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House Plants/Gnats and bromiliads

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QUESTION: I have a problem with this houseplant, in regards to the central flower. I have noticed that this flower has turned black and very soft and fragile to touch. It also has an unpleasant odor.

Is there any solution to this issue, as this flower is the focal point that makes this plant attractive. This flower no longer seems to be thriving, although the surrounding leaves are ok at this time. I have it in highlight and I have followed the watering instructions.

Please help....any guidance is appreciated.

ANSWER: Once the Bromeliad (Raphael neoregelia) flowers the original plant will not flower again unless it does so on new side growths...the plant develops new offshoots & they will take 1-3 years to flower...they can even be transplanted without roots on them...the roots will develop over a period of time if watered properly...Plants die from too frequent waterings, not from how much water you give them at one time...Also letting them go too dry between waterings can cause death...Usually most plants die from improper watering technique...Plants inside need to be watered less frequently than plants outside...

Try watering this way...water by weight...Check how much the plant weighs when thoroughly watered VS its' weight when it is ready to be watered again. Sometimes it helps to put a saucer under the pot and let the plant sit in water for 10-15 minutes. Pick the pot up and feel how heavy it is after watering it thoroughly. Don't water it again until it feels considerably lighter and the top of the soil is light in color. Depending on plant types, sunlight exposure and pot size plants will need water at many different rates #1-2 times a day to once a month or more#...Bromeliads like bright light but not direct sun unless it is morning sun...
Cut the old flower off to improve the appearance of the plant and transplant the off-shoots...

Hope this helps...Let me know what you think...
Rick in southern NJ



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: There are small flies that seem to hang out in the soil and pots of my houseplants. I live in the midwest, Chicago where it is now cold.  Although my plants are indoors, they are in a window where temp does drop during the winter months we are now experiencing. I have a tabletop fountain that I suspect may be a source of these pests to breed. Is there any way I may get rid of these irritating pests...without throwing out my fountain?

Answer
Gnats are a sign of keeping the soil too wet. they breed (fly maggots) in wet soils. let your plants dry out sufficiently between waterings.
Again do water by weight. put a saucer under the pot. water and let the plant sit in the excess water for 5-10 minutes. after that time pour off any excess water in the saucer. pick up the pot. it should feel heavy. don't water again until it feels considerably lighter in weight. the soil will be light in color/not dark and wet. You can always poke your finger into the soil to see how far down it is wet.

You could buy a safer soap pesticide(professionally formulated# and apply it as a soil trench. read the directions for use as a soil drench. it will kill the worms in the soil. you may need to follow up with another treatment 14 days later.
They make yellow sticky plastic cards to put near the plants to attract the adults. you could sprinkle a teaspoon of turf lime over the soil to sweeten #raise the soil pH - make less acidic) the soil. acidic soils attract gnats.
Get to a local garden center/nursery and quiz them on a solution to your problem. take a sample of the gnats in a sealed plastic bag for someone there to ID the insect..buy your products from them and they should be more than happy to help you.
good luck.
rick in southern NJ  

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Richard Hern

Expertise

I can answer many common garden center/greenhouse houseplant questions such as , proper care, propagation of, pest problems, identification, growing mediums, construction, etc. & many more..

Experience

I currently manage a private 16 acre estate. i am in charge of the general maintenance of buildings and i supervise the landscape maintenance staff. i teach landscape/horticulture evening classes for a community college in NJ. I taught landscape/horticultural classes for a NJ vocational high school for 5 years. prior to that I owned & operated a landscape/garden center facility for 20 + years. My experience is in commercial & residential sales & care of houseplants as well as landscaping.

Organizations
NJLANA

Education/Credentials
BS degree in Zoology (Entomology)
Certified landscape/horticulture teacher NJ

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