While having the correct light levels and watering properly are two of the most important steps in growing healthy indoor plants, houseplant growers also have to constantly monitor their plants for signs of pests. There are many types of houseplant bugs, and arming yourself with a little information goes a long way toward preventing or eliminating an infestation.
Preventing houseplant pest infestations
Certain houseplants are definitely more prone to pest issues than others, but houseplant bug problems are often prevented by following a few simple steps.
- Carefully inspect all new plants before bringing them into your home. Many types of houseplant bugs piggyback their way into your house from the nursery where the plants were grown. Before buying new plants (or taking in “strays” from friends and family), be sure to examine the plant from top to bottom, looking on leaf undersides, along the stems, and even in the soil for signs of the common houseplant insect pests I’m going to introduce you to below.
- Even if you think a new plant is pest-free, it may have pest eggs or young pests that you can’t yet see. Before putting any new houseplants with ones you already have, put it in solitary confinement in a separate room for a few weeks. Watch it carefully for signs of houseplant insect pests and only put it in close contact with other plants after it’s been confirmed to be pest-free. You can also place a few yellow sticky cards just above the top of the plant. Many pest insects are attracted to the color yellow, and they’ll quickly get trapped on the card. Check the card every few days for any insects. If you have some on the card, you probably have many more on the plant itself.
- Before moving them back indoors, do a “detox” on any houseplants that have spent the summer outside. While most houseplants love to be outside during the warmer months, they often come back inside with several different types of houseplant bugs hitch-hiking on them. The day before moving houseplants back indoors, spray the entire plant – including the lower leaf surfaces and stems – with a sharp stream of water from the hose, using a spray nozzle that emits a forceful spray. This is often all that’s needed to dislodge any pests before moving the plant inside.(Video) Plant Clinic Ep 3: Identifying and Eradicating Houseplant Pests
- Keen observational skills definitely allow you to control many types of houseplant bugs before their populations explode. Examine plants weekly throughout the year, checking for both the insects themselves and signs of their damage.
- Another sign that indicates you may have one of several different types of houseplant bugs is the presence of a sticky substance on the plant itself, or on the surface of the table or floor beneath the plant. This shiny, sticky substance is called honeydew, and it’s the excrement of several different pests, including almost all of the houseplant pests mentioned below. The presence of honeydew is a clear sign of pest issues.
Types of houseplant bugs
The warm, consistent temperature of most homes is ideal for rapid pest breeding. Plus, without ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and other beneficial insects in your home to keep pests in check, houseplant insect pests can go from numbering just a few to an all-out infestation in no time flat. Here are five of the most common types of houseplant bugs and what to do about them.
Adult fungus gnats are super annoying. These minuscule black flies are the classic example of a nuisance pest. When an infested plant is disturbed, a cloud of tiny flies lifts off the soil. Mature gnats life for about a week, and although they’re a pain, they don’t damage your plants. Neither do the larvae, who largely feed on the fungi that naturally grows in potting soil. Because the eggs and larvae need water to survive, fungus gnat infestations are frequently the result of overwatering. A simple reduction in watering is often all that’s needed to control this common houseplant pest. But, if that doesn’t do the trick, beneficial nematodes added to the soilwill definitely take care of the problem.
Another of the more common types of houseplant bugs, scale is sometimes difficult to spot. There are many different species, each with a unique appearance, but the most common houseplant pest scales look like little bumps and are found along the stems and on leaf undersides. Scale insects often have a hard, shell-like covering that makes them difficult to spot and control. They can be gray, black, brown, or even fuzzy. Most scales leave behind the honeydew I mentioned above, so if you see a shiny glaze on the plant, check it for scale. When it comes to houseplant bug problems, scale is probably the most difficult to control. I like to wipe them off my plants with a special cotton pad soaked in isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Physically wiping the pest off the plant multiple times over the course of a few weeks offers the best control. But, another option is to use an organic, neem-based pesticide. Take the plant into a garage or outdoors to apply it, and be sure to follow label instructions.
