01 October 2014

Winter Prep: Adeniums and Their Pests

Although one of the most resilient plants you can keep in pots, adeniums do get attacked by pests--aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and cats. The plants are most vulnerable in the winter when they are indoors with little air circulation, relatively low humidity and less light than they would otherwise get when outdoors. Even when they are dormant, they are not pest-proof.

There are ways to treat these problems without resorting to chemical warfare that can harm you, your pets and the rest of the planet. There are less destructive ways to control an infestation and most of them work pretty much the same way: by suffocating the critters.

You can buy whatever spray you are most comfortable with--neem oil, horticultural oil spray, soap-based spray or fish emulsion. You can also make your own and there are recipes for similar plant sprays that you can find online. All these will work on pests without damaging your adeniums provided you stick to the routine.

In the Northeast summer, adeniums do exceedingly well outdoors especially if you allow spiders to take up residence on your plant. People often do not realize how voracious these arachnids are--they are so effective that adeniums could stay spray-free all summer and until they have to go indoors for the winter. Then the opportunists try to move in.

To start with, spray your plants thoroughly before taking them in. Once will not be enough, either. Spray the plants thoroughly, preferably at sundown to avoid exposing the plant to harsh light whilst they are drenched in various oils and whatnot. After three days, spray them again. This way, whatever hatched in the interim will be smothered by the second treatment. I usually do a third and final spray just for kicks and giggles.
Although these preparations will reduce the odds of bringing pests indoors, an outbreak could still happen, especially if you have a lot of other plants that are better at concealing stowaways.

My preferred winter spray is a solution of 1/3 rubbing alcohol and 2/3 water--it is quick, evaporates rapidly and does not stink up the house. One thing to remember is that everything moves kind of slowly in the winter--even infestations. Often, you may suspect something fishy but not enough so that you'd be justified in spraying obsessively. When in doubt. spray.

On other other hand, winter infestation are especially irritating--it is not usual for pests to hit one plant while sparing others. Also, some plants sometimes just can not catch a break. Pests are more likely to attack already weakened plants.

The plant on the left was one of such plants---the only one attacked by anything at all, while the adenium right beside it got nothing. Despite repeated treatment, mealy bugs kept showing up on this one. The only difference between this one and the others was that it was the only one that failed to decide whether to go dormant or stay active.

Having gotten tired to spraying it, the only thing left to do was prune it. Yes, in January. Every single tip was chopped off, all the leaves went into the trash. There is no point of grafting nasty shit onto otherwise healthy plants. When pruned this late in the winter, the plant usually does not put out leaves, it just drops into dormancy.

Pruning removes bits damaged by pest infestation and solves the problem of deformed young leaves. You've physically sliced off pests that you can not see so that takes care of eggs that might be on the tips. After pruning, use your favorite spray to drench the rest of the plant and then put it in a shadier part of the room, keeping it dry until spring. Since this particular plant was completely bald, this was the first plant to go out (no delicate winter leaves to worry about) when night temperatures started staying above 16C.
Plants that have spent winter under stress are also significantly more sensitive to moving outside. These are not going to be forgiving of sudden exposure to sunlight so take care where to place them. The best spot is where they will get morning sun. Keep them there for a couple of weeks before moving them to their permanent summer location, getting as much sun as you can possibly provide. 

It is not unusual for traumatized plants to take longer to start leafing out, depending on how much pest damage they might have suffered previously. This will normally take between two to four weeks. By July, however, you will surely see your plants with a full head of leaves. If infestation recurs, just treat them as you did before.

Keep watching out for pests--the easiest way is to do a quick scan with a magnifying glass, before you even see outward signs of suffering from any kind of infestation.

It is common to see webs on your adeniums but before you start spraying against spidermites or other webby bugs, first make sure they aren't currently inhabited by actual spiders. Remember, spiders are your friends. If there are other things on the plant that the resident spiders are not able to keep undercontrol, the polite thing to do is to relocate the spider before going ballistic.
Spiders in charge of adeniums. They are not pests!
By August, this plant has fully recovered and had started to produce flower buds. The only problem with this specimen, as you might have read in previous posts, is that it was supposed to be Hassadee Red, not pink.


  1. How informative post!! I have also got so many pests in my garden and want to get rid of them. I just contracted a Pest control Port Macquarie firm and they will start the pest removal work from tomorrow. I hope it’ll work!

    1. Really. They come back, you know. Your best long-term solution is not to carpet-bomb your yard but to make it Eden for other creatures that eat your pests.

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