How do you get rid of pests on indoor plants?

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Keeping indoor plants free of pests is a never-ending battle.

It seems like no matter what you do, those pesky pests always find a way to invade your plants and damage them.

Most people tend to give up on their plants when they start to show signs of a pest infestation. Just the thought of little bugs on plants is terrifying!

Well, I’m here to tell you that most pests can be treated and your plant can be saved! All you need is a little bit of knowledge about how to identify these pests and the best way to get rid of them.

What are the methods of pest control?

It’s extremely important that you IDENTIFY what kind of pest has infested your plant. There are several signs that help determine if it is an insect that has infested the plant. If you find leaves that are being eaten away, it is most likely an insect such as spider mites or aphids.

Spiders and other insects will also leave webbing on the plant. Ants can create a home in either the soil or stems of your plant, leaving behind droppings that look like flecks of dirt.

1. Look for pests on the leaves and stems of your plant.

2. Identify the pest by its physical characteristics.

3. Take action to get rid of the pest.

Related: Do Houseplants Really Attract Bugs? (11 ways to avoid bugs for life)

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Here are some methods for pest control for houseplants :

Early identification is the best way to keep pests under control. If you spot an infestation or think one is imminent, act swiftly!

Aphids on indoor plants

lots of aphids on houseplants stems

Aphids are 1/16-inch insects with pinkish bodies and long, thin antennae. They will pierce leaves to suck out the plant juices, causing stunted growth or yellow spots on your indoor plant’s leaves.

Identify aphids by their coloration, which is typically pale green or pink, though some species may be yellow, black, or even gray. They have long legs and antennae and a pair of tail-like appendages that extend from the rear of their bodies.

What to do: Use an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to wipe them down your plant’s leaves. You can also use horticultural oil sprays, which will suffocate the insects.

Spider mites on plants

mites on houseplants stem

Spider mites are 1/50-inch arachnids with red or brown bodies and eight legs. You may spot them by looking for discoloration on your plant’s leaves; the damage is often most visible due to the contrast between the yellowed leaf and the green veins of healthy tissue around it.

Identify spider mites by their color and size and the webbing they spin between leaves and branches of your plant.

What to do: Use an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to wipe them down your plant’s leaves. Make sure you get the undersides of the leaves, too.

Mealybugs on houseplants

mealybugs (white bugs on houseplants) on the stems

Mealybugs are 1/10-inch insects with gray, white, orange, pink, or yellow bodies. These pests are usually found around the center of your plant’s stem and are covered in fluffy wax that makes them appear cottony.

Identify mealybugs by their coloration and woolly appearance; they may also produce a sweet secretion known as honeydew.

What to do: Take your plant outdoors and shake it at different angles to remove the mealybugs. You can also use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol to get rid of them.

Thrips on indoor plants

close up of a thrip on a plant

Thrips are 1/25-inch insects that look like tiny brown, black, or reddish specks flying around your plant. These pests are the only mobile insects that can fly, which makes them harder to spot.

Identify thrips by their color–usually brown or black–and their flying behaviors.

What to do: Use an insecticidal soap spray to wipe them down your plant’s leaves. You can also use horticultural oil or neem oil spray, which will suffocate the insects.

Scale Insects on plant leaves

scale insect on a branch

Scale insects are 1/20-inch, immobile unarmored insects with hard outer shells and no wings. They may look like bumps on your plant’s stems and leaves and produce a sticky honeydew as their main method of movement.

Identify scale insects by their shape–which is similar to that of a waxy scale–and how they appear on your plant.

What to do: Use an insecticidal soap spray to wipe them down your plant’s leaves. You can also scrape them off with a credit card or other flat, sturdy object. If you use this method, be very cautious–you do not want to damage the leaves underneath where scale insects might still be hiding!

Whiteflies on houseplants

little white bugs on indoor plants

Whiteflies are 1/10-inch, white insects with round bodies and two pairs of wings. They often congregate around the top of your plant’s leaves, making them more noticeable than other pests.

Identify whiteflies by their color and size and where they congregate on your plant.

