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How To Prevent Common Houseplant Pests

Houseplants are typically an attractive option for easy and cost-effective home decor. However, sometimes houseplants can become a problem, like when they start to attract pests. The best way to avoid the headache of dealing with houseplant pests is to take steps to prevent pests from becoming a problem in the first place.

Here is a comprehensive guide to the identification, treatment, and prevention of the 6 most common types of houseplant pests. Learn how to keep your houseplants pest-free and hassle-free by proactively identifying, treating, and preventing aphids, common whiteflies, fungus gnats, brown scales, mealybugs, and red spider mites.

General Tips And Tricks

In general, there are a few easy steps you can take to avoid the infestation of pests on your household plants. First, make sure you purchase your plants from reputable sources.

Second, always thoroughly check plants for bugs before purchasing them. After purchasing your houseplant, periodically inspect it to make sure it has not acquired any pests.

Clear dead plant matter and debris from the base of your plant. Don’t over-water your plant and make sure the plant is kept in an area with the right kind of environmental conditions.

Finally, never use soil from outdoors when potting your plant. Soil from the outdoors can have all kinds of contaminants and pests in it. Always use bagged potting soil specifically designed for potting houseplants.

Prevention And Treatment Of The 6 Most Common Houseplant Pests

Aphids

Identification

Aphids are small, roundish insects that are often about 1/8th” long and typically green in color. Sometimes they can be brown, black, pink or yellow.

Aphids feed on plant material on the underside of leaves and on roots. They secrete a substance called honeydew which is sticky and makes an infected plant’s leaves look shiny.

Treatment

Minor infestations can be controlled by manually removing the bugs or by killing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Major infestations may require the use of a specialized insecticide, but be sure to check that the insecticide you purchase will not harm your plant.

Common Whiteflies

Identification

Unlike the implication of their name, whiteflies are not related to common house flies. They are most closely related to scales and aphids. Whiteflies look like tiny white moths.

Plants infested with whiteflies will lose their vitality and their leaves may turn yellow and wilt. Whiteflies secrete honeydew just like aphids.

Treatment

Thoroughly wash your plant by spraying it with water or using a bar of insecticidal soap. Imidacloprid plant spikes can be placed in the soil at the base of the plant to get rid of whiteflies.

Fungus Gnats

Identification

Fungus gnats are often about 1/8th” long and can be spotted by the naked eye flitting around the base of a plant with an infestation. Fungus gnats are attracted to light.

Plants with a fungus gnat infestation lose their vitality and fade. The larvae of fungus gnats feed on the plant’s sap and deprive it of the nutrients it needs. Plants that are watered too much or that have a lot of dead material sitting in the planter are more susceptible to becoming infested with fungus gnats.

Treatment

Dry conditions kill the larvae of the fungus gnat. Allow the soil in your planter to dry before watering, if possible. Keep the plants in a location that doesn’t have high humidity. Use planters that will drain out excess water easily.

Brown Scales

Identification

Scales are small, round insects that are typically 1/16th” to ¼” long. They may look like fish scales on a plant or like small crusty spots. The adult scales are immobile. Scales feed on plant sap and secrete honeydew just like aphids.

Treatment

Often scales can be easily wiped off of the surface of a plant. Some types of scales can be smothered if canola oil or neem oil extract is applied to the plant. Scales are usually quite susceptible to insecticides or insecticide soap, but always be sure to check the labels and directions of any insecticide products to ensure that they will not harm your plant.

Mealybugs

Identification

Mealybugs are light-colored waxy or cottony appearing bugs that are usually between 1/8th” to 1/4th” long. They feed on the underside of leaves, the area where the leaves attach to the stem, and the roots of the plant.

Treatment

Mealybugs can be difficult to control once they have infested a plant because the waxy substance on their body acts as a repellent for many insecticides. Minor infestations can be controlled by removing the bugs manually or killing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Some aggressive insecticides can get rid of mealybugs, but be sure to check the label and directions of the insecticide to make sure it will not destroy your houseplant. In major mealybug infestations, you may have to discard the houseplant completely.

Red Spider Mites

Identification

Spider mites are incredibly tiny. Usually, the first sign of an infestation in a houseplant is brown spots on the leaves or other signs of plant illness. Occasionally spider mite webs can be found as evidence of the mites’ presence.

Treatment

Spray the undersides of the plant leaves and near the base of the plant thoroughly with water. This washes away the spider mites. Moving a plant outdoors can also get rid of spider mites.

Related Questions:

How Much Should I Water My Houseplants?

Houseplants vary in the amount of water they need depending on the type or species of the plant. How much you should water your plants also depends on the humidity in your home, the type of planters that you use, and the general environment of your home.

Typically houseplants need to be watered moderately around every 2-3 days. Some plants require more or less frequent watering. The important thing is to make sure the plant’s soil can drain out excess water and is not constantly soaking wet.

How Do Houseplants Clean The Air In My House?

Plants acquire energy to sustain life by performing a metabolic process called photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide (this is the air that we breathe out) and turn it into oxygen (the air we need to breathe in).