A nuisance in houseplants is the infestation of whiteflies. These flies suck the sap of the houseplants, and if you don’t notice the early signs, you will end up with a heavy infestation and a weak plant. So, it is best to remove them.
But how to get rid of whiteflies on indoor plants? Let’s find out.
In general, spraying the backside of your indoor plant leaves with a neem oil solution or soapy spray, or insecticidal sprays can help eliminate whiteflies infestation. Other approaches like showering the plant, using a sticky card, or flycatcher can also help control the infestation of whiteflies.
If whiteflies are constantly wandering near your indoor plants, then you are at the right place. Reading this article will help you understand both causes and methods to remove whiteflies from your houseplants.
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What are whiteflies?
Before eliminating the whiteflies, understanding them will help you identify and deal with them efficiently.
Whiteflies are tiny insects that have a wax-like coating on their soft bodies. And as the name suggests, they are white.
Whiteflies come with wings and are seen flying around the plants. These are incredibly tiny – around half an inch long.
Whiteflies reside in groups under the leaves, so it might be challenging to spot them initially. But if you suspect, you can move some leaves, and you’ll see them flying out.
Whiteflies are not considered a fly species but rather more related to aphids.
There are different types of whiteflies such as Silverleaf whitefly, greenhouse whitefly, giant whitefly, etc. You will mostly find these around your indoor plants.
Symptoms of whiteflies in the indoor plants
It can be confusing to understand what is wrong with your plant unless you check the signs that your plant shows.
Noticing the whiteflies can be difficult because of their tiny size and where they reside.
Whiteflies feed on your indoor plants and lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves, where they are mostly found.
Although it is difficult to determine when whiteflies infest your plant, there are some probable symptoms your plant will show:
Both young and adult whiteflies feed on the sap of your houseplants. They suck out all the nutrients of the plant.
This makes the plants weak, and they don’t have any energy left for growth.
Many pests and bugs excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew. Whiteflies are no different.
If your plant has a whitefly infestation, you might notice honeydew on the leaves. Honeydew can cause fungal infections and severely damage the plants.
If you miss the early signs of whitefly infestation, it will cover the whole plant and cause several issues.
You will notice that the leaves will turn yellow, wilt, and eventually fall off the plant.
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You will notice them
You might detect some tiny flies wandering and flying around your plant, near the potting soil, and over the edges of your pot.
When you find this, check the undersides of the leaves, and you might find more of them.
Whiteflies excrete honeydew that brings in more pests, such as ants. Honeydew tastes sweet, and ants love the taste of it.
Although ants might not harm your houseplants, it might still be a pain to see them around your plants.
Causes of whitefly infestation in indoor plants
Whiteflies won’t randomly attack your indoor plants. There are some reasons due to which you find them near your houseplant or the potting soil.
Nitrogen is an essential micronutrient of plant fertilizers. But many people consider fertilizing their plants with a fertilizer that contains a higher ratio of Nitrogen.
This might boost your plant and cause growth, but this is often the reason behind whitefly infestation.
Whiteflies tend to infest plants that have been overfertilized with Nitrogen.
Most pests prefer moist conditions, but unlike them, whiteflies prefer dry plants.
If you forget to water your plants for prolonged periods and the soil becomes dry, the ideal environment for whitefly infestation is created.
Summertime is ideal for these pests as the warm conditions favor the reproduction of whiteflies. So, they attack your dehydrated plants, feed on whatever is left in the plants, and reproduce.
You might be using insecticides to remove unwanted pests and bugs from your indoor plants, but these insecticides might not affect the whiteflies.
Many insecticides kill the insects that feed on the whiteflies, such as wasps, spiders, and ladybugs. This increases the whitefly infestations on your plants.
How to get rid of whiteflies from indoor plants?
If you suspect or notice a whitefly infestation on your indoor plants, don’t neglect it. If you let the infestation increase, it won’t be easy to get rid of them.
Keep a check on your houseplants and check the areas that usually go unnoticed, such as the undersides of leaves.
Below are some very effective ways to get rid of whiteflies.
The easiest and primary way of removing whiteflies is with water.
Take your plant outside or to the sink and spray it with a strong force of water. This will force the whiteflies to leave the plant and also kill the eggs.
Whiteflies don’t prefer moist conditions, so this is an effective way of removing them.
Water the plants with Hydrogen Peroxide solution
To kill the larvae of whiteflies, using a hydrogen peroxide solution would be helpful. To make the solution, mix 1 part of hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) with 4-parts of water.
Pour the solution into the soil. When you apply this, after some time, you will see bubbling. It’s a sign that the solution is working.
Don’t keep the plant in a dry condition
As the whiteflies are attracted to dry soil, you must ensure that you don’t let the soil get dry and compact.
- Water your plant whenever it needs. Don’t keep it thirsty for days.
- If your plant is exposed to bright light, the soil will dry up faster and so the plant will need frequent and more watering. Make sure you keep checking the soil’s moisture.
- If you are not good at watering the plants, maintain a routine. Write down the last time you watered the plant and set reminders that will remind you to water the plant the next time.
- You can get self-watering pots that are available in the market. This will not allow the plant to go all dry.
One of the practical and natural methods to trap the whiteflies is using an apple cider vinegar trap. Vinegar smells sweet so that whiteflies might get attracted to them. Once they fall for this bait, trapping them would be easy.
For making a vinegar trap:
- Take apple cider vinegar in a bowl or cup, filling at least 1 inch of it.
- Mix some 4-6 drops of liquid soap.
