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Hello, lemon slices, and happy Wednesday! Thanks for checking in with the Good to Grow plant blog.

As most of you know, I have a small plant care business (called Good to Grow) here in Albuquerque. I love it – I get to take care of plants at offices and homes around town, and my clients are great.

Another aspect I love about it is that it’s an interesting job. I never know how a plant may surprise me (like by hitting the ceiling, for example), or what a client may request.

So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when an employee at the cereal plant asked me about removing the plants from the south-facing atrium.

He said they’re converting that area into office space.

I love before and after photos! So how did I get from there to here? With my great friend Tina’s help, of course.

I’d already arranged with Tina to help me prune this Yucca, because it was hitting the ceiling. Unlike the cactus at the television station, which piqued my curiosity (what would it do when it hit the ceiling, I wondered) I didn’t want this plant to hit the ceiling. I knew what would happen to it – its leaves would bend and it would be very unhappy. Right after I asked for Tina’s help, I learned about the project to remove the whole atrium.

This Ponytail Palm is huge, and heavy! Its bulbous base is 24 inches across! We removed it and put it in its own container.

The atrium also had lots of Euphorbia, which I repotted into their own container as well.

A few years ago, a very funny and sweet employee began leaving plastic dinosaurs in the atriums around the cereal plant. She did it to crack me up. It worked, too – they made me giggle (yes, I’m always this easily amused). Now they’re cracking Tina up.

There’s another atrium over by their cafeteria, so lots of the plants were relocated there. The rest got their own containers.

Here’s Tina doing all the work. I’m kidding, I’m kidding – I worked, really!

The plants will be distributed around the plant.

The Yucca needed a few days to let the “wound” scar over before it could be planted, so I stuck it out of the way and went back for it three days later. The wound was scarred, so I planted it straight into the potting soil (it didn’t need to root or anything).

I love plants that are this low-maintenance. I used stakes to help it stand up straight until it does grow roots of its own, but that was it – it was such an easy plant to transplant.

I’ll be tracking the progress of these plants as they adjust to their new containers. Some will no doubt handle the trauma better than others. But I predict they will all learn to thrive in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoyed this “behind-the-scenes” peek at my work. Thanks again to Tina for her help, as well. I’ll be back tomorrow, until then, happy gardening everyone!

“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)

Water

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!

People are complicated. As most of you know, I have a small business (Good to Grow) taking care of houseplants at offices and homes around Albuquerque. I love it – the plants don’t talk, and I can eavesdrop on other people’s office politics, then I leave.

I visit each client once a week. Sometimes I’ll come in and someone’s desk will be cleared out. Did they quit? Did they get fired? Sometimes I ask, other times I don’t learn what happened.

One thing I’ve noticed about offices in Albuquerque, employees like to tell each other what to do with little signs.

“Your fellow employees trust you.”

No, no they don’t. This was written by a frustrated vendor because employees keep taking snacks without paying for them.

Apparently they ignored his bigger angrier sign so he thought he could prevail on moral grounds. It’s not going to work.

In probably 80% of offices around town, there’s a sign above the kitchen sink that says some version of “Your mother doesn’t work here” meaning, of course, clean up after yourself. I know this because I fill my water bucket in kitchens.

They’ve always amused me, these signs. They’re not from management – it’s usually some employee who feels the crushing weight of someone else’s dirty dishes. Why? I have no idea. Maybe that employee gets stuck washing dishes at the end of the day? Still, to get so angry that you need to post a sign…well, again, people are complicated.

This lady probably went to heat up her Lean Cuisine only to find chunks of breakfast burrito left by the previous user. “That jerk!” she thought bitterly as she wrote her note. “I have to clean up after everyone at home, and now here, too. How dare he do this to me.”

Some people try to be cutesy. Makes me gag, but it must be effective as there aren’t usually dishes in the sink. Or maybe that’s because there are only five people who work in this office on any given day. But hey, no communication problems there.

Some offices take a diplomatic approach. My guess is that management stepped in after hearing one too many petty arguments about dirty coffee cups.

Some are very polite with their demands. I took this at University Hospital – one of the doctors typed this up all nice and neat. Sorry it’s a little blurry, someone was coming down the hall and I didn’t want to get busted taking a picture of their microwave sign. Awkward!

With all the rules and notes, it sure makes me happy that I can visit their office for as long as it takes to care for the plants, then I get to leave! People may be complicated, so thank goodness plants are not!

Do your coworkers leave dirty dishes in the sink? Are do you? How about your office, is there a sign above the kitchen sink? Or can I come in to fill my watering bucket and have nothing in my way?

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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.

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