Plant Dad Story
Heartleaf Philodendron (Brasil) Infestation!
Becoming a Plant Parent
I became a plant dad about two months ago. I was inspired to get my own due to the videos of plant owners that I’d seen on social media. I looked into different types of houseplants and came across the Pink Princess, a pink philodendron. I fell in love as the color pink has been heavy with me for a while now (I love cherry blossoms!). I believe it was one that was recommended for intermediate plant parents rather than beginners. I chose to start somewhere smaller; somewhere else, and go from there.
My first child was a Marble Queen Pothos. I received this from an IT manager at my workplace as I had spoken with her about my newfound interest in plants. She had begun the propagation process for me, handing it off in some damp paper towel inside of a Panera Bread container. I named this pothos “Cerberus” because I received it in three cuttings, which reminded me of Cerberus’ three heads (Greek mythology).
My second child was a Heartleaf Philodendron that I named Phoebe. The name was inspired by Phoibe — the Titan Goddess, and the “Ph” in the name of the plant breed (Philodendron).
I had instantly connected with her when I went to the plant nursery in the area that I had recently moved to. Surprisingly, it was very close to my home. I circled the “Houseplant” area for a little while, passing the snake plants and venus fly traps a few times. I then saw the name “Philodendron” labeled to identify the group of plants that were set in the section, which put me in mind of the Pink Princess that I desire.
I can be very picky at times, but noticed Phoebe because she was the only pot the was tipped over. I picked it up, and observed it. I began to care for it a bit and thought to myself, “I’d take much better care of her..”. Later on, this put me in mind of my savior complex. Out of all of the other plants that were present and sat upright, I chose this one; the one that looked as if it needed help. It was destiny at play, in a sense.
Both plants have been growing pretty well in my care. I’d been doing great with them as far as sticking with my routine. I even potted the both of them in the brown ones that you see above. I understood that with a new pot, more soil, I would have to water them a little more to ensure that the roots were getting the moisture that they needed. I never thought that I’d run into the current issue that I’m experiencing.
Plant Dad vs Fungus Gnats
One thing that made me hesitant about getting into plants were the bugs that were often associated with them. I especially despise the ones that eat at the roots of the plants that I’ve invested my time and emotion into. I had noticed these little gnats that would fly around Phoebe occasionally. When I caught them, I looked for others to ensure that they were completely gone. I hadn’t seen them in a little while since the last one that I took care of.
Recently, before work, I looked into the soil to see that it was a little drier than normal. Philodendrons prefer the soil to dry a bit between waterings. After tending to my plant baby, I saw that there were these little translucent bugs crawling around. I began to do my research.
I found that they were called Fungus Gnat Larvae, a result of being overwatered. Because the pots that I had purchased weren’t really leaking from the holes at the bottom, which I had gotten for that purpose, it didn’t occur to me that I was overwatering them at all.
I did a google search to see how I would get rid of them, what fungus gnats were specifically, and HOW TO GET RID OF THEM. I initially saw “Garden Safe: Houseplant & Garden Insect Killer” available at the Home Depot.
“Great! I can go pick some up on the way home from work!”, I said. I was wrong. I had gotten there, and none were on the shelves. I was told that they didn’t have any in store at all, but the only store that did was an hour+ away. Now to think of alternatives…
I did another google search on other methods used to take care of fungus gnats, my new worst enemy. There was mention of the use of a hydrogen peroxide solution (I cannot find the website anymore). The website also informed me of common methods used to catch adult fungus gnats, which I was catching before, such as sticky yellow objects, and apple cider vinegar. I ran to Target to grab spray bottles, and peroxide in attempts to fix this mess.
I used a measuring cup, as it instructed the solution would call for a 4:1 ratio of water to peroxide to properly dilute it. This was also said to be good for the plants in drawing more oxygen in to promote its health.
I poured the solution into the pot, and listened to the soil bubble. It sounded like I was frying something on the stove (fun!). I waited with my phone’s flashlight pointed to the soil to see if the larvae would survive as some sources referred to this method as an instant fix.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed as I saw a couple come to the surface again. I felt defeated. I lost the battle, but I will not lose the war. I looked into how long it normally takes the larvae to grow into full grown adults, where they develop their wings and fly all over the place. I also saw that adults can lay about 200–300 eggs (scary).
I looked into YouTube videos as I prepared for bed. YouTube is such a great teacher. “How to get rid of fungus gnats” in the search bar. The first video showed a woman using Mosquito Bits to cure her plant of the infestation; however, she used this in a “tea” form. You can purchase this at the Home Depot, which I will try once I am finished with my peroxide solution.
This morning, I looked at Phoebe’s pot with my flashlight again. I hadn’t seen any movement at all, which I am hoping is a good sign. I will keep my eyes open for any changes, be more mindful of overwatering, and hopefully the problem will get better before it gets worse.
Those who are reading, if you’ve made it this far, have you dealt with similar issues? Assuming that you’re a plant parent as well, it can be very frustrating! I had a slight thought that I’d have to get rid of Phoebe, but I am determined nonetheless! Any advice that you may have would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you for reading!!