Houseplant Pests & Treatment

FIRST THINGS FIRST – if you believe your plant has pests, but are not sure which ones yet, put your plant in quarantine, do some research, then treat the plant until the infestation is gone before returning your plant back with your other plant babies.

Fungus Gnats

For those who know what a fungus gnat is, you know how GD annoying they can be. If you have houseplants, you may mistake these for fruit fly or regular old gnats, but more than likely, if they came out of now where and you haven’t had you doors and windows open, they are fungus gnats. 

Fungus gnats are tiny (annoying) gnats that look similar to a mosquito & fly around the base & soil of houseplants. They like moisture and high humidity, so houseplants that are overwatered or kept moist, like most tropical plants during the growing seasons, are prime real estate for fungus gnats. 

Adult fungus gnats live for about one week and can lay up to 300 eggs at once in moist, damp soil. They lay tiny yellow, fuzzy looking eggs that lay on the top of soil. The larvae buries into the soil and hatch with in 8-10 days and feed off the roots and other organic materials. The entire life cycle lasts about 3-4 weeks.

Fungus Gnat Treatment

How to tell if you have fungus gnats? Well, unfortunately, most people don’t know until they start to have the gnats flying in their face. BUT, sometimes, you can see the eggs on top of the soil. 

To help prevent your houseplants from getting fungus gnats, you should use a good quality houseplant soil. You can add a layer of horticulture sand to the top of your soil to keep fungus gnats from laying eggs in the soil. 

NATURAL + SAFE FUNGUS GNAT TREATMENTS:

  • Cinnamon – sprinkle ground cinnamon directly on top of the soil. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide and works well with any fungi infections, especially fungus gnats. 
  • Neem oil – this is a great treatment for almost all fungi and pest problems. mix 1 tsp of neem oil with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Neem oil is an all natural pesticide that can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the plant and soil. You can use our Leaf Care Spray monthly as preventative maintenance, or daily-weekly to treat infection. 


IF YOU’VE FOUND GNATS FLYING AROUND IN THE HOUSE ALREADY, HERE IS HOW TO GET RID OF THEM: 

  • Apple cider vinegar & mild dish soap – mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with a few drops of mild dish soap and shake it up. Put the mixture in a jar with about a 1” opening at the top and leave the lid off. Place the jar where you’ve been noticing the gnats and wait. This method works fast! In a few hours, you’ll find the gnats floating in the mixture! This is the method I use and it works wonders, the only down side is the apple cider vinegar smell, but if you keep it in a small enough jar, you won’t really notice it. 
  • Yellow sticky traps – place the sticky traps in the soil or near the infected plant and let the trap do it’s thing. Gnats are attracted to the color yellow, so they will fly towards the sticky trap and voilà, your gnat problem is solved! 
Aphids

Aphids are a common houseplant problem, so if your plants are infected, don’t worry. Aphids are tiny light yellow/white/green pests that suck the nutrients right out of the plant. They excrete honeydew, which causes the plant to become sticky, leading to an increased risk of developing sooty mold. They are so small you may miss them, but they are usually located in the petiole or stem. In my experience with aphids, they really like to feed off of flowers and I have found them bunched together at the stem of the plant.

Aphid Treatment

How to tell if you have aphids? Usually you’ll start to notice the leaves wilting/drooping. The leaves may feel sticky to the touch, this is due to the honeydew secretion. If you notice these issues I just mentioned, look closely at the stem and underside of the leaves. If you stare for a few seconds longer, you’ll start to see them crawling around. 

To remove aphids from a houseplant, you can simply give you plant a shower or spray with a gentle hose – the pressure of water usually knocks them off the plant. I have also used the tweezers/q-tip technique and removed them individually one by one from the plant, followed by a cool shower. From there, I suggest spraying the plant with neem oil to prevent further infestation. Most importantly, quarantine the plant so it’s by itself for a few days until the infestation is gone. 

NATURAL + SAFE APHID TREATMENTS:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) – mix together a 1 part isopropyl alcohol (70%) and 2 parts of distilled water. If you have a large infestation of aphids, you can spray the entire plant with the mixture. If you have a small infestation, you can apply full strength rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball or q-tip directly. Be careful not to spray the entire plant with full strength alcohol, as this can burn the plant. 
  • Neem oil – mix 1 tsp of neem oil with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Neem oil is an all natural pesticide that can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the plant and soil. You can use our Leaf Care Spray monthly as preventative maintenance, or daily-weekly to treat infection. 
  • PRO TIP: When mixing isopropyl alcohol or neem oil concoction, add a few drops of peppermint oil to the spray bottle. Almost all pests and insects hate peppermint oil, plus it gives a refreshing smell to the room =) something you’ll need now after dealing with gross creepy crawlers. 
Spider Mites

Okay, this one I hate to talk about becaaaaaause, I. Hate. Spiders. but these guys are a common houseplant problem too, so again, don’t stress out too much if you find spider mites. It is easy to tell if you have spider mites, you will see small webs with tiny dark/red dots (spider mites) either at the base of the stem or between the leaves. These guys feed only on plants, so they will not spread anywhere else in the house. They suck the chlorophyll out of the plant causing small brown spots on the leaves. If you catch the mites soon enough, you should be able to save the plant, but if the problem goes on for awhile, you may not notice them until they have taken over and sucked all the chlorophyll from the plant, eventually killing it.

Spider Mites Treatment

How to tell if you have spider mites? You will find webbing on the underside of the leaves and between the stems. Most of the webbing is clear/white in color and can be seen the best with a flash light. Check the leaves for yellow or brown dots. If the infestation has gone on for a few weeks, the mites will cause the plant to die – causing brown/yellow dying leaves. 

