Pests That Might Be Harming Your Houseplants

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • May 10, 2019

Houseplants Looking Less Than Healthy? It May Be Due To These 7 Pests

Ah, the houseplant—one of our favorite ways to bring the great outdoors inside while also detoxing our home’s air and adding color to our homes. While houseplants are beautiful, it’s sometimes a guessing game trying to figure out how to take care of them.

If you have houseplants, then you know how hard it can be to keep them alive. Outdoor plants are one thing, because it’s usually up to Mother Nature to take care of them. A houseplant, on the other hand, is completely your responsibility. You have to prune it, water it, feed it and make sure it gets the sunlight it needs.

But maybe you’ve done all of those things and your plant is still dying. You know you’re not giving it too much water, sunlight or fertilizer… So why is it turning brown?

As it turns out, indoor pests may be the reason your flower in the windowsill or potted tree in the corner aren’t growing like they should. However, it’s not due to the typical pest invaders you’re used to, like cockroaches or ants.

These plant-harming pests are tiny, and will munch away at your houseplant until it’s past the point of no return! We want to introduce you to these pests, so you know exactly what to keep an eye out for if your houseplants start looking a little grim.

7 Indoor Pests To Protect Your Houseplants From

1. Mealybugs

One of the most common pests that might be harming your houseplants are mealybugs. Mealybugs are extremely small and good at hiding, which makes them difficult to spot. However, they form cottony spots on leaf intersections and on the underside of leaves. Keep an eye out for these white markings, and for yellow-tinted leaves that have fallen—this is usually a sign mealybugs have taken over your plant.

How to remove mealybugs

Mealybugs are covered in a furry, protective coating that protects them from water and pesticides. Unfortunately, this means the only real way to remove mealybugs is by hand. Use a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or tweezers to remove the “mealys” and repeat weekly.

You can also use insecticidal soap to treat mealybugs. However, if that doesn’t work you may need to use a stronger insecticide to remove mealys completely.

2. Spider Mites

You never want to find out that your houseplants are infested with spider mites. Spider mites are extremely small, and nearly impossible to spot with the naked eye. If you notice black spots on your houseplant’s leaves, or fallen leaves with a bronze tint, chances are your plant is infested with spider mites.

Just like their name suggests, spider mites are arachnids, so they will form tiny webs. If you suspect spider mites are harming your plant, check the underside of leaves for signs of webs. If the webs are highly visible, you’re going to find lots of spider mites.

Pro Tip: Take a white piece of paper or paper towel and hold it underneath the leaves of your plant. Shake the leaves gently. If small, black, slow-moving dots fall off, your plant has spider mites.

How to remove spider mites

Locate which leaves are infested with spider mites, clip them from the plant, seal the infected pieces in a bag and dispose of it. Treat the plant or plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil for a few weeks to make sure the spider mites and their eggs are gone.

Spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions (watch out for them this summer!) so make sure to keep your plants well-watered and in a room with frequent air circulation.

3. Scale

Scale appear as lifeless, immobile bumps on the stems of houseplants. However, they are definitely not lifeless! Under their little shells, scale are sucking out the nutrients from your plant’s vascular system. Often times, this will make your plant turn yellow.

How to remove scale

Scale spread quickly, so it’s important to treat them as soon as you find them. Similar to mealybugs, scale must be removed by hand. Depending on the size of your plant, this could be extremely time consuming and arduous. Remove each scale, one by one, and treat the plant with insecticidal soap for a few weeks.

Be careful not to harm your plant further while removing scale. Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or tweezers to gently remove scale from your houseplant. Thoroughly check your plants daily for scale you may have missed, or more that have appeared. While this process is tedious, it’s worth it to save your plant!

4. Aphids

As if aphids didn’t cause enough problems outside already, they may also be one of the pests snacking on your houseplants. Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that suck the sugar-rich fluids from plant hosts. In more generic terms, aphids suck the sap out of your plants, causing stress and plant damage.

Aphids also secrete “honeydew”, a sugary substance that can cause fungus to grow on your plants. This fungus is extremely harmful to plants, and may even attract ants due to its sugary nature. If these ants get into your houseplants, you end up with a bigger pest problem on your hands.

Ants may decide to burrow down into the soil and colonize, destroying your plant’s roots. Not to mention, ants marching around your home is never a good thing.

How to remove aphids

The good news is, aphids are easier to remove than some of the other pests. Use a sink sprayer or hose to wash aphids off of your plants. Make sure to rinse both sides of the plant, and continue to rinse a few times a week until aphids are gone.

If you really want to get creative with it, set your houseplant outside and add a few ladybugs. Ladybugs love to eat pesky aphids!

5. Thrips

Thrips are actually very similar in appearance to spider mites. They are very small, and have a silver colored body. Thrips will cause damage similar to spider mites, too.

Thrips leave behind black droppings all over the plant, and their damage can cause your houseplants to wilt or even die. To spot thrips, try the paper towel technique we talked about above! Shake each leaf and branch to see if any black markings fall off—it could be thrips!

How to remove thrips

Rinse your houseplants and treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil for a few weeks to eliminate thrips.

6. Whiteflies

Not surprisingly, whiteflies look exactly how they sound. Whiteflies are tiny, white flies that fly around your houseplants and invade weaker leaves.

How to remove whiteflies

Treat whiteflies as you would thrips. Rinse the plant and treat the plant with insecticidal soap a few times!

7. Fungus Gnats

Plants that thrive in humid environments may attract fungus gnats. Fungus gnats are unsightly, and fly around your plants in a fruit fly fashion.

In this case, the adult fungus gnats aren’t the issue. Fungus gnats lay their larvae (up to 300 of them!) in the plant’s soil. Their larvae eat the rotting parts of the plants as well as the roots. Root damage like this may cause serious damage to your plant, or kill it.

How to remove fungus gnats

There are four things you can do to eliminate fungus gnats from your houseplants!

  1. Dry out the soil of your plants to get rid of excess moisture that attracts fungus gnats.
  2. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water and spray the mixture onto your plants. This will kill fungus gnats and their larvae! Spray the mixture on a few times to make sure no other fungus gnats remain.
  3. Repot your houseplant with fresh soil that hasn’t be invaded by fungus gnat larvae.
  4. Consider adding beneficial nematodes (tiny predatory worms) to your houseplant’s soil. These worms will kill any remaining fungus gnat larvae.

Pro Tip: The hydrogen peroxide mix will not only get rid of fungus gnats, but also oxygenate the soil, leaving you with healthy, beautiful plants.

Eliminate Indoor Pests For Good—Call Killingsworth

No one wants pests to invade their home, much less their houseplants! If you’ve got pests creeping around your home, you need to call the pest control experts at Killingsworth.

We’ve been taking care of pest problems, big and small, for 26 years. You can trust us to take care of mealybugs, spider mites, aphids and more! No matter what pest is invading your home, we can eliminate it. We’ll make sure pests are gone, and gone for good! Reach out to us today to schedule an inspection—you never know what pests might be hiding in your home.

Think pests have invaded more than just your houseplants? Download our free Pest Encyclopedia guide below to learn which pests might be making your home their own.

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