Many people love to include Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate) in their collection of houseplants for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they put on a fabulous floral display during the holiday season.
Flowers come in white, pink, red, and purple, their cheerful colors are particularly welcome during the winter months.
Cultivating Christmas Cactus is fairly easy, but there are a few pests that can negatively affect the health of these plants and keep them from performing their best.
Following is a list of common Christmas Cactus pests and what you need to know about them.
Although aphids are usually considered outdoor insect pests, they sometimes find their way into the indoor home environment, particularly during winter when they’re seeking cozier temperatures.
Aphids are easily visible to the naked eye, and they also produce a sticky substance that you’ll notice on the foliage on infested plants.
You can get rid of aphids on Christmas Cactus by rinsing the foliage thoroughly in the sink and applying a coat of horticultural neem oil after the foliage has dried.
If aphids are numerous, you may need to use an insecticidal soap prior to rinsing.
Mealybugs are another insect pest that you can keep under control by rinsing your Christmas Cactus in the kitchen sink and an application of neem oil.
Individual insects may be difficult to see, and people often don’t know that their plants are infested until they notice smallish white fluff that resembles cotton balls — these are masses of mealybug eggs.
Because these pests can completely destroy a Christmas Cactus if infestations are uncontrolled or not caught in time, consider inspecting your plant once every week or two with a magnifying glass for signs of them and act immediately if they are discovered.
The first signs of scale are brown spots on the stems and leaves and sticky segments along the stems. Because these insects suck sap that can deprive the plants of nutrients to the extent that growth and floral production can be seriously affected, scale needs to be dealt with immediately.
Gently remove the insects using a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol and spray the plant liberally with neem oil. It may take several consecutive applications of neem oil to completely eradicate this particular pest.
Red Spider Mites
Although they’re very small, red spider mites can usually be discerned by the naked eye as very tiny reddish dots. Like other arachnids, they have eight legs and spin webs.
Because they’re so small, many people fail to notice them until they’ve colonized to the extent that they’re noticeable as a discolored mass around the stem segments of the plant.
As with most other pests, rinse the plant thoroughly in the kitchen sink using the spray nozzle to remove as many of them as possible and follow with an application of neem oil.
Whitefly is another tiny insect pest that’s difficult to notice until populations grow to a level that may result in serious harm to plants.
Because they tend to leave a white residue, they’re sometimes mistaken for fungal pathogens. Along with washing your Christmas Cactus carefully when you see signs of whitefly, put up a few yellow sticky traps in your home to eliminate any adult flies that may be left.
Because these insect pests typically move from plant to plant, it’s essential to treat all houseplants at the same time in order to make sure that insect populations are under control.