Living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, dens, and even bathrooms and offices, houseplants add instant beauty, color, and life to any space. They’re much more than aesthetically pleasing, however, as indoor plants have been scientifically proven to provide a wealth of benefits. Examples of some of these benefits include:
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased attention span
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Improved productivity
- May strengthen the immune system
- Improved indoor air quality
- Enhanced positivity
Needless to say, it’s easy to see why so many enjoy growing and maintaining indoor plants. Of course, you want to ensure that your plants remain as healthy, beautiful, and happy as possible, which is a lot easier to do when they’re grown indoors.
Why? Well, because controlling pretty much all of the variables that impact plant growth and health – lighting, moisture, temperature, and air circulation, for example – are a lot easier to control. In most cases, it’s easier to prevent pest infiltration, too.
Unfortunately, however, while it is easier to keep pests at bay, houseplants can still be vulnerable to some pests. While being able to monitor, adjust, and provide your plants with optimal conditions to support ideal growth, there is one major downside: those optimal conditions are conducive to pests, too.
There is good news, though. By taking certain steps to prevent and eliminate pest, you can ensure that your houseplants will stay happy, healthy, and pest-free.
To learn about the types of pests that can take up residence on your indoor plants, how to identify those pests, and what you can do to keep them at bay, keep on reading.
Types of Houseplant Pests and How to Spot Them
The consistent warmth, ideal light exposure, and proper air circulation in most homes make for the ideal setting for houseplants; however, these conditions are also ideal for pests, as they can attract the buggers and promote more rapid breeding. Plus, because you’re eliminating beneficial insects that keep troublesome pests in-check, such as ladybugs and spiders, a single problematic pest can quickly turn into a swarm.
Here’s a look at some of the most common types of pests that indoor plants are prone to.
All types of spider mites commonly affect indoor houseplants; however, there’s one type that is more prolific than the rest: the red spider mite. Despite the moniker, red spider mites aren’t insects, but rather, they are arthropods, which are more closely related to spiders.
These pests are very tiny and often cannot be seen with the naked eye; however, when they’ve taken up residence on a plant, they can leave a red film across the bottom part of the leaves. You might also notice some reddish-brown spots and/or damage to the leaves.
These insects may be small, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of doing a whole lot of damage. There are several different types of aphids, and many are plant-specific, meaning they are more attracted to certain species and varieties of plants.
Root aphids are some of the most common types of aphids to infest houseplants. They’re very common in controlled settings, including greenhouses, they can be difficult to spot, and their numbers can multiply rapidly, causing an out-of-control infestation in no time.
You may be unable to see the aphids themselves, but rather, their presence is more likely to be detected when white, wax-like materials that the pests leave behind are spotted in plants. This substance is known as ‘honeydew’, a special kind of substance that all types of aphids
Root aphids adapt quickly and easily. They bore into the roots of the plants, increasing the vulnerability of the plant to mildew, rot, and other types of diseases. If the leaves of your indoor plants are curled, yellowed, and/or withered, those are surefire signs that you have an aphid infestation.
A lot of houseplant cultivators confuse the signs of aphid infestation with nutritional deficiencies. If you notice signs of trouble with your houseplants, check the soil before you add any nutrients. If levels are appropriate, you may have an infestation of root aphids.
Formally known as “Pseudococcidae”, mealy bugs are yet another type of pest that commonly infests houseplants. They’re also a bit difficult to keep under control. These pests will appear as soft, white, cotton-like growths on the leaves and stems of the plants.
Similar to aphids, mealy bugs release honeydew, which can attract ants, which are pests that can do a serious number on indoor plants.
To get rid of mealy bugs, you can try to release beneficial insects, such as green lacewings. Alternatively, you can spot treat affected plants by dabbing them with some isopropyl alcohol.
Also known as “common brown scale”, scale insects have a passion for indoor houseplants. There are a variety of scale insects to keep a close lookout for; however, one of the most widespread species is the brown soft scale.
They don’t look like what you would expect traditional insects to look like; rather, they appear to be strange growths on the both sides of the leaves and the stems. Just because they may not look like insects, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous.
In actuality, they can cause tremendous harm to indoor plants, as they appear in clumps and use their spikey mouths to suckle the juices out of the plants. They reproduce quickly, so they can take control over a houseplant in no time, and in order to get rid of them, you’ll likely need to apply an insecticide.
Considered one of the most widespread of all indoor houseplant pests, the fungus gnat is more of a nuisance than they are harmful to your plants. They resemble fruit flies and are often found in fresh, damp soils with high nutrient levels.
You’ll definitely know you have them, because you’ll find them swarming around your plants. Moderating the soil temperature will keep them at bay.
