How to Get Rid of Common Plant Bugs Indoors
First-time houseplant owners are often surprised to discover that there are several different kinds of plant bugs that can appear indoors. In fact, it’s easy for a few to sneak their way in, multiply, and start to take over your prized fern if you aren’t careful. If left untreated, pest problems can become an unsightly nuisance, and your plants could sustain some significant damage, so it’s essential to deal with them fast!
Keeping a close watch on your houseplants is crucial for catching bug infestations early before they get out of hand, especially if you’ve been bringing in plants that spent time outside. It’s also important to use pest control formulas approved for indoor use because some outdoor pesticides can contain harmful chemicals you won’t want in your home.
5 Types of Houseplant Bugs You Might See at Home
If you see any of these notorious plant pests hovering around your precious pothos, don’t panic! There are plenty of ways to get rid of them safely. Here are the most frequent offenders that might make an unwanted appearance around your houseplant collection.
These tiny winged flies aren’t technically harmful to your plants when they’ve reached maturity, and they don’t bite, but their larvae can really do a number on your plants’ roots! A single fungus gnat can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, so you’ll want to treat the problem quickly.
If you see little black gnats flying up from your plant pots when you move them, or if you see small, transparent worms with black heads hiding under the top layer of soil, you probably have a fungus gnat problem. Spraying an all-natural neem oil solution all over the plant and around the soil will help to safely kill the mature bugs, larvae, and eggs indoors. To ensure your plant is gnat-free, remember to apply multiple follow-up treatments to take care of any remaining eggs.
Sprinkling a formula containing bacillus thuringiensis into your plant’s soil can also help kill larvae without posing any health risks to people or pets. It’s also a good idea to allow the soil to completely dry out in your plant pots before watering again—fungus gnats thrive in moist soil!
If you’ve got company coming over and you want a fast fix for flying insects, there’s no need to hide your bugged-out philodendron in the closet for the night! Simply place a few sticky traps in the pot of your plant, not touching the leaves, so any active bugs will get stuck and can be tossed in the trash.
Spotting these teeny-tiny red mites isn’t exactly easy—you have to look very closely to spot them, and they’re great at hiding on the undersides of leaves. However, they work quickly and will coat your plants with a fine webbing—hence their name—so if your plant is suddenly coated with cobwebs, you’re probably dealing with spider mites.
If your plant isn’t too delicate and its leaves can handle being watered directly, it’s a good idea to rinse off the leaves thoroughly to remove the webbing and wash away most of the bugs. Go easy—you don’t want to blast your plant with the power washer! Ideally, a handheld showerhead on a gentle setting with room temperature water will work best.
After washing your plants off, there are a few different methods you can try. If a plant doesn’t have too many leaves, you can dip cotton balls in an insecticidal soap solution, neem oil, or a pyrethrin solution, and individually wipe down each leaf on both sides.
You may need to repeat the process a few times to get all the remaining stragglers, so we recommend waiting three days between applications for the best results.
Though they may be good at hiding, mealybugs have a pretty recognizable appearance that makes them easy to detect. These little white bugs create masses of white, wispy cotton all around them, protecting them from the elements (and many liquid pest control products). They suck out the sap from your plants, which dehydrates them, and they release sticky waste that can encourage mold growth. They seem to be especially attracted to succulents and cacti.
If you see mealybugs on your plants, insecticidal soap sprays, neem oil, and pyrethrin sprays all work well, especially if used repeatedly. Prune out any severely infested parts, as this is a simpler option that will clear the most damaged material from the plant. Dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and directly applying it to the bugs will also kill them, but you need to make sure the alcohol makes direct contact with your tiny foes—it’s not enough to merely coat the leaves.
Like mealybugs, aphids feed on sap and leave behind sticky waste that can create a breeding ground for bad bacteria. They can be green, white, or brown, and while you can usually spot them with the naked eye, you’ll probably notice the sticky spots first. As they drain your plants of sap, the leaves will start to yellow and wither.
Luckily, aphids are pretty easy to treat. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil work incredibly well, but you can also just make your own simple vinegar solution in a spray bottle. A mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water will be strong enough to kill mature and larval aphids on contact.
Another sapsucker, like aphids and mealybugs, the whitefly is a pest that you’ll be able to spot right away in its mature stages. However, they’re harder to spot during their earlier stages of development. They begin as tiny crawling larvae that eventually settle underneath a leaf, where they hide away and suck the juice out of your plants. After that, they mature into adult flies that can lay hundreds of eggs.
To ensure you knock out all of the whiteflies in every stage of development, it’s a good idea to use a few different methods a few days apart. Rinsing your plant off, wiping leaves with alcohol or neem oil, and applying an insecticidal soap spray work together to fight off whiteflies both big and small.
Keeping your plants healthy and bug-free really isn’t difficult—you just have to check up on them regularly to see if anything seems off. Like all aspects of plant care, pest control can be quite rewarding—imagine how good it’ll feel to nurse your beloved plants back to health! Ready to add to your plant collection? Check out our full online catalog to browse exciting new varieties and colorful classics to brighten up the new year!