Houseplant Pests: How to Identify and Control Them

Houseplant pests can pose a major problem to indoor plants. They can damage the foliage, destroy root and stem tissue and kill your plant if not dealt with in a timely manner.

You can often prevent them by keeping your plants healthy and stress-free by using a sterilized potting mixture, along with proper watering, humidity levels, light and temperature. Plus, keeping your plants clean by regularly wiping the leaves down. For some plants,
a shower of lukewarm water can be helpful in removing insects.

Sometimes plants have insects when you bring them home. It is very important that you check both tops and undersides of leaves for insects and signs of disease before buying any plant.

Look for signs of honeydew, which is a sticky substance secreted by mealybugs, aphids and scale insects, and webbing that comes from spider mites.  If present, spray with insecticidal soap.

Always isolate newly purchased plants from your other plants for two weeks or more to make sure they are free of pests.

Indoor Plant Pests Description

Aphids are small, soft-bodied wingless insects that come in various colors. They reproduce rapidly and attack plants in clusters by sucking sap from the leaves and stems, causing damage.

Fungus Gnats are small flies that lay their eggs in soil that contain organic matter. You can notice them running across the soil and leaves and crawling around on the windows. They do little damage (mainly a nuisance).

Mealybugs are small insects that are coated with white powdery wax and appear as specks of white cotton. They suck sap from the leaves and excrete honeydew.

Scales are flat, oval-shaped, slow moving insects that are brown, gray, red, or white in color. They suck plant juices and secrete honeydew. Mature scale are immobile and covered with a hard brown shell.

Spider Mites are tiny arachnids that suck sap from the undersides of leaves and cause them to dry out and drop off. When infestation is heavy, webbing appears all over the plant.

Whiteflies are tiny white-winged flies that gather in groups undersides of leaves and feed on the sap and excrete honeydew. They flutter off in a cloud when you touch the plant.

Caution: When treating houseplant pests with insecticides, read the label carefully and use outdoors when possible. Keep all pesticides out of reach of small children and pets.