The gerber daisy (Gerbera spp) is a brilliantly colored, flowering plant that hails from Africa, Madagascar and Asia. Gerber daisies are popular house plants for their cheerful daisy blooms, their hardiness and their low care requirements. Gerber daisies are generally pest-free, but occasionally they have problems with insects that require treatment.
Indoor gerber daisies are most commonly afflicted by aphids, spider mites and white flies. These insects rarely cause the death of a plant, though they can greatly reduce a gerber daisy's ornamental value (and isn't that why you bought the plant in the first place?). Spider mites are small red spiders that can be found crawling all over the plant, while aphids appear as a moving white mass around new growth. White flies are tiny winged creatures that can be found on the undersides of leaves.
Symptoms of an insect infestation include small yellow or brown spots on top of the leaves, or an overall "dusty" appearance that eventually progresses to leaves turning red or brown and dropping off. Sucking insects like aphids cause new growth to lose moisture and to eventually shrivel up and die. A stunted plant, or one with distorted bugs or leaves, may be afflicted with aphids. Some insects leave a sticky trail which can cause various types of harmful mold.
Some symptoms that appear to be a result of pests may actually be fungus or disease. Treating a plant for insects when it actually has a fungal problem or a virus may further harm the plant. Take care not to get water on a Gerber daisy's leaves, as this makes the plant more susceptible to fungus. Overwatering can cause root rot, which may cause the plant's foliage to wither. Other causes of withering plants are too much sun and not enough water.
Gerber daisies are tough little plants that can usually be saved easily from insects. Wash white flies, aphids and spider mites off the plant with a steady stream of water, or kill them with a solution of soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Pluck heavily infested leaves. Plants that are crawling with insects and don't respond to insecticide are better off discarded, as the infestation may travel to healthy plants in the home.
You can protect your gerber daisy by taking simple precautions. Always keep new house plants away from existing house plants for at least three weeks to assess general health and possible insect presence. Insects are more likely to prey on a weak, unhealthy plant, so keep your gerber daisy's immune system up by taking good care of it. Fertilize the daisy with a diluted, water soluble fertilizer every two weeks or so during the summer, and keep the plant in indirect, filtered sunlight.
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