A welcome surprise and an unwelcome visitor


I mentioned this plant earlier in the year though it was covered in glorious purple, trumpet flowers then and looked a lot better than it does now. This sinningia (gloxinia) should have died down and I should have a flattened tuber by now but, for some reason best known to itself, it has produced a few new shoots from ground level so I am keeping it ticking over.

But more interestingly, when I was moving it in summer I broke a leaf where it was touching the pot (a very easy thing to do since the large, furry leaves are succulent and brittle) and the main part of the leaf has produced a tuber at the break. This is not a huge shock since the family (Gesneriaceae) is known for its ability to be propagated by leaf cuttings – think of streptocarpus and saintpaulia. But I was not sure about sinningias. Nor am I sure that the little tuber will actually have any buds and ability to make a plant. I have been caught out with hoya leaves which can be rooted but never actually make plants. So I have been very interested to see the little tuber grow.

But I was looking closely the other day and I see it has a hitch hiker. Sitting on top of the little tuber is a mealy bug! Mealy bugs (species of planococcus) are nasty little monsters and possibly the first pest I ever had to deal with since cacti were among my first plants and mealy bugs LOVE cacti. The females look rather like woodlice but are soft bodied and cover themselves with white, waxy threads. The females are not very mobile but the males apparently can fly though I am not sure I have ever seen a male. Since the females do not fly it makes me wonder how on earth this little critter got here! What is more worrying is that she will lay about 20 eggs, hidden by waxy fluff, and these will hatch out into ‘crawlers’ that are active and search out new places to feed before they settle down and suck away.


These little sapsuckers get right into the crevices on plants and although they ‘only’ suck sap, the problem is that they can cause distortion of shoots because of this habit of getting right into growing points and they are a real problem on evergreens in the home like clivias, hippeastrum, succulents and orchids. In ‘the old days’ the remedy was to dab them with methylated spirit on a cotton bud but systemic insecticides are a much better way.


But the best way is to look away and give them a hard pat on the back (a very HARD pat on the back).




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