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House-plant Insects And Diseases

If the suggestions for taking proper care of plants, detailed in a former chapter, are carefully followed, and they are given plenty of fresh air and not crowded together, insects should not cause serious trouble. No matter how careful one may be, however, they are almost certain to put in an appearance and steps to combat them must be taken immediately. Remember, however, that the best remedy is prevention, and the best prevention is to have good strong healthy plants. The two troubles perhaps the most common are neither insects nor disease. They are gas and sour soil. The faintest trace of furnace gas or of illuminating gas will cause trouble, indicated by the yellowing and falling of the leaves and unsatisfactory development of buds. Where there is no way of eliminating the presence of these gases the only way to success with the plants--unless they can be entirely shut off in an enclosed place as suggested in Chapter II--is to take every possible care about leaks, and to give all the fresh air possible. Sour soil is the result of improper drainage conditions, too much water, or both. It causes the leaves to turn yellow and checks new growth. Making right the harmful conditions will usually renew the health of the plant, but in bad cases it will be far better to remove the earth, wash the soil from the roots, carefully clean the pot--if the same one is to be used--and repot in good porous fresh earth. Keep on the dry side until growth is resumed. As a rule, insects do much more damage to house plants than is caused by diseases. One characteristic of nearly all plant insects which will astonish the amateur is the marvelous rapidity with which they increase. One to-day, and to-morrow a million, seems no exaggeration. While it may be true that, as one of our erstwhile best-selling heroes said, "a few fleas is a good thing for a dog; they keep him from broodin' on bein' a dog," a few bugs are certainly not good for a plant, because in a day or two there will be enough of them to endanger its life and surely, quickly to ruin its appearance. Never let the bugs get a start. If you take them in time they're easy: if not you have a very difficult and disagreeable task on your hands.

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