5 Common Houseplant Pests To Watch For - Backyard Boss
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5 Common Houseplant Pests To Watch For

Whether you’ve just begun growing houseplants or are well-versed in the world of tropicals, there’s a good chance you’ve had a run-in with a bug or two. If not, you’re one of the lucky few.

Regardless, every plant parent should know about these five common houseplant pests to watch for, how to identify them, and how to get rid of them. With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be well equipped to face any creepy crawlies that make their way into your home!

Fungus Gnats

Fungus Gnat
Image credits: Heather Broccard-Bell via Canva

Gnats are one of the most common houseplant pests. Fortunately, they are easy to spot and manage. They resemble mosquitoes, though they tend to surround your plants rather than buzz around looking for blood.

The larvae feed on the roots of your plants and can cause growth disruptions and issues. Pruning can be an effective way to avoid this issue but, if you already have an infestation, try soaking your plant in soapy water for two hours – make sure the roots are submerged.

Overwatering can attract fungus gnats, so it’s important to let your plant dry between watering. Yellow sticky traps will catch the adults, effectively dealing with the issue alongside proper watering techniques.

Mealybugs

Close up image of a mealybug
Image credits: Ravi Kant via Pexels

Mealybugs are soft and oval-shaped. They have a wax-coating that resembles tiny white scales, which can make them difficult to identify. Mealybugs thrive on indoor plants and while they won’t chew holes in your leaves, they can cause leaf drop and plant decline. They also produce honeydew that causes sooty mold.

To rid your home of mealybugs, spot treat with an isopropyl alcohol-soaked cotton swab. Remember to test the solution on a small part of the plant first and wait one to two days for any signs of damage.

Since the bugs can’t fly or crawl very fast, you should be able to remove and kill them by hand. This will require attention, patience, and more than one session to ensure they’re gone for good.

Also, it’s important to isolate the plants you’ve found mealybugs on to avoid spread.

Spider Mites

Spider mite infestation on a tomato crop
Image credits: Catherine Eckert via Shutterstock

Spider mites are so tiny that you may not even notice them. You may first spot them as dark specks on the leaves, but the white silky webs are the tell-tale sign. Spider mites suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to die off. Since spider mites are fast and tiny, they can be difficult to handle.

You can use water to get rid of spider mites. Mix about a teaspoon of dish soap with water in a 30-ounce spray bottle. Put the solution on a cotton swab and gently brush away the mites.

If you’ve noticed spider mites, immediately isolate your plant(s). These bugs spread and damage plants quickly, so it’s important to catch them before it’s too late.

Whiteflies

Cleaning the trialeurodes vaporariorum whiteflies colony from the chili plant
Image credits: kryscina via Shutterstock

As the name would suggest, whiteflies are tiny white flying insects (though they aren’t actually flies). Whiteflies suck plant sap, causing leaves to turn yellow, stunting growth, and potentially killing the plant. The immature whiteflies do the most damage. They hide on the underside of the leaves, so it’s crucial to be vigilant when inspecting your plants.

You can remove whiteflies by placing yellow sticky traps around your plants. Shiny mulches, such as plastic or reflective stones, will also repel the bugs. Neem oil and other insecticidal sprays are also an effective removal method, especially when applied to the underside of the leaves.

Aphids

Aphids on a daisy
Image credits: MabelAmber via Pixabay

Aphids are another sap-sucking pest that weakens plants, causes wilting, stunts growth, and kills flowers. They have pear-shaped bodies and may be green, yellow, brown, red, or black. Unfortunately, if you’ve spotted one aphid, there’s a good chance you’ll have an infestation on your hands unless you act quickly.

To get rid of aphids, spraying the plant down with water or with a soap and water solution is often your best bet. That’s because heavy insecticides might harm bugs that are actually good for your plants.

To spray your plants down, take it outside or use your shower or sink sprayer to dislodge the bugs from the plant.

Preventing Houseplant Pests

person inspecting houseplants
Image credits: cottonbro via Pexels

While there are several ways to remove pests from your plants, the best method is always prevention. Below, you’ll find the best ways to prevent an infestation in your home, saving you time, energy, and money, while protecting your plants.

  • Inspect the plant before buying it, checking out the soil and underside of the leaves. If you notice any yellowing, damage, or creepy crawlies, return it to the shelf!
  • Use clean pots and new potting soil when repotting plants. Potting soil and pots can carry bugs, so it’s best to start fresh.
  • Isolate new plants for a few weeks. If they have any bugs, you’ll be glad you had it in another room! By the same token, limit the spread of pests by never letting the leaves of different plants touch.
  • Regularly check up on your plants to ensure they haven’t picked up any pests.

Pests Be Gone!

Catching houseplant pests before they cause too much damage is the best way to save your plants. Knowing the signs of pests and what they look like will make combating them easier. In general, declining plant health can sometimes point to bugs, so regular inspection is essential.

But, the best way to protect your plants is to follow all these proper steps to prevent pests! If you do notice a few bugs , there are even more natural ways to get rid of them. Don’t spot any pests on your plant even though it’s declining? Consider your watering schedule to avoid overwatering your plants!

Have you dealt with houseplant pests before? Share how you handled them in the comments below!

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