10 Common Houseplant Pests & How To Safely Control Them
Houseplant pests are nearly impossible to avoid but are not impossible to treat if you know what to look for and catch the infestation early. Whether you are new to owning houseplants or have been building your collection for years, it is good to be aware of common houseplant pests and inspect your plants regularly so that you can avoid damage to and even the death of your plants.
Mealybugs are actually a type of soft-shelled scale insect. They have a waxy coating that works to repel pest control products, sometimes making them difficult to treat. These houseplant pests appear white and fuzzy and usually congregate in the cracks and crevices of your plant. Mealybugs will feed on the sap of your plants, literally sucking the life out of them. They spread easily from plant to plant, especially if you have plants positioned in close proximity to each other.
How To Get Rid of Mealybugs
If you spot mealybugs on any of your houseplants, it is recommended to quarantine that plant right away to stop the spread of the pests. If you had other plants in close proximity to the infested plant, you should keep a close eye on those plants and even treat the plants as a preventative measure. We recommend taking the infested plant to a bathtub or large sink. Spray or wipe down all the leaves until no more mealybugs are visible. Do your best to avoid insects falling into the soil. Then spray down your plant thoroughly with Neem oil, Captain Jack's Deadbug Bew, or an insecticidal soap. It is recommended to repeat this treatment every few days for several weeks and then integrate preventative treatments into your monthly care routine. You can also apply a systemic insect control product to your soil to help prevent future pest infestations and kill off any remaining pests.
While aphids are more commonly seen outside on trees, shrubs, or perennials, they can just as easily infest your indoor plants, especially if you like to keep certain houseplants outdoors during the warm months. Aphids can come in a number of different colors but are most often light green. Some mature aphids have wings, making it easy for them to spread to other plants in your home. Aphids love to congregate on the undersides of leaves or along the stems of your plant where they will suck the sap out of your plant until it is dried up and dead. Aphids leave behind a residue called honeydew that can attract other houseplant pests. Another sign of aphids is that the leaves that they have fed on are often dried up with curled edges.
How To Get Rid of Aphids
As soon as you notice aphids on a plant, it is important to quarantine that plant immediately. Place your plant in a tub or sink and spray or wipe down the leaves of the plant thoroughly to remove as many of the aphids as possible. Thoroughness is key, as missing one insect can easily allow the resurgence of the infestation. After wiping away all visible insects, thoroughly spray the plant with either Neem oil, insecticidal soap, or Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew. It is recommended to spray your plant down every few days for a week or two until no bugs have been spotted for several days in a row. Even after this, it is recommended to continue treatment once every couple of weeks. You can also water your plant with a systemic houseplant pest control product that will poison and kill any stragglers that may have been left behind.
3. Spider Mites
Spider mites are extremely easy to miss and difficult to get rid of due to their nearly microscopic size. They spin tiny networks of webs along the surface and undersides of leaves and between the stems of your plant. They leave behind a white flaky residue that can almost make a plant look dusty. Some signs of spider mites are dry or curling leaves, stippling on the leaves, and the webbing and residue they leave behind. Certain plants do tend to be more susceptible to spider mites such as alocasia, so be particularly aware with such plants.
How To Get Rid of Spider Mites
As we said above, getting rid of spider mites can be difficult due to their size. With heavily infested plants, it may be easier and more effective in the long run to prune off the most heavily infested parts of the plant. You will want to thoroughly wipe every leaf, being sure to get every corner and crevice. Spraying the plant down after wiping the leaves and stems may also help wash away any bugs that were missed. Thoroughly spray down your plant with Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew every other day to every two days. Neem oil can also be used to treat spider mites, but we prefer to use products containing spinosad for these sneaky houseplant pests. Treat your plant consistently for a couple of weeks and then decrease treatment frequency to once a week for a couple more weeks. Keeping your plant quarantined, continue to inspect your plant and only return it to its spot in your home when no spider mites are observed for a month or two. Since spider mites are so small and easy to miss, it is not uncommon for the population to reemerge several weeks after a supposed successful treatment. Watering your plant with a systemic pest control product can also help to kill any leftover houseplant pests that may still attempt to feed on your plant. For a more detailed guide on how to get rid of spider mites, check out our blog!
There are thousands of different types of scale insects, but they can generally be categorized as hard scale or soft scale. Mealybugs, as we talked about above, are a type of soft scale. The type of insect usually referred to as scale is hard scale or armored scale. They have a hard shell exterior that protects them and can even help to camouflage them. They come in many different colors, though green and brown are very common. One thing that sets scale apart from other houseplant pests is that they are mobile when they are young, but when they become adults, they fasten themselves to one spot on a plant and remain in that one spot throughout the rest of their lifecycle. Scale is almost always found in clusters along the stems and leaves of a plant.
How To Get Rid of Scale
Treating scale is very similar to treating other houseplant pests. Once you notice the infestation, depending on the extent of the infestation, it may be easier to prune off the more heavily affected parts of the plant. Due to their hard exterior, pest control sprays do not easily penetrate the shell and kill the insect. Because of this, it is recommended to wipe down the plant to remove all the mature scale insects. Then you will want to treat your plant with Neem oil, a horticultural oil, or even some rose-specific pesticides are effective at killing scale. Scale can spread from plant to plant by the mobile, adolescent insects that are in the crawling stage of their lifecycle. They can easily make their way from one plant to another, so be sure to inspect and treat any nearby plants. Always quarantine any affected plants until you are sure the infestation has been handled. Click here for a more detailed guide on how to get rid of scale on houseplants.
The appearance of whiteflies is very self-explanatory. They are very similar in size to fungus gnats, have a heart shape due to their wings, and are white in color. They are more commonly seen outside in your vegetable garden, however, they are just as capable as other houseplant pests of making their way indoors to feed on your houseplants. Whiteflies in every stage of their lifecycle feed on the sap of your plants and spread very easily due to their ability to fly. This makes it very important to begin treating your plants for whiteflies as soon as you notice them. Similar to aphids, whiteflies excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can then attract other pests. Sometimes this honeydew will also begin to grow a black, sooty-looking mold.
How To Get Rid of Whiteflies
Since these insects can fly, it can be much more difficult to prevent them from spreading to your other houseplants. This makes it so important to treat your plants for whiteflies as soon as you notice their presence. The most effective way to trap adult whiteflies is to use sticky traps. If there is a large enough population of whiteflies, you can also try to vacuum them up, being careful not to suck up the leaves of your plants too. Giving any infested plants a thorough rinse in the sink or bathtub is highly recommended as well, as this will dislodge the eggs and larvae from your plant. Next, use Neem oil