Ask a Question forum→Help! Outdoor plants brought indoors, ants, and worry

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Kansas City
Shadowfax3791
Nov 7, 2020 6:20 PM CST
Okay so I just got a big schefflera arboricola off facebook marketplace, and he didnt have change so he threw in an agave plant as well. Now I have some problems I did not consider. First, he kept the plants outside so I don't know what is in them. I just now brought them home and noticed the agave plant has a lot of ants, and I dont even know if I can grow agave indoors. I live in an apartment so I have no where to keep it outdoors right now except my car. As far as I can tell the Schefflera looks ant free but now I am really nervous. Plus, I know scheffleras can grow indoors but I'm worried about this one due to the size. I really dont want to kill it because its beautiful. Please offer any advice, I'm kinda panicking right now!
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 7, 2020 6:48 PM CST
You can get rid of ants and any other soft-bodied bugs with Insecticidal Soap. Mix according the instructions and water the plants with it. Make sure you get ALL the soil wet. Its really not a good indoor project because ants will be swarming out in every direction. If you make your own, make sure the soap is soap, not detergent. Mix rate is 5 tablespoons per gallon of water.

Schefflera arboricola take well to pruning so you can keep it any size you want. It looks like the previous owner did prune. The Agave looks like Agave americana 'Variegata'. If it is, it has the potential to grow to about 4ft x 4ft. You may want to re-gift it.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Nov 7, 2020 6:51 PM CST
Well, I have a few things to say about this.
Number one.
What kind of ants do you think they are? Are they big ants, like carpenter ants? or are they Fire Ants?

The next question I have...what state were these shipped from? Did you buy these from someone who is a licensed inspected nursery, or just a backyard grower selling stuff?

The reason I am asking this is...are you aware that there is a FEDERAL plant quarantine in effect that bans the shipment of plants from certain states because of the possibility that they will carry either the black or the red Imported Fireant unless the seller is a licensed, inspected nursery who has an official certification from his or her state that says they are in compliance with the fire ant quarantine? There are laws that govern this. If this person IS a licensed nursery and has (or does NOT have) an official compliance agreement in place and is shipping infested plants across state lines, they should be reported to the USDA in their state. And if they are NOT a licensed inspected nursery at all, and are shipping infested plants across state lines...they should be reported to the USDA in their state.

This is how invasive and exotic pests are spread, and it can be devastating to the ecology of a place to become infested with a pest they did not already have.

I would suggest that you go here:

nationalplantboard.org

And review the laws for your state, Kansas, and also the state that these plants were shipped from, and you should call the USDA in the state of origin and ask them to investigate the seller. Tell them what has happened. They will look this person up on the list of registered plant nurseries that all states keep and be able to know #1 if they are a real nursery and #2 what compliance agreements they have in place with their license. If they are not registered as a real nursery, they will take action to either get them licensed, or stop them from selling. If they ARE a registered nursery, and are shipping ant infested plants across state lines, they will help them come into compliance.

Please do not ignore this issue. Its important that this person is stopped from doing this again. There are strict laws against this because of the damage that invasive pests like this can do to agriculture and to ecosystems. And with climate change, these pests are able to survive in places now that they could not before.
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Name: cheapskate gardener
South Florida (Zone 10a)
Container Gardener Foliage Fan Frugal Gardener Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Adeniums
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hlutzow
Nov 7, 2020 7:03 PM CST
Until you find your unsuspecting agave regifting victim, you might want to consider your lighting situation. That is really the only thing other than size that can be an issue when growing agave indoors. If you think you'll only be holding onto it for a little while, set it near your brightest window and it'll be fine. If you think it'll be longer (like say well into Spring) and you want to make sure it doesn't etiolate, you can put a 'daylight' bulb in a regular lamp (desk lamps work great for this) and set the agave beneath it. You'll need a 100 watt equivalent or greater and don't put the bulb too far away from the plant as the light intensity drops exponentially fast with every inch of distance.

You should be set after that.

For the possible ants. If you have to do the insecticidal soap inside, do it in the tub or shower and be prepared to contain the fleeing hoard.

Now, take a deep breath. You've got this.

And... If you find out you don't, ask away. There are no stupid questions.
Keep calm... and plant something.
Kansas City
Shadowfax3791
Nov 7, 2020 7:32 PM CST
Thank you for all the help! I can regift the agave to my parents when I go home for Thanksgiving. I will likely spray both with insecticidal soap just to be safe. The agave is sitting outside the apartment complex until I can get the soap, and I just have to hope no one takes it. Also, these were both plants I got from someone wanting to get rid of them. It was not shipped, so any pests are native.
Kansas City
Shadowfax3791
Nov 7, 2020 7:46 PM CST
Do we think the schefflera can survive indoors longterm? My plan is to keep it in the living room. If it looks like its starting to die I can also rehome it to my parents. My plan was to air layer a few of the branches and turn it into a bonsai forest grouping. I would love to keep the rest of the plant but if you think it will die I'd rather give it to my parents.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 7, 2020 10:16 PM CST
Most of us don't live in a state where a Schefflera would grow outside so do keep them as houseplants. They are easy from cuttings - just cut a piece off and stick it in pot of soil. No need to air root. Take cuttings about 6 - 8 inchs long, cut all except the top to leave off, stick the cuttings in soil up to the two top leaves. Keep them watered.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

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