by Sarah
(Pittsburgh, PA)


I bought this plant at lowes and planted it with a few other small cacti. The tag only said “succulent” and they cannot identify it at lowes.

The reason for my question is that I have developed some form of gnat on only that plant in my little planter and I am trying to identify if it is a fungus gnat or some other form of bug so that I may treat it properly.

Hi Sarah, this, sadly, is why so many of the plants you will buy from large box stores don’t do so well.

Whenever I see a plant that looks like this, paled out and leaning towards a light source, I cringe, because it’s in totally the wrong environment. This is indeed a Sempervivum, and needs a lot more light than what it’s getting now. These are hardy plants that originate high on mountain tops, which thrive in high light levels.

For the pest, I recommend getting it outside, and spraying it with insecticidal soap – make sure you hit all sides of the foliage, including underneath, where a lot of pests will hide.

The way the leaves are folding down is an indication of stress so this, in combination with the possibility that it’s fungus gnats leads me to suggest that the soil is water logged and most likely totally unsuitable, based on my experiences with the suppliers to large box stores – they don’t care what the plant needs – they only care about getting the plants to salable size as quickly as possible, with the lightest weight they can manage to lower shipping costs.

Once the plant is bought by unsuspecting customers, they couldn’t care less if it lives or dies – and it usually does the latter, sooner or later.

Plants that are stressed out have a susceptibility to all kinds of trouble, including but not limited to mites, aphids, viruses and root rot.

Have a look on this page for more on that topic.

Okay, rant over!

These plants absolutely must have good drainage.

In a situation like this, I would most likely cut the top of the plant off right at the base of the newer leaves, get rid of the rest, including the fungus gnat infested soil, and start fresh.

See more about how to grow Sempervivum and find out how to propagate there here.

Hope that helps with your sickly looking plant; good luck with it!