsettias, but they also created mini-Poinsettias that they put in self-watering containers.

Pretty cute, eh? I think these would make wonderful gifts for coworkers or neighbors. They are inexpensive, and all you have to do is make sure there’s water in the container. The plant waters itself. That makes it a no-fuss gift.

They also had some gorgeous Christmas cacti.

Gorgeous! See how the buds aren’t open yet? That’s when you want to buy a Christmas cactus. If you buy them when the blossoms are already fully open, they will fall off rapidly (maybe even before you get the plant home). Also, you get a lot more longevity if the buds aren’t open.

Holiday plants can make great gifts as well centerpieces for your dining room table. I was planning on showcasing some nice centerpieces, but as it turns out, I’m posting this from an airport (my first ever airport post) so I’m going to have to cut it short.

Before I go, here’s one more reminder to shop your local nurseries instead of the big box stores. There were lots of dead plants at Home Depot.

Plant murderers.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.