Root Awakening: Diseased Dendrobium orchid, elephant ear plant and more

My family has had this money plant for about 30 years. Lately, many of the vines have dried out and the older leaves have dry brown “spots”. We water the plant daily and mist it with peppermint-infused water once every two weeks to prevent infestations. Does the plant need repotting or is there an infestation? It sits in a Housing Board corridor and previously thrived in the same location.

Geetha Kamala Kanthan

Your money plant (Epipremnum aureum) is badly infested with scale insects, a type of sap-sucking pest. Over time, it may weaken and deteriorate. Peppermint water is not likely to be effective in dealing with the pests.

The plant will grow better in a spot which gets four to six hours of filtered sunlight. A lack of light can make plants more prone to pests and diseases.

To manage the pests, prune the plant and use a soft toothbrush to remove as many scale insects as you can. You can then spray the plant with summer oil, which is an environment-friendly pesticide commonly sold in local nurseries. It works by suffocating the pests, so thorough coverage of the plant is required. Repeated applications may be needed to eradicate subsequent generations of the pests.

Older plants may be bare in parts. You can train new vines to grow over such areas to conceal them.

  • Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. He is the founder of Green Culture Singapore and an adjunct assistant professor (Food Science & Technology) at the National University of Singapore.
  • Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

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