This common houseplant pest does not survive freezing winter temperatures, so it’s typically troublesome outdoors only in southern regions. But, whiteflies are one of the most problematic types of houseplant bugs because when they’re indoors, the insects are protected from freezing temperatures and their populations can grow quite rapidly. Whitefly issues frequently originate via a plant purchased at an infested greenhouse, which makes a careful inspection of any new plants extra important. These tiny, white, moth-like flies are found on leaf undersides and will quickly fly off the plant when it’s disturbed. Since whitefly reproduce so rapidly, their sap-sucking behavior can leave plants wilted, and with stunted growth and yellow foliage. Whiteflies are readily trapped by placing yellow sticky cards just above plant tops. Applications of insecticidal soapandhorticultural oilare also effective. Since all three of these products work best when they contact the insect pest directly, try not to disturb the plant when applying, and be sure to cover both upper and lower leaf surfaces.
Though they’re small in size, aphids can cause big problems. Of all the types of houseplant bugs discussed here, aphids are the ones I encounter the most frequently on my own houseplants. Tiny and teardrop-shaped, aphids can be black, green, red, yellow, or brown. Sometimes they have wings and sometimes they don’t, but they’re most often found grouped together on new growth or on the undersides of leaves. As they suck plant sap through their needle-like mouthparts, aphids cause deformed and stunted plant growth. Small infestations are easily wiped off of plants with a soft, plant-friendly cloth soaked in water, but as with all types of houseplant bugs, when there’s a big infestation, other measures may be warranted. Aphids can also be controlled organically with horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap. Be sure to apply these products so they come in direct contact with the aphids themselves for the best results.
There are many types of houseplant bugs, but spider mites may just be the ones with the biggest “heebie jeebie” factor. Actually, these guys aren’t bugs at all. Instead, they’re close relatives of spiders. These teeny-tiny houseplant pests cause major issues, not just for plants but also for the homeowner facing the infestation. Though you can barely see them without the help of a magnifying glass, once you know they’re in your house, it’s hard to get them off your mind. Spider mites spin a fine, silky webbing, and collectively, they can cover the entire plant with it. If you look carefully, you’ll see tiny specks crawling around on the webbing; those are the mites themselves. But, before you toss your spider mite-infested ivy or palm plant into the garbage, there are a few steps you can take to get this common houseplant pest in check. First, take the plant outdoors or into the shower and “wash” it off with a spray of water. Spider mites are tiny and are easily washed off the plant. Be sure to rinse both upper and lower leaf surfaces. Then, after the plant has fully dried, use a light-weight horticultural oil to smother them. Reapply the horticultural oil every 10-14 days for two more applications for the best control.
Though there are a handful of other indoor plant pests that may occasionally prove problematic, these five types of houseplant bugs are by far the most common. But, by following the five preventative steps featured at the beginning of this article and using the suggested mechanical and organic product controls, you’ll be able to keep most of these little buggers from causing any real issues.
Remember, arming yourself with a little information goes a long way toward growing healthy, pest-free houseplants. Be smart about your choice of plants. For apartment dwellers, our list of the best houseplants for small spaces offers plenty of great plant choices. Healthy houseplants are better able to fend off pests, too. We’re sure you’ll find our guide to houseplant fertilizer basics very useful, too.
More posts about managing pests
- Our guide to vegetable garden pests
- Grub worm: Organic control tips for the lawn
- Pests of roses and their organic control
- How to prevent pests in the garden: 5 strategies
- Identifying garden pests: How to figure out who is eating your plants
Changes in leaf color or texture can signal an insect problem. Leaves may become spotted, speckled or yellowed when insects are present. Leaves might also become distorted or misshapen, often looking cupped or pinched. You may spot webbing draped along leaf undersides or where leaves attach to stems.How do I identify my houseplant? ›
A good go-to option for identifying plants is our app PlantSnap. This app identifies flowers and leaves using a photo-identification algorithm. It can take a bit of practice to frame the photo correctly, but the app is excellent for identifying houseplants in seconds.How do I get rid of bugs in my potted plants? ›
Start by rinsing your plant thoroughly with a sink sprayer, shower, or hose. This will get rid of the majority of adult aphids present on your plant. Then, spray regularly with an insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can also sprinkle systemic granules into the affected planters.What are these bugs in my house plants? ›
If you see tiny black bugs in plant soil, and flying around your plants – those are fungus gnats. The gnats that are flying around the fruit, or the garbage disposal in your kitchen are fruit flies.Why are there so many bugs on my indoor plants? ›
A: They're most likely fungus gnats. These little buggers are a really common pest over winter, and they're more attracted to the moist soil in houseplant pots than to the plants themselves. Fungus gnats are mainly an annoying nuisance.Is it normal to have bugs in houseplants? ›
Certain houseplants are definitely more prone to pest issues than others, but houseplant bug problems are often prevented by following a few simple steps. Carefully inspect all new plants before bringing them into your home.What are the worst houseplant pests? ›
- Aphids. (Photo by Jared Belson) ...