To get rid of spider mites, you can simply give your plant a shower or spray with a gentle hose – the pressure of water usually knocks them off the plant. You want to make sure you remove all webs too. Wipe the leave down one by one, using one of the treatment methods below. Quarantine the plant so it’s by itself for a few days until the infestation is gone. 

NATURAL + SAFE SPIDER MITE TREATMENTS:

  • Neem oil – mix 1 tsp of neem oil with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Neem oil is an all natural pesticide that can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the plant and soil. You can use our Leaf Care Spray monthly as preventative maintenance, or daily-weekly to treat infection. 
  • Soap & water mixture – mix 1/2 gallon of distilled water with 1 tsp of soap. Wipe down the leaves front and back with the soapy water. Follow with showering the plant to rinse off any soapy residue. Check the plant daily and wipe the leaves down to ensure there are no more spider mites. After a week, if you do not see any more webs or new brown spots on the leaves, then you can go back to regular maintenance. 
  • Peppermint oil – mix 1 cup of water with 3-4 drops of peppermint oil together and spray the entire plant. Like I mentioned above, spider and spider mites hate peppermint oil so this will not only help get rid of the mites but it will act as preventative maintenance.
Scale

Soft scale is a brown round pests that looks like a bump on the leaves and stems. If a houseplant is heavily infested, it should be discarded (sorry, babe). Scale sucks the nutrients out of the leaves and stems causing the leaves to wilt and turn brown. Just like Aphids, you may notice some sticky residue on the leaves.

Scale Treatment

How to tell if you have scale? Scale can be really hard to diagnose sometimes, especially if it’s on a cactus because it looks just like scaring. Scale is a flat oval shaped pest that is brown in color and does not move fast at all, so that’s why it can look like a scar at first.

To get rid of scale, grab your tweezers and neem oil. My personal experience with scale, the tweezer/toothpick method worked the best. I laid down a paper towel and picked off each scale one by one until I did not see anymore, then sprayed the entire plant with a neem oil mix. 

NATURAL + SAFE SCALE TREATMENTS:

  • Neem oil – mix 1 tsp of neem oil with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Neem oil is an all natural pesticide that can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the plant and soil. You can use our Leaf Care Spray monthly as preventative maintenance, or daily-weekly to treat infection. 
  •  Tweezers/toothpick – After you wipe the leaves, you may notice the scale is still stuck on the stem/leaves. You can use a toothpick or tweezers to pick off the scale. Make sure you cover the soil up with something, like a paper towel so the scale does not fall into the soil when removing. 
  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) – mix together a 1 part isopropyl alcohol (70%) and 2 parts of distilled water. If you have a large infestation of scale, you can spray the entire plant with the mixture. If you have a small infestation, you can apply full strength rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball or q-tip directly. Be careful not to spray the entire plant with full strength alcohol, as this can burn the plant.
Thrips

And last but certainly not least, thrips. Probably the most persistent of the bunch that if left untreated can cause the fastest damage to your plants. They suck the sap out of the leaves of your houseplant and you can actually see the bite marks they have left! Since they like the sap of the leaves, you will most likely find them all over the underside of the leaves of your plant and even making home inside the new unfurled leaves!

Thrips Treatment

How to tell if you have thrips? Usually, you’ll start to notice the leaves wilting/drooping. You will even be able to tell some holes in your leaves in some cases! The leaves may feel sticky to the touch, this is due to the honeydew secretion. If you notice these issues I just mentioned, look closely at the stem and underside of the leaves. If you stare for a few seconds longer, you’ll start to see them crawling around. 
 
To remove thrips from a houseplant, you can simply give you plant a shower or spray with a gentle hose – the pressure of water usually knocks them off the plant. I have also used the tweezers/q-tip technique and removed them individually one by one from the plant, followed by a cool shower. From there, I suggest spraying the plant with neem oil or Leaf Care Spray to prevent further infestation. Most importantly, quarantine the plant so it’s by itself for a few days until the infestation is gone. 
 
NATURAL + SAFE THRIPS TREATMENTS:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) – mix together a 1 part isopropyl alcohol (70%) and 2 parts of distilled water. If you have a large infestation of thrips, you can spray the entire plant with the mixture. If you have a small infestation, you can apply full strength rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball or q-tip directly. Be careful not to spray the entire plant with full strength alcohol, as this can burn the plant. 
  • Neem oil – mix 1 tsp of neem oil with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Neem oil is an all natural pesticide that can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the plant and soil. You can use our Leaf Care Spray monthly as preventative maintenance, or daily-weekly to treat infection. 
  • PRO TIP: When mixing isopropyl alcohol or neem oil concoction, add a few drops of peppermint oil to the spray bottle. Almost all pests and insects hate peppermint oil, plus it gives a refreshing smell to the room =) something you’ll need now after dealing with gross creepy crawlers.

Once you’ve diagnosed the problem, follow the treatments and check your plant daily until the infestation is gone. If your plant seems to be happy and perky again, without any signs of pests, you can go back to your normal houseplant routine. 

If you have any further pest questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! Shoot me a message below & I will help diagnose your plant problem the best that I can.

Best of luck, plant friend! 

Photo Resources:

Fungus gnat photo: https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/houseplant-pests/fungus-gnat-control/
Spider mites photo: https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/houseplant-pests/spider-mite-control/
Scale photo: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/scale/scale-indoors.aspx
Thrips photo: https://www.houseplantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_7101-scaled.jpg

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