If you remember my earlier post about My first run-in with Scale, then you know that I had a sad, sad Haworthia Cooperi Truncata that got infested heavily with the little buggers before I figured out what was going on. I fought back against them, mostly won (I think), but it was time for me to deal with the sad aftermath of the battle… which I took as an opportunity to experiment with some delicate plant surgery since I had little else to lose on this front. Here’s my teaser:
Before I jump too far to the end of the story, let me go back to the start. Speaking of the original infestation, my main word for it was “disgusting”. Here’s a flash back from my first post on the matter:
After discovering the plague, I did some quick reading up online and figured out I could probably treat this with diluted rubbing alcohol in a sprayer, and then with neem oil while periodically and dilligently manually scraping each bug off with a toothpick… which made for a fun few weeks. Most of the white spots turned black, and I seemed to halt the spread, but not before the plant had really taken a hit and ended up looking sad in comparison to it’s uninfested counterpart.
In the end, I was left with this sad state of affairs:
I’m going to disclaim that this is a very generous picture. You can see that several leaves are up and dying, and I still wanted to change out the soil in case there were eggs there waiting to hatch (scale eggs have about a 2-3 week gestation period). And, on the upside, I had two of these plants – so I still had a backup. Given the fact that the infested plant looked like it had 2-3 decent offsets and a bit of a weird shape, I figured that as long as I was disturbing the roots, this might be a good chance to try to divide the plant and propagate the offsets.
For comparison, here’s the healthy plant I got at about the same time. Much larger, and oddly much bluer (probably a result of different lighting conditions while the sick plant was in quarantine, and the different watering regimen while the sick plant had been being treated).
I was surprised when I dug up the sick plant how little root system it had left. The last time I repotted these, the root system was shockingly large. This time… not. A lot of the roots had dessicated and shriveled up, which was possibly from the treatment of rubbing alcohol and neem oil.
Now, when it comes to separating offsets, I am still a beginner with little clue what I’m doing. First I tried to pull off all the dessicated roots to the best of my ability (which was nearly all of them), and then tried to pry off a lot of the sick/dying leaves just so I could get a view of the main stem to see where to separate the offsets. Since they were still a bit small, this was extremely helpful although in an ideal situation you probably wouldn’t want to pull off so many leaves if it can be avoided.
The big shock was how many pests still were nestled down inside the tight crevices between leaves and under the soil line. The tip of the iceberg was looking healthy, but I had by no means completely driven these things off, and scraping off the remainder with a toothpick (and the dead bugs still attached) was a nasty job. If I had known how nasty ahead of time, I probably would have given more serious thought to just tossing the whole plant.
In the end, the mother plant was a fair bit smaller than I anticipated- but oddly was still pumping out new offsets which I left in place and hopefully survive the shock. In the picture below you can see the remaining central plant, the two new offsets coming in, what I had left of a root system, and the scar where one main offset was removed.
Once separated, the baby offsets had essentially no roots and were much smaller than I would have guessed.
I left the mother plant to callous off for about five days in an empty seedling tray, still periodically spritzing the root system and rosette with my neem oil to try to keep the roots from drying out completely and to continue to fight any remaining pests. Normally, this kind of spraying should be avoided but I was already playing with fire trying to separate a sick plant, so I took the risk. At this point, I’ve repotted the mother plant in new gritty mix, and the three small offsets are sitting in the lids of empty RootCups waiting for new roots to start – which after about two weeks, I’m starting to see signs of (Although each one still has 3-4 more leaves that are being consumed in the meantime to gather the energy to reroot). I’m spritzing them daily also to ward off the pests (and for the humidity to help encourage root growth) but given the shape of the root cups, the moisture mostly drains off into the cup while the lid holds the offsets upright and provides a dark environment + airflow for the underside that I’m hoping helps stimulate the growth of new roots.
Time will tell if this works. If so, my plan is to circle the original dish with the four offsets and then I will see which dish fills faster – the original undivided healthy plan which continues to mound with offsets, or the second plant which was divided and spread across the dish.
There are other big projects coming for fall – and the Michigan Succulent + Cactus society show next weekend that I hope to make it to, so hopefully I’ll get back to posting regularly. Before everything slips into dormancy I’m also trying to get a last series of good “state of the union” pictures that I’m calling the “glamour shots” that I hope to share soon. But mostly summer has kept me busy enough between garden and plant projects and general summer stuff (I’m looking at you, ridiculous Pokemon-Go addiction) that I haven’t been posting much. I certainly have taken lots of pictures, however, so hopefully when I’m snow-locked and bored in the dark evenings to come I can do some recaps and share the results.
Until next time!