For the average home gardener insect pests and plant diseases are not particularly pressing problems. In nine out of every ten cases plant failure can be traced not to an invading horde of hungry insects or a mysterious mold or blight but rather to those greatest enemies of house plants, neglect and improper living conditions. We can’t, however, completely disregard the problem of pests and disease because that one plant out of ten that fails because of pests or disease may be your favorite Begonia plant, and we want to avoid that if we possibly can.
If you exercise proper care and take the right precautions you should be able to prevent destructive insects from ever getting into the house. There are two times when you should be extra cautious: when you bring home a new plant which you have bought or been given, and when you bring your plants back into the house after a summer in the garden. No matter where a new plant comes from, whether you buy it from a florist or a friend who grows plants himself has given it to you, you can’t go wrong if you check it over carefully for insect pests and, for good measure, give it a thorough washing down. A few minutes spent on inspection of a new plant may well save considerable trouble later on. Plants sunk into the ground outside for the summer have benefited from the natural surroundings, but they have also been exposed to the dangers of the outside world. These, too, should be given a careful inspection and a preventive bath before going back on the shelves in your living room.
Another preventive measure the good home gardener takes is to give his plants a regular weekly spraying. To be really effective, this operation should take place where it can be done vigorously, without making a mess. The ideal spot is the bathtub or shower stall. The plant’s leaves (again, with the exception of African Violets and other hairy-leaved contenders) should be sprayed with room-temperature water so that both sides of its leaves are drenched. This serves two purposes. It gives the foliage the moisture it needs to maintain health, and it washes off any insects that have started to attack it.