Houseplant Pests And How To Best Deal With Them Safely

Keep Your Plants Safe And Healthy While Keeping Bugs Out Of Your Nashville Home

Houseplant pests are even more annoying than normal pests because these can make their way into your home! Thankfully, you can get rid of, keep them off of, and prevent them from getting on your houseplants. You can use chemicals but you can find safer alternatives right here.

What The Heck Is On Our Plants?!

“Jim, are you seeing this too?!”

Carey waits for Jim to come out into their sunroom. She doesn’t take her eyes off it even for a second, just in case it somehow disappears before he gets here.

Jim walks in and crouches down next to her. She sees him squint and then widen his eyes as he sees what she’s seeing: houseplant pests.

Red spider mite

“What are we going to do?” is the first thing he says. Carey has no idea beyond the fact that she wants to get rid of them. She and Jim pull out their phones and look up what to do about these pests.

If they can’t find anything they’ll call one of the 5 best garden centers around Nashville to see if they can help.

6 Common Houseplant Pests

  • Mealybugs
  • Scale
  • Fungus gnats
  • Whiteflies
  • Thrips
  • Spider mites

Carey starts with looking up what kind of plant bugs they’re dealing with. Finding out what they are first is the best way to also find out how to deal with and prevent them.

Mealybugs appear on plants as white, cotton-looking masses. They feed on plant sap, causing the leaves to yellow and curl:

Mealybugs are nasty houseplant pests
Mealybug photo by Forest & Kim Starr – creative commons license 3.0 unported

Scale insects look more like shells than insects. Plants don’t normally show damage right away and then suddenly they weaken, don’t grow well, and their leaves start yellowing:

White scale insects on plant
Photo by Mokkie – creative commons license 3.0 unported

Carey’s nose wrinkles up as she thinks about what these insects would look like in her home. “Gross,” she thinks to herself as she keeps reading.

Fungus gnats mostly gather around the roots when young and fly around when they become adults (don’t worry they don’t bite). Plants suddenly wilt, don’t grow well, yellow, and droop:

Fungus gnats are flying houseplant pests
Fungus gnat photo by gailhampshire – creative commons license 2.0

Whiteflies are white fly-looking insects found on the underside of leaves. Plants become weak, don’t grow well, yellow, and are more likely to become sick:

Whitefly on plant

Carey starts turning pale as she imagines these insects flying around her home. She starts reading quicker to try and find out the other common types of houseplant pests.

Thrips are so small you need a magnifying glass to actually see them, otherwise, they look like tiny dark threads. Plant leaves start turning pale, splotchy, and silvery before dying while the actual plant twists, discolors, and scars:

Spider mites are reddish-brown or pale, living in colonies underneath leaves. Large colonies often spin webs here. They leave light spots after they feed and plant leaves dry up, turn yellow, and fall off:

Spider mites are a nasty form of houseplant pests
Photo by David Cappaert – creative commons license 4.0 international

Carey looks back at her plants and heaves a sigh of relief. The houseplant pests on her plants aren’t the flying type, it’s just mealybugs. 

She tells Jim, who’s been looking up how to get rid of and control plant bugs.

Getting Rid Of Plant Pests

The first step Jim sees for them to take is to give their plants a shower.

You can wash most plants in a steady stream of water and rinse most pests away. For more resilient pests you may need to prune the affected parts off.

Rinsing a plant to get rid of houseplant pests

If half the plant or more is dead it becomes very difficult to save.

Thankfully Jim and Carey caught the insects before they could get their plants that far so they can still save them. They just need to find out how.

Pesticides For Dealing With Houseplant Pests

Neither of the couple wants to use synthetic chemicals to get rid of these houseplant pests. They’d rather use safer, organic methods made from trees and flowers and such.

Neem oil can help get rid of and prevent houseplant pests

Jim reads about neem oil, which they can spray on the tops and bottoms of leaves and lightly scrub in.

It can take care of insects as an egg, larvae, or adult. They’ll either stop eating, won’t develop further, or they’ll be smothered.

Carey puts it on their shopping list.

Pesticide Alternatives

These can also help take care of any houseplant pests on your plants:

  • Soapy water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vinegar

Jim and Carey get directions to the garden center and get what they need to protect their houseplants. They get back home, rinse off as many of the insects as possible, and use a neem oil product on the rest.

Eventually, their houseplants become pest free, but now they need to learn how to keep them that way.

Helping To Prevent Houseplant Pests

The couple agrees to take turns giving their plants monthly showers. For water-sensitive plants, they’ll rub them down with a wet rag instead.

They’ll also keep using the neem oil product. It keeps houseplant pests under control and it’s good for their plants in general.