Indoor Plant Pests: An Identification, Control, and Prevention Guide

In 2020, house plant sales increased by 18%.

With house plants once more growing in popularity, so too comes the need for how to deal with indoor plant pests. Houseplant pests can multiply fast when given the right conditions indoors.

The conditions indoors for a pest infestation are ideal. There’s warmth, light, and moisture. All of these things combine to create the perfect environment.

Knowing how to identify the most common bugs and then taking proper steps for indoor pest control is important. Otherwise, if you fail to monitor your indoor plants for signs of pests, you’ll soon have an infestation that’s out of control and very sick plants!

Keep reading to learn how to identify common pests, as well as how to prevent them.

Types of Indoor Plant Pests

Conservative estimates put living species of insects at around 30 million different types.

Such an astounding number makes it easier to see how there are so many different types of pests that target houseplants. Being able to identify what type of pest you’re dealing with is key to knowing how to treat it.

If you would like to have plants within your commercial space or office, trust The Green Room to handle their long-term care. The Green Room can provide healthy plants for your area if needed, as well as do pest prevention so that you don’t ever have to worry about it.

Scale Bugs

These pests feast on sap from your houseplants. They have a white or brown circle appearance. They can sometimes look like tiny bumps on the leaves or stems of your houseplants.

You can use a cotton bud or soft cloth that’s been soaked in a diluted horticultural profuct such as Conqueror oil or Neem oil to remove these insects. The horticultural oil smothers and kills the scale, which then makes it easier for them to be removed. The eggs are invisible, so you will have to watch for the bugs themselves and then pick them off.

While horticultural oil is great for treating scale, do take care when using it on plants like palms. Palms breathe through their leaves, so if oil is applied here, this can cause the plant to suffocate. When using horticultural oil on palms, you should only apply it to the stem area.

Mealy Bugs

Slow-moving bugs that are white and fluffy looking; these are one of the most common pests in New Zealand. Their eggs resemble small bits of cotton and you can find them on the leaves and stems of your plants.

One key indication that you might have a mealy bug infestation is the presence of ants. Ants feed on the sticky sap that mealy bugs produce, so if there are ants crawling all over your plant, this could be a sign of mealy bugs.

To get rid of these pests, take your plant into the shower and wash it down with water and a soft cloth making sure to wash all of the bugs and sticky residue from every nook and cranny. Then, apply a pest treatment product such as Neem oil to deter the bugs from returning.

Make sure to remove the top few centimetres of soil. Mealy bugs live and breed within the top layer of soil.

Spider Mite

Tiny red spiders, these pests are hard to see with the naked eye. Instead, your first clue your houseplant has a spider mite infestation is the webbing they leave between leaves and stems.

Spider mites feed on the sap of plants. If you have a spider mite infestation, you’ll notice tiny yellow dots on the leaves. Spider mites favour hot, dry conditions, so you should be on the alert for these pests if you have this environment in your home.

If you need to remove spider mites from your houseplant, you’ll first want to isolate the infected plant. Spider mites can be very difficult to get rid of, so you’ll want to limit them from spreading to other houseplants.

Since they hate moist conditions, spraying or showering the houseplant every 2-3 days will help to break the breeding cycle. This step is essential, otherwise, you’ll have a new infestation breaking out every few days.

Thrips

Thrips have an unusual appearance. Their body is long and skinny and either black or brown in colour. They also have a pointy tail that curls upward at the end. 

These bugs feed on the sap of your houseplants and can be found living under the leaves. A sign that your plant has thrips eating away at it is that the plants will start to have discoloured leaves. Your plant may also get brown stripes on its leaves or parts of it to start to die.

Another sign that you’re dealing with thrips is if you see little brown dots on your plant. This could be thrip faecal matter and you’ll often notice this before you see the actual bug.

Getting rid of thrips can be difficult. You may want to consider using insecticidal soap to help remove and kill them followed by neem oil. Spray the neem oil on the plant leaves once a week and this should kill any thrips that come into contact with it.

Fungus Gnats

If you enjoy houseplants, odds are you’ve seen fungus gnats at some point in time. These are tiny, dark flies that look akin to fruit flies.

Fungus gnats lay their eggs in the soil of your houseplant and feed on plant material that is decaying. In the larval stage, they will eat the roots of the plant. Once they mature, they are harmless to the plant but are no less of a nuisance as they buzz about in your home.

To prevent and remove fungus gnats, you’ll need to let the soil of your houseplant dry out. Then, water your plant from the bottom by placing the pot in a saucer. If the fungus gnats prove to be persistent, you may want to try using insecticidal soap.

Aphids

Small, pear-shaped bugs, aphids are often found on vegetable plants grown outside. However, they can also make their way into your home and infest your houseplants.

You’ll find aphids grouped in clusters on new leaves or flower buds. They eat the sap from the plant and it can cause it to wither.

If you need to remove an aphid infestation, the best method is to wipe the plant down with a damp cloth. You can also try using a cotton swab that has been soaked in rubbing alcohol or vegetable oil. 

Take Care of Indoor Plant Pests Fast

If you notice that you have indoor plant pests, be sure to take swift action. If you allow these pests to continue unchecked, you can soon have a massive infestation that spreads to all of your houseplants! Careful monitoring of your plants by checking them once a week should help identify any sinister incursions pretty quickly.

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