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How To Get Rid Of Bugs On Indoor Plants? (Identification+Remedy)

Being a caring and protective owner, you have been fully maintaining a proper care routine for your plants with scheduled watering, fertilization, and other basic needs for years.

But one day, you notice some unwanted guests making their way through your plant’s leaves or stems. Some can fly while some crawl in the soil. What would be your reaction? You will panic!

Pests are those nuisances that can adversely affect the zen of your in-house garden. Even plants in the wild are not spared from their attacks.

However, if you are wondering how to get rid of these bugs in your indoor plants, we have relief for you. And in this article, we shall discuss all common pests, how to identify the pest and how to get rid of them in detail. So, let’s get right into it.

Pests on houseplants are easy to eliminate if you take the right steps. Start by clipping off any damaged and heavily infested part. Then, shower your plant to eliminate some of them. Spraying a neem oil solution or cleaning the plant with rubbing alcohol can also help deter pests away.

There are many ways to win the battle over these parasitic species in due time. Let’s go further to check out some common pests and remedies to drive them away altogether.



Common bugs on houseplants

Different species of bugs attack the plants depending on their type, the climate, environment, and other factors. Below are some common species that infest our houseplants.

Aphids

These are tiny green, yellow, or white pear-shaped insects that suck on the juicy stem and leaves and excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew. 

Aphids are less common than the other species, but they are incredibly persistent and highly reproductive.

Remedy: 

Being soft-bodied, you can kill them easily. 

  • You first need to rinse your plant thoroughly with a sink sprayer or shower to eliminate most adult aphids.
  • Spray regularly with a diluted solution of neem oil or insecticidal soap water.
  • You can dislodge them with a cotton swab dipped in vegetable oil or rubbing alcohol.
  • You can also apply a sprinkle of systemic granules to the infected planters. It will kill the existing bugs and prevent their occurrence for up to two months.
  • Remove the heavily infested part of the plant.

Make sure to keep a close check for any recurring aphid attacks, as they can come back within a week or two. It is crucial to kill every last egg or plant; otherwise, these bugs will infest your indoor plants again.

Spider mites

Unfortunately, if you see any telltale webs between leaves and stems, your plant has housed spider mites. These insects that crawl around those webbings are incredibly tiny and are merely visible to the eyes.

These bugs absorb the sap from the leaves and stems of plants. Infected leaves become dry with yellow spots and limp in appearance. 

Remedy:

Treating these noxious pests can truly test your patience. Mites often start making their webs on the curvy edges underneath the leaves. Keep extra care for the underside of the leaves.

  • It is necessary to isolate the infected plant to prevent any further spread.
  • Then rinse thoroughly or wipe down the plant to get rid of the webs or any visible mites.
  • Keep the humidity level comparatively high.
  • Spray routinely with insecticidal soap water or diluted neem oil solution.

The best way to save your plant from spider mites is by taking action early as soon as you encounter any web pattern on your plant.

Scales

These sap-suckers are tiny flat, brown bugs that appear as oval bumps on your plants. The adults have a hard shell-like structure which makes it difficult to kill them. 

Remedy:

The best way to treat scale-infested plants is by treating one generation of these bugs at a time.

  • Remove any dead or damaged parts from the plant.
  • With the help of a brush, scrape off all the visible adults. Make sure to kill them before disposing of them as they can reinfest the plant if they remain alive.
  • Cotton swabs come to the rescue for eggs and younger scales that have not yet developed hardy shells. Dip the cotton swab in neem oil or insecticidal soap water solution and apply to the infected part. You can also use vegetable oil and rubbing alcohol for this purpose.

Remember, consistency is the key to success. Hence keep a regular eye even after treating the plant to prevent any other pest gathering.



Mealybugs

Mealybugs are slow-moving fluffy, white insects about the size of dill seeds and are closely related to scales.

Like scales and aphids, they too suck the sap out of your favorite indoor plant’s stem and excrete honeydew, weakening the plants over time. 

The eggs of these bugs, mostly found on leaves and stems, resemble tufts of cotton. Unfortunately, these pests are one of the toughest types of plant parasites to eradicate.

Remedy

  • Dip a cotton swab in vegetable oil or rubbing alcohol and remove the bugs and eggs from your plant.
  • Once you notice any mealybug infestation, cut off the infected stems immediately to save the planet from further harm.
  • After trimming, spray the entire plant with clean water, diluted neem oil, or insecticidal soap water solution.
  • Get a cotton ball, soak it in alcohol and apply it to the plant to remove any eggs.
  • You can also apply a sprinkle of systemic granules to the infected planters. It will kill the existing bugs, their eggs and prevent occurrence for up to two months.
  • As mealybugs can travel between leaves, spreading infection from one plant to another, the best way is to discard heavily infected plants. 

Fungus gnats

These small, dark-colored flies with relatively large wings resemble fruit flies and can be confusing to diagnose. Fungus gnats are found in the soil of the planters, where they lay eggs and feed on decaying organic material.

They thrive well in moist, humid locations like the bathroom and generally infect indoor flowering plants.

Larva of fungus gnats is the real nuisance as they feed on shoot sap, thus harming the plant massively. The adult flies are harmless, but you don’t want them to buzz around your favorite corner.  

