‘Natural home remedies’ that ‘effectively’ get rid of houseplant pests

Aphids: RHS gardening expert gives tips for dealing with pests

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Experts at Essential Living have shared some tips on how plant owners can identify the most common pests and six steps for getting rid of bugs on houseplants “quickly and for good”. However, they noted that before households can “effectively get rid of houseplant pests”, they need to know which one they’re dealing with. There are seven common houseplant bugs, and they all have unique looks and cause different types of damage. Mealybugs, often mistaken for fungus or mould on indoor plants, look like cotton or white powder on houseplants and tend to cluster on the stems and leaf joints, or along the veins of the leaves. Damage usually includes stunted or deformed new growth of your plant.

Spider mites are another common plant infestation that can be spotted by fine webbing on houseplants. This usually begins on the undersides of the leaves, or at the tips of new growth. The damage causes normally deformed, dead and dried out leaves, or the leaves and flower buds start dropping.

Whiteflies are tiny white flies or moths in houseplants. Usually, they lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, meaning the population can grow rapidly without plant owners realising. Damage from whiteflies will cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop from the plant.

Fungus gnats (also known as soil gnats) are annoying little black gnats that can be spotted flying around houseplants and crawling in the soil. Unfortunately, they live and breed in potting soil, meaning they can be very difficult to control. Whilst they don’t cause a great deal of damage they can be extremely annoying.

Aphids are more commonly found in an outdoor garden but if they get indoors “they can badly wreck plants”. They easily go unnoticed until the houseplant is completely infested, as plant owners will begin to see fat, small, juicy bugs clustering on new growth and flower buds ranging from different colours including green, brown, blue, orange, red, or black. Aphids can cause sticky residue and stunted, deformed plant growth.

Scale is extremely difficult to notice as they don’t look like bugs at all. They tend to look like brown, tan, greyish bumps on the leaf surface. Scale insects don’t appear to move at all, but fortunately, they come off easily by scraping gently.

Thrips are the least common of the seven, however again aren’t easy to notice. They look like small black bugs with skinny bodies and pointy tails and fortunately don’t have wings therefore are unable to fly and pester. Eventually, damaged parts will turn brown, and leaves and flower buds could begin dropping. 

After all your hard work of looking after your indoor garden, it is important to control houseplant pests as quickly as possible to prevent them from spreading to other plants.

The experts said: “Sticking with natural methods is best when it comes to pesticides, and there are many all-natural home remedies that work perfectly well for controlling houseplant pests.”

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Step 1: Isolate the affected houseplants to stop the spread

According to the pros, the first thing to do is to isolate the infested plant to prevent it from spreading to other houseplants. 

They added: “Also, make sure you monitor your other surrounding plants closely for signs of indoor plant pests for three to four weeks.”

Step 2: Deep clean the area your plants are situated

Next plant owners should thoroughly clean the area where the plant was sitting using soapy water. 

For extra precaution, also sterilise the area by rubbing it with alcohol. Just be careful not to touch your eyes whilst doing so.

Step 3: Use natural soaps and detergents to disinfect your plants

The next task is to wash the infested plant with insecticidal soap, or households can use a mild liquid soap, as the pros claimed that “soap can kill houseplant bugs on contact”. 

Some contain degreasers and detergents that can harm sensitive plants, therefore be careful with the type you choose. Try dabbing the soap lightly on the plant before washing fully to double-check it won’t cause any harm. 

Step 4: Use alcohol to kill any remaining live bugs

Use a cotton swab soaked in alcohol and dab it on the bugs to kill and remove them from the plant. 

Also, wash the pot and plant tray with soapy water too as houseplant pests can easily hide under the rim of the pot or tray without getting noticed.

Step 5: Use long-term plant pest control prevention

After following all of the previous steps, the plants should be no longer infested, however, to make sure “they can restore a healthy condition and avoid an infestation going forward”, gardeners can treat the plant with neem oil. The gurus noted: “This works as a long-term indoor plant pest control and prevention”. 

Alternatively, indoor plant owners could use horticultural oil or a hot pepper wax concentrate which can protect the plant for up to two weeks per spray.

Step 6: Trap or vacuum flying bugs to get them under control 

For flying pests, try using yellow sticky fly traps to capture and kill tiny bugs. The plant pros noted: “This can prevent them from flying to nearby plants too.”

For a larger number of indoor flying bugs, the experts suggested using a vacuum cleaner to suck them up, getting them under control as quickly as possible before they spread even more. Just be careful not to vacuum the plants in the process.

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