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Why you should quarantine (your plants)

By Cheryl Rafuse for Boston Compass (#129)

November 30, 2020

First off: to anyone feeling an iota of guilt for indulging your plant-loving inner green goddex during the pandemic--you stop that right now. Plants can’t give you Covid! Stay tf home with all your plant children and never feel bad about it. However, plants can get sick, so if you have mealy bugs, scale, or any other sort of common houseplant pest here’s what to do:


Number One: Separate it from the other plants

One might call this a “quarantine” or something but ultimately you have this wild concept where you keep your sick plant away from healthy ones. To protect them. Thanks quarantine!


Number Two: Sanitize all tools

Alcohol or soap and water work well to keep pathogens from spreading from your watering can or pruners to your other plants. Hand sanitizer even works in a pinch! What an easy way to keep pests AND sickness from spreading, amirite?!


Number Three: Treat the plant pest

Once you’ve correctly identified the problem you can better treat it. (That’s why getting tested for ahem other things is so important.)

Here are some common pests and their remedies:

  • Mealy bugs - remove the bugs and treat with neem oil and/or rubbing alcohol

  • Scale - rub with alcohol to dry them out and remove them from the plant

  • Spider mites - spray with neem oil, soap and water

  • Fungus gnats - water and peroxide sprayed on the plant and soil

So it’s almost like soap, water, and sterilizing is a really good way to stop the spread of most plant health issues...hmm.


Number Four: Wait!

Until you’re positive the pest is gone, it’s smart to keep affected plants quarantined for a couple weeks. Then you’ll know for sure that your plant is happy and healthy!


Just like when you aren’t sure if you’ve been exposed to say, Coronavirus, you stay away from loved ones, when you bring a new plant home you want to separate it from the rest of the plant fam until you KNOW it’s healthy. If we do all this to keep mealy bugs off our plants, the very LEAST we can do is wear masks, socially distance, get tested, and quarantine when necessary. So stay home with those plants! It’s literally better for everyone and your plants will love it.

—Cheryl Rafuse

linktree: @plantmagic


Check out all the art and columns of November's Boston Compass at


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