What to do: Use an insecticidal soap or a neem oil spray to wipe them off your plant. You can also take the plant outside and spray it down with the garden hose in the place of using insecticidal sprays.

Leaf Miners on indoor plants

leaf miner on a leaf

Leaf miners are 1/16-inch, light green or yellow insects that tunnel and eat through the tissue of leaves. The damage they cause appears as winding trails on your plant’s leaves.

Identify leaf miners by their color and behavior; most infestations occur on the underside of your plant’s leaves.

What to do: Dispose of infested leaves, then spray the remaining foliage with an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to kill off the remaining leaf miners.

Springtail on leaves

springtail insect on a houseplant leaf

Springtails are 1/80-inch, wingless insects with gray or black bodies and the ability to jump. These pests are found throughout indoor environments, including plants.

Identify springtails by their size and behavior; they often move like fleas around your plant’s soil or surfaces beneath it.

What to do: Wipe them off with a gentle stream of water. If they persist, use an insecticidal soap spray.

Fungus gnats on houseplants

a close up of a fungus gnat on an indoor plant leaf

Fungus gnats are 1/16-inch, dark gray or black insects that fly around your plant’s soil and can be found resting on top of the surface.

Identify fungus gnats by their color–typically dark or light gray–and how they move around your plants.

What to do: Place yellow dish soap in a dish and add water. Soak a cotton ball in the solution, then use it to wipe down your plant’s leaves. Repeat until fungus gnats are gone.

What are some materials/tools used to control pests?

  1. Neem oil will repel insects by confusing their sense of smell, essentially interfering with their hormones and reproductive systems.
  2. Insecticidal soap will kill pests by targeting their cell membranes.
  3. Liquid dish soap will interfere with the insects’ breathing and cause them to suffocate.
  4. Diatomaceous earth will leave a powdery residue on pests, which dehydrates and kills them.
  5. Horticultural spray oil will suffocate insects by clogging their respiratory systems and breaking down their waxy coats.
  6. Nematodes will kill pests that come into direct contact with them.
  7. Ladybugs are a beneficial bug that will eat certain pests. (And you can order them LIVE so that they’ll be ready to go at your doorstep)
  8. Lacewings are also known to eat certain pests.
  9. Potassium bicarbonate will release carbon dioxide, which insects breathe in, causing them to suffocate.
  10. Yellow sticky traps will trap certain pests that are looking for food
  11. Use tweezers to remove pests by hand when you spot them
  12. Use gloves to protect your skin from certain pests.
  13. Use a spray bottle to help you more effectively control pests.

What are some signs of pests?

Before using any of the prevention methods above, there are certain signs you should keep your eyes open for that might indicate a pest infestation:

  • Brown or bubbly spots – Insects and bugs tend to leave behind small brown or bubbly spots on the stem and leaves of plants.
    • If you see these, it’s a clear sign that there’s an infestation.
  • Plant wilting – A sudden change in your plants health might indicate a pest infestation. Make sure you’re using the proper lighting and water to ensure they have everything they need to stay healthy.
  • Leaves turning brown – Brown leaves can be a sign of a number of things, but if you see your plant’s leaves turn brown over night it might be a sign of houseplant pests.
    • Make sure to inspect the leaves before throwing them away, as you might find evidence of bugs or other insects on them.
  • Tiny bugs in or around your houseplants – Seeing little bugs that look like white powder on the soil of your indoor plants or in and around them can be an indication that there are more insects hidden in the leaves.
    • Look closely at the stem and leaves to see if there are any visible signs of infestation before throwing away any plant material.
  • White cobweb on plant leaves – Cobwebs on plants can be a sign that there are insects around, no matter if they’re visible or not.
    • Check your plant carefully for any signs of infestation before tossing it out.

Finding any of those signs on your plant is enough reason to take action and get rid of the problem before it gets worse. If there are any visible signs of infestation on your plant, do not bring it back inside.

Related: 10 Minute Solution to Rehydrating your Wilted Houseplant

What should you do if there is a pest infestation?

