Updated November 25, 2021 by Mark Marino
As an indoor gardener, you know just how delicate houseplants can be. From African violets to the jade plant family, there are many indoor plant varieties that must be grown with the utmost care. So when you spot a tiny bug crawling on the leaves or soil of your plant, you know you’ll have to act fast.
Indoor plant pests, including aphids, whiteflies, fungus gnats, and spider mites, are notorious for their ability to kill off even the hardiest plants. Even a small scale houseplant pest infestation has the potential to dramatically injure flower buds, plant roots, and mortally wound the entire plant. If you don’t find ways to separate an infested plant from healthy plants, you could be spreading significant pest infestations that devastate your indoor garden.
In this article, we’re going to cover the ins and outs of common houseplant pests, discovering how to quickly identify and treat a severe infestation. We’re going to look at:
- Where do houseplant pests come from?
- The most common houseplant pests
- Common whiteflies
- Fungus gnats
- Spider mites
- How to get rid of bugs on house plants
- How to prevent pests on house plants
- Common pests on indoor plants: FAQs
Where do houseplant pests come from?
Most indoor plant pests don’t come from the wild, but from ‘healthy’ looking, newly purchased plants! If you’ve recently made a purchase at a local garden center, there’s a good chance you may have tracked unwanted visitors back home. Large plants act as a breeding ground for hungry pests, who will migrate around the home in search of food.
Buying infected produce is another way to transmit house pests. Leafy greens are particularly suspect, especially if you are buying organic varieties. Flower arrangements can also spread disease.
Indoor pest problems may also arise because of problems in your potting mix. Many insects lay their eggs in soft, warm soils, and if your growing medium hasn’t been properly sterilized, you could be putting yourself in a dangerous position.
Most Common Houseplant Pests
There are millions of indoor plant pests around the US, but the worst of all are aphids, common whiteflies, fungus gnats, and spider mites.
- 1/4 an inch long
- Yellow, green, and pink exoskeletons
- Pear shaped bodies
- Use a cotton swab to wipe aphids away
- Spray plant leaves with a water and neem oil mixture
- Apply insecticidal soap when needed
Closely related to other soft scale insects, whiteflies suck plant sap from young plants and new growth, causing the spread of sooty mold.
- Adults are white flies less than 1/8 an inch in size
- Larvae are oval shaped ringed with many long tendrils
- Pests jump or fly away quickly when watering plants
- Use yellow sticky traps to stop adults from laying eggs
- Spray horticultural oils on the undersides of leaves
- If the infestation is severe, consider disposing of the entire plant
Fungus gnats are best known for their ability to spread plant molds and funguses.
- Adult fungus gnats are roughly 2.5 millimeters in size
- Larval gnats appear to be yellow worms in the soil
- Adult gnats are attracted to damp environments
- Reduce your watering schedule
- Apply neem oil to plant leaves
- Use fresh soil for every new indoor plant
Spider mites are extremely tiny pests that also feed on plant sap.
- Less than 1 millimeter in size
- Yellow, white, or orange colors
- Bronze or silver sheen on infested plants
- Apply dormant oil during winter or spring
- Use a water / dish soap spray combination on leaves
- Wipe the leaves of plants to remove dust
How To Get Rid of Bugs on House Plants
Although the pests above each have unique elimination methods, there are a few generalized ways to get rid of bugs on your house plants:
- Apply blue sticky traps around the house to monitor for adult pest activity
- Use best indoor plant care practices to keep plants healthy
- Spray horticultural oil on struggling plants
How To Prevent Pests on House Plants
Even if you don’t have a indoor pest problem, it would be wise to implement prevention steps. Here are some ways to keep your precious plants pest free:
- Don’t use garden soil to pot indoor plants. Instead, purchase sterile potting soil.
- Use insecticidal soaps at the first sign of a infestation.
- Wipe down all indoor gardening tools with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Common Pests On Indoor Plants: FAQs
Still have some questions? Check out this helpful list of FAQs to help narrow down potential answers!
Where do houseplant pests come from?
The vast majority of houseplant pests come from buying new plants that are already infested. An infested plant may not always show signs of a pest infestation, and could easily transfer tiny bugs from one pot to another. For this reason, it’s a good idea to quarantine new plants from the rest of your collection to monitor for household pests.
How do I kill soil pests in house plants?
There is a three step process for removing soil pests from an infested plant: peroxide, diatomaceous earth, and reduced watering. Create a mixture of 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide to 3/4 a cup of water, and pour about 1/3 onto the soil surface. The oxygen will promote healthy new plant growth, while the application of diatomaceous earth and reduced watering schedule will eliminate soil pests fast.
What other insect pests do I need to worry about for my indoor plants?
Depending on where you live, you may have some additional houseplant pests to keep in mind, namely scale insects, fruit flies, mealy bugs, and some microscopic bugs (broad mites). Although small numbers of these insects won’t pose a problem, severe infestations will lead to significant plant damage over time. Treatment is essential!