- Stir and cover the container with a plastic wrapper.
- Make some holes in the wrapper, big enough to allow the whiteflies to enter. While the vinegar attracts them, the soap will prevent them from flying.
- Place this bowl near your infested indoor plant.
You can add honey or sugar to the vinegar mixture. The sweetness will attract the whiteflies even more.
However, sugar and honey will have the risk of attracting ants. So, sticking to vinegar would be advantageous.
Still, if you want to take the chance, take:
- 3 teaspoons of vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of sugar or ½ tablespoon of honey
- 5-6 drops of liquid dish soap
- ½ cup of warm water
Mix these in a shallow bowl. Keep them near your plant. Warm water will help in the quick dissolving of sugar/honey. Instead of vinegar, you can use beer or wine.
These are a sort of card containing sticky gum over their body. This will capture all the adult whiteflies, inside the soil or outside the potting, approaching the soil.
It is an effective way to trap whiteflies. Use the yellow cards. They will go towards the cards because of the yellow color.
Either hang the cards from a branch or keep them on the soil by using sticks or skewers. Be careful while doing the latter. Don’t harm the roots.
Keep checking the cards after some days. Remove them once they are filled and avoid touching the sticky part.
Use non-toxic traps. You can also use double-sided adhesive for more efficiency. But while hanging them, make sure they don’t get attached to the leaves.
These are like ribbons similar to the ones in the horse barns and stable barns to catch flies. They, too, work like the sticky cards.
But there is one problem. As these look like ribbons, these might get attached to unwanted things, like the leaves, pot edges, or your hand. Moreover, they might overkill the whiteflies.
For repelling whiteflies, mix a few drops of liquid dish soap, one tablespoon of vinegar, and baking soda per cup of water.
Spray the mixture where you find more infestation in your plants. You can also spray it in your house wherever you find the whiteflies wandering.
Homemade killing spray
For killing the whiteflies, mix ½ cup of isopropyl alcohol and one teaspoon of liquid dish soap with a half cup of water in a spray bottle.
Spray it directly on them. This mixture will not only remove the whiteflies but will also kill them.
A soapy water spray
Another spray that will help remove the whiteflies from the indoor plants is a mixture of water and dish soap. It is a straightforward method.
Just spray the solution on the surface of the potting soil. Repeat until all the whiteflies are gone.
You can make another soap spray by mixing:
- 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (for, e.g., olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper
- 1-gallon water.
Mix these very well and transfer them to a spray bottle. Spray the solution to the top and bottom of the leaves.
Use this every 5-6 days for a few weeks until you eliminate all remaining whiteflies. This solution will not only kill the whiteflies but also prevent their further arrival.
For this, place a candle on a candle stand and partially fill the stand with water.
Light the candle before switching off the lights of your room. The whiteflies will get attracted by the flame, burn, die and drown in the water.
If you do not have time to try these methods and need a quick solution, you can use a flycatcher device to trap the whiteflies. These are available both online and offline.
When you switch the device on, the LED light will attract the whiteflies, and once they go near the light, a fan adjusted inside the device will suck them.
Sanitize and repot
Sometimes, the infestation increases so much that you can’t eliminate it even after trying all the methods. Then you will need repotting.
Or, instead of performing all these methods, you need to remove the soil and repot with a new one.
- For that, you need to remove the plant from the planter. Make sure not to hurt the roots.
- Remove the infected soil, seal it well and discard it.
- For using the same old pot, sanitize it very well. You can keep it drowning in a bucket of bleach and water (1:9), scrub it and wash it well with soap water, and then use it. This will kill all the germs which got transferred by the whiteflies.
- After the pot dries, use fresh soil to plant your plant back to its pot.
Use vaccum cleaner
Another easy method that allows you to remove the whiteflies is with the help of your vacuum cleaner.
Use the vacuum cleaner’s hose and suck in all the whiteflies that you find around your plants.
How to prevent whiteflies in indoor plants?
After gathering all information about removing whiteflies from the houseplants, applying them will be easy.
But you also don’t want them to come back again, so you will have to take some preventive measures to stop their further reappearance.
To prevent them from coming back:
- After buying a new plant and bringing it home, keep it isolated for a few days to make sure it is healthy and cannot affect the other houseplants.
- Avoid underwatering your plants. Keep a reminder or use self-watering pots if you don’t remember watering the plants.
- If the soil has poor retention, add compost to improve it.
- Don’t provide an excess of Nitrogen to the whiteflies. Nitrogen attracts the whiteflies.
- Allow whitefly predators such as wasps and ladybugs to visit your indoor plants.
- Spray neem oil on your indoor plants. This will not only prevent whiteflies but other pests also.
- Prune the plant whenever you notice and dead or damaged leaves, branches, or flowers.
- Provide sufficient humidity to the plants. Whiteflies prefer dry environments so not providing enough humidity will encourage their infestation.
- Grow plants such as sage or mint as whiteflies don’t like the smell of these plants.
To sum it up, keeping the house and the surrounding of your houseplants hydrated is the first step to avoiding whitefly infestation. Since whiteflies prefer dry conditions, a well-hydrated plant will not attract it.
If your plant is already infested with whiteflies, use sticky traps, a vacuum cleaner, or spray the plant with water to remove them. I have mentioned other methods in the article, and you can choose the one you prefer.
It is better to go for the natural ways of removing whiteflies than opting for the chemical ones. Providing all the basic needs and taking good care of the plants will keep them from whiteflies and other infestations.
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.