- White Flies. Whiteflies on a leaf underside. ...
- Spider Mites. A top view of two-spotted spider mite damage. ...
- Mealybugs. A mealybug infestation on croton.
- Overgrown Landscaping.
- Outside Pet Food.
- Damaged Screens.
- Aging Door Insulation and Sweeps.
- Dirty Dishes.
- Leaks and Drafts.
The first thing you're likely to notice is patterns of silvery dots or stippling on the leaves of your plant. Looking closer, you will see small, delicate webs in corners of stems or underneath leaves with what look like tiny white dots scattered throughout. Those are spider mites!How do you take a picture of a plant and tell what it is? ›
It's called PlantSnap. You can take a picture of a plant or flower and the app can tell you its name. Ever see a flower on a hike and think "That is beautiful, what's it called?" Well there's an app for that now. It's called PlantSnap.
To identify a plant you simply need to simply snap a photo of the plant, and the app will tell you what it is in a matter of seconds! PlantSnap can currently recognize 90% of all known species of plants and trees, which covers most of the species you will encounter in every country on Earth.How do you identify a plant using a photo? ›
Here's how to identify a plant with Google Lens: Tap Search with your camera when you want to take a picture of an item. Tap Open camera and give Google Lens permission to access your camera. Point your camera to a plant or flower you want to identify, then tap the large shutter button to search.Does vinegar keep bugs away from plants? ›
Acetic acid makes vinegar an excellent tool for pest control, repelling some of the most common backyard nuisances and even killing weaker insects. It's most effective against ants, spiders, and mosquitos.Why does my potting mix have bugs? ›
Because gnats in houseplants typically result when the potting mix contains too much moisture, the best way to prevent gnats from taking over your home is to avoid over-watering in the first place.What are the tiny bugs in my potting soil? ›
When you notice tiny bugs crawling around in your houseplant soil, fungus gnats are the most likely culprit. These tiny flying pests are one of the most annoying, hovering around plants and eventually all the people in your home. Fungus gnats are also one of the more difficult pests to get rid of.What can you spray on plants to keep bugs off? ›
Once they're gone for the moment, spray down the plants with a homemade insecticidal soap. A great recipe for a homemade bug spray for vegetable plants is to use one tablespoon of dish soap, one cup of vegetable oil, one quart of water, and one cup of rubbing alcohol.What is a natural way to get rid of bugs on plants? ›
- Start with “Clean” Soil. Good soil can actually deter garden insect pests. ...
- Buy Disease and Pest-Resistant Seeds. ...
- Selectively and Aggressively Thin Out Plants. ...
- Water Plants in the Early Morning. ...
- Control Weeds. ...
- Keep your Garden Clean. ...
- Use Insect Traps. ...
- Add Beneficial Insects.
On the day you plan to move the plants indoors, immerse each plant's pot into a bucket of lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes. This will cause any remaining bugs in the soil mix to float to the surface of the water. Then thoroughly spray the leaves again with insecticidal soap.What does a spider mite look like? ›
The mites themselves are oval in shape, slightly bristled, and pale green as juveniles with distinct dark green spots as they mature. These green dots are actually the contents of their gut and what gives the two-spotted spider mite its name.Can plant bugs affect humans? ›
In most cases, the answer is no. The fungi, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes that cause disease in plants are very different from those that cause disease in humans and other animals.
- Powderpost Beetles. Powderpost beetles are so named because of the fine, powdery waste their larvae leave behind after feeding on the wood they inhabit. ...
- Termites. Termites cause $5 billion in structural damage in the United States every year. ...
- Carpenter Ants.
Call a pest control company.
Contact a pest control company at the first sign of timber pests, to control and exterminate them.
- Droppings. Droppings are an obvious sign that a pest may be living or roaming in your area of work. ...
- Footprints. Footprints are another obvious sign of the presence of pests in a location. ...
- Damage to Property and Equipment. ...
- Nests. ...
- Foul or Unusual Odour. ...
- Insects. ...
- Rodents. ...