Remedy:

The first and foremost step is to cut back the watering frequency up to a tolerable limit. Being moisture-loving plants, larvae of fungus gnats can not survive in dry soil. The dry soil prevents the hatching of the eggs.

To prevent adult fungus gnats from adding sticky traps on the soil of each planet. This will not just hinder adult fies’ growth but also inhibit them from laying eggs. You can also add systemic granules to prevent severe infestations.

Once everything is under control, consider replacing your plant in fresh soil to eradicate any final egg.

Springtail

These jumping tiny bugs generally inhabit a moist environment, feeding on decaying plant matter. So their presence on your indoor plant is a sure sign of overwatering.

Although they are not an alarming threat, springtails can be a real nuisance when present in large numbers. 

Remedy:

  • Allow the topsoil to get dry before watering.
  • Don’t allow the accumulation of organic matter in the soil, creating an ideal habitat for the pest.
  • Remove the saucer and drain the water once you finish watering.

Whiteflies

These flies look like white moths and are seen to roam in the underside of the leaves. They fly up whenever you water the plant.

Adult flies lay eggs on the underside of the leaves, and such infested leaves become yellow or stunted.

Remedy:

The same procedure goes for these pests, including isolating infected plants, washing with normal water, and systematically applying insecticidal soap water solution. 

Thrips

Thrips are tiny, slender, brown, black, or green insects with pointed tails that are often seen crawling on leaves, on flower buds, or any new growths. They are sticky in appearance.

Some common symptoms of thrip infected plants are brown stripes on leaves, dying leaves, malformed flower buds, etc.

Remedy:

As these pests multiply rapidly, it is a bit difficult to control them. You can’t expect that thrips will go away with just one treatment. You need to follow consistent plant care for these pests to be eradicated.

  • The first thing you should do with thrip-infested plants is isolating them as soon as you notice any spot.
  • After rinsing the plant with water, apply a 1 teaspoon insecticidal soap mixture to 1 liter of water.
  • Neem oil solution, sticky traps can also do a good favor for you in this matter. 

Basic strategies to prevent bugs on indoor plants

We are pretty aware of the frustration you have to deal with that made you realize the urgent need for this article. You have already learned about the common pests on houseplants and the possible remedies for avoiding them. 

However, preventive measures are the best way to avoid pests and their harsh effect on your plants.

Try these tips to keep bugs away from your beloved indoor plants.

Isolate new plants that you have just brought home

Even if you have inspected the newly bought plant carefully, there remains a chance for this plant to be a pest carrier to your house.

Generally, nurseries are not maintained as well as our houses. Moreover, there is a possibility of larvae or eggs in the soil. Such contamination can spread at once to the other healthy plants of your house.

The ideal way to deal with this is to keep the new plant isolated for a few days or a week and inspect it regularly. If no noticeable issues occur, you can place it in a proper spot in your house nearer to the other plants.

Look before you buy

Most of the houseplant pests can spread from plant to plant and can dwell in greenhouses and nurseries. Although greenhouses use frequent preventative spray, stubborn spray can easily survive even in most adverse conditions. And that is a real threat.

While picking out a new plant, inspect both sides of leaves, stems, and flowers for any signs of any pests.

You can also apply some systemic granules into the soil as a preventative measure to ensure there are no sap-sucking insects. 

Use fresh soil

Plant pests, larvae, and eggs can survive in the soil even if no plant is rooted into it. Hence, it is vital to use the right quality soil before planting your plant into it. Make sure you are using fresh soil which is contamination-free.

Avoid reusing old soil mix. Even if you are doing that, make sure any pests have been killed before the plantation.

People are often seen to ask the reason behind pest infestation during winter. Well, the primary reason is the plant’s dormant state during the cold season.

As plants enter a state of dormancy during winter, their immunity and other physiological functions become less active, making them more susceptible to pest infestation.

Slower growth rate and low humidity are other crucial factors that induce such problems during cold climates.

Even if you have brought a healthy pest-free plant, maintain all its needs. Otherwise, you still may end up having bugs on your plants. 

Where do these bugs come from? 

Potting soil, open doors, and windows, a plant kept outside can be significant sources of pests.

Though you have been advised to use insecticidal spray water to cope with heavy infestation, remember there is an alternative to natural pesticides.

Chemical pest control components are rich in toxic elements that can significantly stress the plant and affect its growth severely.

Instead, use natural homemade pest control methodologies like applying soapy water, rubbing alcohol, sticky trap, neem oil, soil cover, etc. 

To deal with bugs in potting soil, you can freeze the soil by keeping it outside the house, only if you stay in a cold climate. Otherwise, keep the new soil in an airtight container to avoid any unwanted intervention. 



Final words

Indoor plants are more prone to pest infection than outdoor plants because they do not have natural pest predators. Keeping your plant healthy and thriving is the primary key to avoiding such a phenomenon. 

Providing your plants the right amount of sunlight, nutrient-rich soil mix, adequate watering, and well-maintained fertilization will eventually boost up the natural immunity of the plant, making it pest-free.


Ref: Common insect pests and diseases, The Pennsylvania State University, Mississippi State University, Clemson University Cooperative Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, University of Minnesota.