These pests are more commonly seen hanging around the rooms of the plants that they’re feeding on rather than on the plants themselves. They are attracted to damp, organic matter and moist soil, so in order to eliminate them, simply get rid of excess amounts of moisture in the soil, which you can do so by not overwatering your plants, and by using a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity levels in the space.
Of all of the pests that infest indoor houseplants, leaf miners are the most problematic, as they can do serious damage. You can tell you’ve got an infestation of leaf miners if you notice yellowish, irregularly shaped lines on the leaves of your plants, which is where the larvae of the pests have bored their way through.
In order to get rid of them, you might need to use a pesticide, but it has to be sprayed at the correct time. If you spray the plants too early, you’ll only kill the eggs, and if you spray them too late, you’ll only kill the adults. In order to get rid of them completely, you have to kill off the larvae, too.
Neem oil can also be used to eliminate leaf miners. While it won’t kill off the pests right away, neem oil is natural, so you won’t have to deal with the risk of negative effects that pesticides can cause.
Relatives of aphids and scale, whiteflies are commonly confused with mealybugs. The difference between these two pests is that whiteflies will fly when they are disturbed; plus, they aren’t attracted to specific types of plants, but rather, they will eat pretty much any kind of houseplant.
Similar to aphids and mealybugs, white flies excrete honeydew, which is a substance that can attract another problematic pest: ants. They can also increase the risk of diseases, such as sooty mold. If these pests reproduce, they can do serious damage to your houseplants.
The best approach to take to eliminate whiteflies is by spraying your plants with a harsh stream of water every now and again. Beneficial insects, such as ladybird beetles and green lacewings, can also help.
While they aren’t as common indoors as they are outdoors, thrips are pests that do have the potential to infiltrate houseplants. They can appear when outdoor plants are brought indoors, as they can hitch a ride on the outdoor plants and take up residence inside.
If you notice piles of what appears to be waste material on or around your plants, there’s a good chance that you have an infestation of thrips. Additionally, you’ll also notice silver or discolored spots on the leaves.
Eliminating thrips is pretty simple. Simply set up sticky traps or you can bring in minute pirate bugs or thrip predators to keep the population down.
These pests are see-through and wedge-shaped, and they’re often spotted swarming in groups. Similar to other types of pests that infest indoor houseplants, russet mites are sapsuckers. They start feeding on the bottom portions of the leaves and then move their way upward toward the top of the plant.
Russet mites can be hard to identify because they are translucent and the first signs of an infestation appear to be an iron or magnesium deficiency in the plants they are feeding on. For this reason, if you suspect you have russet mites, testing your soil to confirm that they are, in fact, the problem, is important.
Russet mites can make their way indoors by hitching a ride on outdoor plants that are brought indoors, or on potting soil that is stored outdoors. Releasing spider mites every once in a while will help to keep russet mites at bay.
Also, simply adjusting the moisture content in the soil and the room temperature will help to prevent infestations of these pests. Applying neem oil or canola oil to your indoor houseplants can also help to prevent the appearance of russet mites.
How to Prevent Houseplant Pest Infestations
Discovering that your indoor houseplants are infested with pests is a serious nuisance and is majorly aggravating. Not only can they cause serious damage to your plants, but they can also be a big pain in the neck as the fly or crawl around the plants or the room where the plants are housed. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent pest infestations, keep your indoor plants healthy, and enjoy all of the benefits that they provide.
Check for pests
One of the easiest and most effective ways that you can prevent infestations of pests is by inspecting your houseplants on a regular basis. By doing so, if you notice the appearance of a few pests, you can eradicate them before they reproduce and become a serious problem.
Do a close inspection of your houseplants; check the upper and under sides of the leaves, the stems, the flowers, and the soil. If you spot pests on one plant but not on others, isolate that plant and use some of the other strategies on this list to prevent them the pests from spreading to other plants.
Keep your plants healthy
Simply keeping your houseplants healthy is one of the easiest ways to prevent pest infestations. When plants are weak, they are more likely to become infested with pests, and when they’re healthy, they’re much less likely to be targeted by hungry insects.
Every plant has particular needs in terms of watering, light, soil, temperature, etc., so make sure that you attend to those needs. Doing so will not only help to keep pests at bay, but will also keep your houseplants looking strong, healthy, and beautiful so that you’ll enjoy them even more.
Clean the plants
Believe it or not, cleaning your indoor plants is another effective way to prevent pest infestations. By cleaning them, you’ll remove any pests that may already be there, and you’ll eliminate any debris that could attract pests. Simply wiping the leaves down with a clean damp rag will do the trick.