Everything You Need To Know About Houseplant Pests

Everything You Need To Know About Houseplant Pests

Feb 7, 2022

Plant pests are the worst–that, you probably already know. But when it comes to recognizing, treating, and preventing pest infestations on your beloved houseplants, the Garden Goods Direct Team is here to help!

In this blog, we will cover: the main types of plant pests; how to tell if your plant is suffering from a pest attack; and the most effective methods of pest treatment and prevention. Before you know it, you’ll be fighting off the worst of plant pests without even breaking a sweat.

Common Types of Indoor Plant Pests

Spider Mites

Spider web on leaf

The most prevalent on our list of indoor plant pests is spider mites. These devilish specimens are small but mighty. Nearly microscopic in size, it is difficult to know you even have a spider mite problem until your plant is fully infested in mites and webs.

Spider mites multiply at an impressive rate and can spread from plant to plant with as little as a slight breeze. If that isn’t scary enough, the mites can also cling onto your clothing and casually hitch a ride to your plant collection.

Though extremely small, spider mites can be recognized through their distinct webbing that spans between the stems and from leaf to leaf. Additionally, when the spider mites have multiplied significantly, you can often spot them as little white specks gathered on the backside of your plant’s foliage.


Scale on Leaf

Next on our list of common houseplant pests is brown scale. This pest can be a bit more difficult to spot due to the fact that, though living, for the majority of their lifespan, these pests are completely immobile. Scale appears as dark brown, hard-shelled flat ovals typically on your plant’s stems.

In its youngest stage of life, scale babies crawl the plant in search of the perfect spot to spend the rest of forever…talk about a commitment! Once the scale has found an ideal resting place–which is typically on a plant’s newest growth, they set up shop. Covering themselves in a protective layer, the scale creates an armor to protect itself from preventative insecticides. This is where things get tricky.

Diagnosing your plant with scale will most likely occur, not upon site of the pests, but when your plant starts showing symptoms of a pest infestation. If your plant is exhibiting withered and drooping foliage, and is quickly losing foliage, you may want to examine your plant for scale.


Aphids on Leaf

Aphids are small, green, sap sucking pests. These soft bodied insects are more often seen on your outdoor garden plants; however, they occasionally make their way onto your indoor houseplants, and they wreak havoc.

Beginning as crawling bugs, Aphids can develop wings and spread throughout your garden or plant collection. As the bugs suck nutrients and energy out of your plant, they excrete a sticky, honey-like substance from their rear. The substance is problematic in that it can attract other pests as well as raise the plant’s chances of mold and mildew production.

The easiest way to tell if your plant has aphids is to inspect and feel your foliage. If the leaves are sticky with residue, odds are there is a pest in its midst.


Thrips on Leaf

Last on our list of common houseplant pests is thrips. Thrips are minuscule straw or black colored insects with thin transparent wings. Thrips do their damage on houseplants through sucking out nutrients and juices and clawing at fruits, flowers and foliage.

Thrip damage causes leaves to lose chlorophyll and results in pale, silver-hued leaves. Thrips have no mercy and will completely destroy a plant leaving it withered and scarred. The destructive insects will also leave small black traces of defecation.

Weirdly enough, thrips are attracted to the color blue, so in addition to preventative measures we will cover later in this blog, you can administer blue sticky traps to lure these pests to death.

Recognizing a Pest Infestation

The best way to handle a pest infestation, other than of course preventing it in the first place, is to catch it early on before it spreads to the rest of your plants. To spot a pest infestation before it has gotten out of control, we recommend keeping a close eye on your houseplant’s foliage, as well as monitor its overall well being and growth rates.

Pest Signs Infographic

The main signs to look out for regarding a pest invasion include yellowing leaves, withered foliage, sticky residue, and quickly declining plant health on a seemingly otherwise happy houseplant. Additionally, you should keep a close eye on common pest zones which include the underside of the leaves, plant stems, and on your plant’s new growth.

Keeping an eye out for these tell-tale signs of a pest attack is one of the best ways to catch a pest early in its game and make the treatment process that much easier.

Treating Houseplants With Pest Infestations

So you’ve been keeping up with your weekly plant inspections, and you’ve discovered signs of sabotage; a pest has trespassed into your happy place and targeted your plant babies. Take a deep breath, as long as you caught it early enough, this is not the end of the line for your precious houseplant.

