Houseplants improve the air quality in your home and beautify your home. They can also lift your mood and bring hours of pleasure to your living space. But for all the benefits that potted plants bring, they also require a little work. Keeping them healthy is a challenge that most people take on without hesitation. At some point, however, you’ll likely have to deal with pests that infest potted plants. Fortunately, a small infestation isn’t the end of the world. Discover how to identify and control pests on houseplants here!
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Pests on potted plants – recognizing spider mites
Spider mites are so tiny that you may not even see them. They look like dark spots on leaves, but you’ll probably notice their white, silky webs first in leaf axils or along leaf veins. The mites suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to discolor and drop. Their preferred hosts include kite tree , ivy, hibiscus and schefflera.
- How to control spider mites
An infestation of mites is difficult to control. For plants with smooth leaves, you can thoroughly wipe the leaves in the early stages of infestation. This step should quickly reduce populations. Repeat this process every few days for a few weeks to eliminate any remaining mites. Once the initial mite population is under control, re-treat with neem oil to ensure that all remaining spider mites are destroyed.
White pests on houseplants – mealybugs.
Woolly aphids look like cotton or white powder and are also called mealybugs. They are sap suckers, have a waxy coating and form dew. Signs of infestation may include waxy deposits on the plant, black, sooty mold growing on the honeydew produced by these insects, and (depending on the severity of the infestation) sometimes yellowing and dying leaves and distorted or stunted plant growth. The female mealybugs produce a white, cottony material in which they lay their eggs, which then hatch into crawlers. Wax flowers, gardenias, poinsettias and money tree are particularly susceptible to mealybugs.
- To control mealybugs
Use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove mealybugs. For larger, vigorous plants, wash the leaves with a strong stream of water to dislodge the pests. For heavy infestations, neem oil may be the best solution.
Determine houseplant pests – whitefly.
Whitefly is another sucking insect that often masses on the underside of leaves. These flies are small, so most houseplant owners don’t notice them until they see large clouds of tiny flies flying up if they touch the plant. Both the nymphs and adult flies can cause damage to plants.
- Pests on houseplants – get rid of whitefly.
Whitefly control begins with suppressing the adult population. Blasting the flies with a strong stream of water or using yellow boards will help reduce the number of pests. If the infestation is severe, use neem oil. Several applications may be needed to kill all whitefly eggs remaining on the plant.
Fungus gnats on potted plants and in the soil
Although the tiny adult fungus gnats are more of a nuisance than harmful, the larvae feed on plant roots and can cause growth problems, especially in young plants. Fungus gnats are often a symptom of overwatering.
- Get rid of fungus gnats quickly
Allow the surface of the soil in the pots to dry between waterings and do not let the water sit in saucers. Soaking the soil with biological insecticides will control larvae. Yellow boards help trap adults.
Keep the following in mind: If you want to use insecticides, consult your garden center first!
Pests on houseplants: Aphids
Aphids, another sap-sucking pest, also produce sticky honeydew. They can infest many different plants and especially prefer tender new growth, where they cause stunting and wilting. Their life cycle is short (usually two to three weeks), so populations can grow quickly.
- Fighting aphids – tips
A strong spray of water will drive away most aphids. Take the plant outside to hose it down (if it’s not too cold) or use neem oil sprays, which are also effective.
Recognizing pest infestations – scale insects.
Scale insects look like brown, tan, grayish bumps on the leaf surface. These inconspicuous, small soft-bodied pests resemble flat, brown slugs. Like other houseplant pests, brown scale insects feed on plant juices. They are small and difficult to detect, especially if the infestation is small.
- How to get rid of brown scale insects.
One method of treating scale insects is to wipe or wash leaves and stems to remove the insects and the honeydew they leave behind. This method works well for small infestations. You can also pick or rub them off one at a time. For larger infestations, you will need to use neem or horticultural oils. You will also need to inspect and remove adults at least once a month.
Thrips look like small, black bugs and often infest your orchids. You can learn how to combat them here .
Other home remedies for potted plant bugs.
- Isolate the houseplant
If your houseplant is infected with pests, it’s important to stop the spread – especially if it’s in a room with other plants. Be sure to isolate the plant (for example, by moving it outdoors or into another room), and keep a close eye on plants in the area for signs of pests in about three to four weeks.
- Use alcohol
If you find that there are still live bugs on your houseplants, try soaking a cotton ball in alcohol and lightly dabbing it to remove them from the plant. Also, don’t forget to wash the pot and planter with soapy water, as the pests can easily hide under the rim.
- Try natural herbal sprays
Keep chemicals out of your home by controlling bugs with an all-natural herb spray. Herbs like basil, peppermint, lavender, sage and rosemary can help repel pesky creatures (they don’t like their strong scent). To make your own spray, crush a handful of herbs and put them in a container with a lid. Then add 700 ml of water, close the container and leave it for at least 24 hours. After that, you can strain the water into a spray bottle and add a little mild dishwashing liquid. Shake the mixture before spraying and spray your plant with it once a day.