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The 5 Most Common Houseplant Pests & How to Beat Them

Common Houseplant Pests sherwood park salisbury greenhouse

Eager new plant collectors have been visiting greenhouses in droves, adding to their growing displays of greenery, blissfully unaware of the lurking threat of houseplant pests. To be fair, it’s reasonable to assume that bug infestations aren’t likely to pop up indoors. But the fact remains that bugs are sneaky types, quite adept at creeping in through cracks and setting up camp amongst our potted houseplants.    

Since 2020, there has been one houseplant pest in particular that has been popping up way more frequently! If you spot the early signs of this houseplant pest (and the four others that are most likely to appear in your home), you’ll have a better chance at beating them. Remember, the moment you spot houseplant pests, you need to take action! They can easily spread from one plant to the next and could take over your whole plant collection in a matter of days. 

Watch Out for These 5 Common Houseplant Pests

Keep an eye on your houseplants and take the time to closely inspect their leaves and stems every week or two. The undersides of leaves are a common spot for houseplant pests to hide undetected before they begin to multiply. Not sure what it is you should be looking out for? Here are the five most common houseplant pests you’re likely to encounter at home.

fungus gnats pests

Fungus Gnats

This notorious offender is at the top of 2020s most wanted criminal list! Why this sudden influx of fungus gnats in plants? Because everyone has been stuck at home with their houseplants and is too tempted to overwater their plants! All that overwatering is leading to fungal growth, and that’s what soil gnats love. 

While the mature fungus gnats aren’t necessarily harmful to your plants, their larvae will attack your plants’ roots, and if their numbers multiply quickly, they can kill your plant. If you notice swarms of winged insects hovering around your plants, or squirmy larvae hanging around the soil, you probably have a fungus gnat problem!

spider mite pests

Spider Mites

Spider mite, spider mite, does whatever a spider might. Actually though, these tiny little mites””usually red in colour, but sometimes green or brown””will spin fine webbing all around your houseplants. But unlike Spiderman, these webspinners aren’t in with the good guys. Instead, they attack your plants, sucking out the moisture and leaving them dried up and damaged. Spider mites are so small; they can be hard to spot on their own, so their webbing is likely the first sign you’ll notice. 

aphids pests

Aphids

Aphids are little winged insects that are usually green, but sometimes brown, white, yellow, black, or red. The telltale sign of aphids on houseplants is a sticky coating of droplets all over the leaves. Aphids release a lot of waste onto our plants (rude!), which has been given the far too flattering name of “honeydew.” This honeydew contains sugars that can encourage bacterial growth if left untreated, resulting in black or brown spots.

whitefly pests

Whiteflies

If you notice tiny white bugs in houseplant soil, or hanging out on the undersides of the leaves of your plants, you’re probably dealing with whiteflies. Whiteflies, though technically not flies, are close cousins of the aphid and leave behind a similar honeydew substance. Check for their tiny yellow eggs as well, which are often hiding underneath the leaves. One single female can lay up to 400 eggs in one go, so it’s important to treat whiteflies ASAP!  

scale pests

Scale 

Scale insects often leave houseplant owners quite puzzled, as they really don’t look much like bugs at first glance! They don’t move around, cluster together on plant stems, and have a hard, scabby coating that’s usually brown or white. Sounds lovely, right? The baby insects, or “crawlers,” will move around a plant looking for the perfect place to set up camp, and once they pick a spot, they hunker down and never move. That’s when they start to develop that protective coating, and spend the rest of their life-sucking sap from that one spot on the plant. 

How Do You Get Rid of Bugs on Houseplants?

There are several different methods you can use to get rid of houseplant pests, and it’s usually a good idea to combine more than one tactic. Houseplant pests are generally pretty small, and they can multiply quickly, so you want to be sure you’ve totally knocked them out. We recommend using natural houseplant pest repellents and insecticides that are free from harsh chemicals. After all, you’re using them indoors where you, your family, and your pets live!

getting rid of houseplant pests

Here are our top solutions for getting rid of houseplant pests:  

  • Pyrethrum spray: a compound derived from the chrysanthemum flower, which paralyzes insects. Not recommended for outdoor use, as it can pose a threat to bees and other pollinators.
  • Insecticidal soap spray: a natural castile soap spray which effectively kills houseplant pests, even though the formula is super gentle. 
  • Horticultural oil spray: a blend of oils that suffocates insects as well as disrupts their hormones to prevent reproduction. Great for hard to treat insects like scale.
  • Replace the soil: if there is a lot of fungus or evidence of larvae in your plant’s soil, you may as well toss it out and replace it with some fresh soil. 
  • Rinse your plants thoroughly: a quick rinse in the shower or in the sink (on a gentle setting) can wash away insects, honeydew, and webbing.  

Remember, if you notice any signs of houseplant pests on one of your plants, isolate it from your others as soon as possible to prevent further spread. If you have any questions about safely killing houseplant pests, or if you’re dealing with a houseplant pest that you can’t identify, feel free to call the greenhouse! One of our experts will gladly help you determine how to tackle your pest problem and set you up with the most appropriate houseplant pest repellants and pesticides.

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Read through our Growing Guides for tips to enrich your garden! 

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