Pest Treatment Steps

1. Isolate Your Plant

The first course of action in treating your plant is to quarantine it from the rest of your collection. If you have a good number of houseplants clustered in one area, you want to be sure that this pest infestation does not become a bigger problem and spread. The best thing you can do if your plant has come down with a case of pests is to separate it from the rest of your houseplants.

2. Heavily Shower Your Plant

The next step of treatment is to give your plant a good rinse down. We recommend covering your plant’s soil with a plastic bag to avoid risk of over watering and root rot. Once you have securely covered your plant’s soil, throw that baby in the shower! Under room temperature-medium heat water, make sure you give your plant a pretty heavy cleaning. Be sure to hit the plant with water at a variety of angles, especially getting the undersides of the leaves.

The idea with this step is that you will essentially drown existing pests residing on the houseplant’s foliage.

3. Wipe Down Foliage

Once you’ve hit your green baby with a nice showering, it’s time to wipe down the leaves. Using a dry paper towel, generously wipe down every single leaf–front and back! This step is important in getting rid of any lingering pests who may have survived the rinse down.

4. Spray Foliage With Organic Neem Oil

If you are a houseplant owner and you have not yet discovered the almighty product that is neem oil, get ready to meet your new best friend.

Deriving from neem seeds of a South Asian tree, neem oil is an all natural insecticide that you can heavily apply to your plants foliage.  Once consumed by any plant pests that are still clinging to your plant, the pests will be deterred from feeding and larvae will cease to mature.

5. Hydrogen Peroxide Treatment

Now that you’ve conquered the pests on the foliage, it's time to take on the larvae within the soil. Many plant pests reproduce and lay their eggs within your plant’s soil. So while you’ve taken care of all the monsters you can see, there’s an unseen level of treatment that needs to take place.

You will want to dilute your hydrogen peroxide mix so that it is four parts water and one part 3% HP. Once you’ve diluted your mixture, you can pour it into the plant’s soil like you would in your regular watering regime.  The hydrogen peroxide will work to add oxygen to your plant’s root system, while also attacking any form of pest that may be burrowed into the soil.

6. Repeat!

This might feel a bit tedious, but if you have time to rinse and repeat in your shampoo cycle, then you should be able to make the effort for your houseplants!

It's not always totally necessary to repeat the process, seeing as you may have caught the infestation early and knocked the pests out in one swift swoop. However, on the off chance that there are some stragglers, you can never be too careful!

Additionally, some pests like spider mites have three life cycles. So while you may think you cured the infestation, there’s always the chance that they are going to bounce back.

Spray this oil onto your plant’s leaves to ward off unwanted pest guests from coming back.

Preventative Plant Pest Measures

Bi-weekly Foliage Cleaning

Now that you’ve learned how to treat those pesky insects that work toward the demise of your plant’s wellbeing, it’s time to learn some preventative measures to keep those houseplant pests from returning.

The first course of prevention is incorporating biweekly foliage cleanings into your plant care routine. Not only will your leaves be shiny and beautiful, but you will readily reduce the chances of pest infestations from occurring.

Neem Oil Mistings

What was it we said about this tree seed oil?-- Neem Oil is a plant owner’s best friend! Seriously, if you take anything from this article let it be this–Neem Oil rocks. Since it is all natural, you can never use too much of it.

Incorporate frequent neem oil mistings to your plant care routine as an important element of pest prevention!

Introduce Beneficial Insects

Last on our list of pest prevention methods is beneficial insects! I know what you’re thinking; we are here to try and get rid of bugs…not add more! But hear me out.

If you didn’t know this already, let me be the first to tell you, like with humans, not all insects are bad! Introducing some beneficial insects to your plant sanctuary is such a great and natural way for pest treatment and prevention.

Beneficial insects are bugs that eat plant pests but do not hurt or impact the health of your houseplant. The majority of beneficial insects are also extremely tiny, so for those fearful of all beings with tiny legs and antennae, do not fret!

Our favorite examples of beneficial insects to add to your planting environment are ladybugs and pirate bugs. Both insects are decently small and work to consume the evil pests that eat at our plants. Incorporating these tiny workers into your indoor plant rooms can be the difference between owning a plant heaven or a plant graveyard.