  1. Check for signs of pest infestations.
  2. Identify pests by their appearance and behavior on your plant
  3. Take action to get rid of the infestation, whether it be wiping them off with a gentle stream of water or using an insecticidal soap on your plant’s leaves–be sure to use the correct materials and tools needed.
  4. Check for signs of new infestations, or reinfestation if you still see pests after treatment for them.
  5. Repeat these steps until no pests remain on your plant.

What are beneficial bugs?

Beneficial bugs are parasites that kill pests, either by feeding on them or killing them. They are often sold through local garden centers or online retailers. It can be beneficial to introduce more of these bugs into your plant’s environment.

Some examples of beneficial bugs include:

  • Lacewings
  • Ladybugs
  • Beetles
  • Beetles
  • Praying mantises
  • Butterflies
  • Nematodes

What are some preventative measures to take against pests?

There are several ways to deter pests from entering your garden’s perimeter, including the following:

  1. Try using pest-resistant plants, which have fewer issues with being attacked by insects.
  2. Try growing plants that attract beneficial insects, which prey on pests.
  3. Place woodchips or gravel over soil areas where pests are often found.
  4. Avoid using mulch, as it can hold moisture and provide an appealing nesting spot for bugs.
  5. Keep your indoor plants clean so there is less for pests to eat.
  6. Use yellow sticky traps to catch flying insects.
  7. Use a fine-mesh screen around your garden to keep out crawling insects.
  8. Set up a fan at the entrance of your garden–the wind will blow flying bugs away from your plants and may also prevent crawling ones from entering.

How can I prevent pests from spreading?

Keeping infested plants separate is the first line of defense against an infestation, as it reduces the risk that pests will spread to unaffected plants. If you do discover that your plant has been affected by pests, act quickly!

Pesticides are made to treat specific types of pests, so make sure that you use the right one for your infestation!

Aside from making your plants healthy and strong, there are a few things you can do to prevent pests in the future:

  • Make sure you clean pots and trays before bringing indoor plants indoors – The last thing you want is for bugs that infested your plant while it was outside.
    • Clean them well before moving any indoor plants inside.
  • Use a paper towel to check your plants – If you’re buying new plants, make sure you inspect them before bringing them inside.
    • You can use a piece of toilet paper or paper towel to double check for any pests.
  • Inspect all new plants carefully – Whenever you bring new houseplants into the house, inspect them very carefully for bugs or eggs before placing them in your home.
  • Use a spray bottle to keep plants cleanKeep plants clean by spraying them at least twice a week with water mixed with liquid soap.
    • Insects don’t like the smell of the soap, which makes frequent cleaning a good way to prevent infestation.
  • Hang sticky fly traps near your plants – Insects are attracted to the color yellow, so this makes sticky fly traps a good way to keep them away from your indoor plants.

What are some tips to prevent pests from infesting my indoor plants?

  1. Keep them away from outdoor plants – Keep all houseplants indoors while outside trees and bushes are in season.
    1. Any bugs that jump onto your houseplants while they’re outside will not be able to get back inside.
  2. Remove dead leaves – When a houseplant has dead or dying leaves, it attracts bugs and pests because of its decaying matter.
    1. Removing the leaves as soon as you see them will help keep your home plants pest-free.
  3. Inspect new houseplants carefully – New houseplants will always bring in new insects that might infect your other houseplants.
    1. Make sure you inspect new plants before bringing them inside your home.
    2. Isolating new plants outside the house for a few days before bringing them inside will help keep infestation at bay.
  4. Ensure the soil is moist – While too much water can cause a houseplant to die, a lack of water can cause it to dry out and become a target for pests.
    1. Keep the soil moist without overwatering your plants and you’ll make sure pests stay away from them.
  5. Keep plants clean – Insects are not attracted to clean plants, so keep your houseplants clean by spraying them at least twice a week with water mixed with liquid soap.
  6. Use diatomaceous earth – This powdery type of earth can be used as a natural pesticide for indoor plants and it’s totally safe.
    1. Spread the diatomaceous earth around your houseplants and it will dehydrate insects that walk on top of it, slowly killing them over time.
  7. Keep plants healthy – The healthier your plants are, the less likely they will be infested with bugs.
    1. Make sure you’re using proper lighting and fertilizing your houseplants, so they can grow strong and healthy.

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