Yes. Spider mites have mouthparts used for piercing plant cells and therefore occasionally bite humans. However, given their microscopic size, it's unlikely anyone would feel it, although they might note small, red pimply marks on the skin that look like a rash.What does mold mites look like? ›
What do mold mites look like? They look like spiders but even smaller. They range from white to brown and can only be seen under a microscope or a special high-definition camera. They may even be mistaken for mold at first.Can plant mites transfer to humans? ›
Fortunately, the mites cannot live on humans, do not survive indoors, and are not known to transmit disease.Can I take a picture of a plant and ask Google what it is? ›
You can learn more about an image or the objects around you with Google Lens. For example, you can take a photo of a plant and use it to search for info or other similar images.Can iPhone camera identify plants? ›
If you are looking for an easy way to identify the species of plants and flowers that doesn't involve reaching for a taxonomy book, then try your iPhone. You don't even need to purchase an app, because in iOS 15 and later, Apple's software includes a feature called Visual Lookup that will do just what you need.How can I find out what kind of plant I have? ›
- Note the climate and region. ...
- Observe stems and branches. ...
- Note the leaf shape and size. ...
- Check the leaf arrangement. ...
- Note fruits and flowers. ...
- Look for barbs, hairs, or thorns. ...
- Note the smell. ...
- Check the roots.
"While plants don't appear to complain when we pinch a flower, step on them or just brush by them while going for a walk, they are fully aware of this contact and are rapidly responding to our treatment of them," he added.
Here's the good news: plants do respond to the sound of your voice. In a study conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society, research demonstrated that plants did respond to human voices. In this study, there were 10 tomato plants, 8 of which had headphones placed around their pots.How do you scan plants on iPhone? ›
Just open up a photo or screenshot in the Photos app and look for the blue “i” icon underneath. If it has a little sparkly ring around it, then iOS has found something in the photo it can identify using machine learning. Tap the icon, then click “Look Up” and it'll try and dredge up some useful information.Is there a completely free app to identify plants? ›
PlantNet is our number one pick for a totally free plant identification app. PlantNet describes itself as a “citizen science project on biodiversity”. It counts on its users to create a botanical database and the user is the last word on whether or not the plant listed is a match.What is the best free plant identifier app for iPhone? ›
For teachers, community educators, and citizen scientists who want to be able to identify plants they find as well as learn and share information about them, iNaturalist (iOS, Android) is the app we recommend. Expert researchers and other experienced users wander the app and confirm publicly shared identifications.What does a plant mite look like? ›
The first thing you're likely to notice is patterns of silvery dots or stippling on the leaves of your plant. Looking closer, you will see small, delicate webs in corners of stems or underneath leaves with what look like tiny white dots scattered throughout.What is the fastest way to get rid of bugs on plants? ›
You can get rid of the pesky insects by dabbing them lightly with a cotton swab dipped in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (avoid touching delicate leaves) or spraying with a dish-detergent and water mixture (one teaspoon of soap to one gallon of water).How do indoor plants get mites? ›
In indoor growing areas, spider mites are more likely to become a problem on underwatered plants. Over-applying nutrients can also make your plants more susceptible to spider mites. If you've applied too much nitrogen, your plants are more likely to be attacked by spider mites and other pests.How do I use Google to identify a bug? ›
When it comes to identifying bugs on your own, Google Lens can be a great tool, provided you are able to snap a great photo. You don't have to be a photography expert, but the image should be clear, close, and the insect needs to be visible against the background.Can I take a picture of a bug to identify it? ›
Picture insect is an easy-to-use insect identifier tool that utilizes AI technology. Simply take a photo of an insect or upload one from your phone gallery, and the app will tell you all about it in a second.Is there a free bug identifier app? ›
Picture Insect has an ever-growing database of insects and the expert advice of entomologists, leading it to be one of the top insect identification apps. With both free and premium options available, Picture Insect is perfect for the casual and the serious bug observer.
Soaps will kill many insect pests, including aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, spittlebugs, rose slugs, and soft scale on most houseplants, ornamentals, and fruit trees. But because soaps have little or no residual action, sprays should be applied at regular intervals until the population is controlled or eliminated.Does baking soda get rid of bugs on plants? ›
Baking soda is a natural way to deal with garden pests. Baking soda can be used as both an effective insect repellant and as a natural insect killer. It also works to control biting and chewing insects that are common killers of vegetables and garden plants.