How To Control Insects, Mites And Other Common Indoor Plant Pests Seattle weather

Houseplants are a source of joy and pride for their owners, many of whom have developed green thumbs since the start of the pandemic. It takes effort and care to cultivate a plant, and it is terrible when you are suffering, especially from pests.

Maximizing and maintaining the overall health of a plant is the best defense against pests and diseases. According to experts, improper care is the main cause of plant death, not pests or diseases. “The healthier they are, the better able they are to resist,” said Kristen Natoli, chief nursery specialist at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

Pick plants that will thrive in your environment and seek out the care required, suggest Mignon Hemsley and Danuelle Doswell, co-founders of the online plant store Grounded. “Your plant will teach you things like another human will teach you things,” Hemsley said. “You have to meet the needs of your plant based on its natural habitat. “

Natoli and his team follow the same principle, considering the appropriate water, temperature, light and soil needs for each of the hundreds of species in the conservatory.

Don’t worry if you see insects on your plant. “Plants and insects go hand in hand,” Natoli said. “You can’t have one without the other.” Decide on your level of parasite tolerance, then formulate a plan, Natoli advised. When you see an insect or a change in the appearance of a plant, determine if anything in the plant’s life has changed, such as receiving more or less water or light, and make adjustments. Look for strong, brightly colored leaves and healthy new growth. Check for “hiding places,” such as the parts where leaves attach to the stem and their underside, Natoli said.

And it might be necessary to intervene with immediate help. Pest control doesn’t have to be cumbersome; Natoli uses water and a technique called “hand removal” at home and at the conservatory. Insecticides and other treatments are available at garden supply stores; Neem oil, a natural pesticide derived from neem trees, is popular and versatile.

Here are some of the most common houseplant pests and tips for taming them.


These waxy, soft-bodied insects suck liquid from plants and leave white lumps that look like rough cotton wool on the foliage where they lay their eggs. Many houseplants are tropical, which is attractive to pests, including mealybugs, which hide in nooks and crannies.

Telltale signs include leaf browning or leaves with yellow spots, but the insects themselves are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. “You won’t necessarily see them in the soil, but you will see them on the plant itself,” Hemsley said. “If you see that you have one, you probably have several. “

Isolate infected plants, as insects can crawl and migrate to other plants. Hemsley applies a concoction of equal parts Castile soap, water, and neem oil to the leaves. Doswell used a cotton swab to apply rubbing alcohol and water in equal parts to visible insects when she faced an infestation of her plants.

After this initial treatment, Paris Lalicata, plant education coordinator at online plant seller The Sill, recommends spraying the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap. And rethink your care. John Saltiel, a plant health specialist at the United States Botanical Garden, said the presence of mealybugs can mean there is too much fertilizer or the plant is not getting enough light.

Mushroom flies

Mushroom flies are what Natoli calls “harmful” parasites. They are mostly harmless, but insects can damage the roots. These winged insects breed in moist soil and feed on decaying plant material. Hemsley and Saltiel advise trapping the midges alive and watering the soil with tea made from bti – a natural bacteria – so that mosquito control kills the larvae. To make a tea, dissolve the product in water according to the package directions.

Yellow sticky traps, available at garden supply stores, help catch adult midges; place them on the ground or in places where midges fly.

To avoid mushroom flies, get the best quality soil you can find. “If you get a really cheap carrier, it might not be sterilized before you buy it, and there could be a whole bunch of different issues inside,” Saltiel said. Look for chewy mixes with composted bark, perlite, and sphagnum moss. Saltiel recommends avoiding homemade compost mixes because of the potential bacteria.

The presence of mushroom flies can also mean that a plant is receiving too much water, Natoli said. “If I tried to control them, I would see if I could let the soil dry out, especially on the surface.”


Spider mites are “something nobody ever wants because their control can become difficult over time,” Lalicata said. Look for new, misshapen and underdeveloped growth and more than normal leaf drop. A white web that is not as delicate as a spider web may indicate a heavier infestation.

Doswell treated his plants for spider mites this summer and found that “all the green was sucked in and the leaves took on that bright yellow color.”

Palms are attractive hosts because their leaves have many “ribs and ridges” in which mites can hide, Natoli said.

First, isolate the plant. Remove the strap with water from a hose with a nozzle. Suppose other plants have it as well, because mites can move through the air. Look for products that target arachnids, not insects, and especially spider mites. Lalicata recommends treating with neem oil or Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew, a spray that contains spinosad. Saltiel advises applying at least once a week or up to every three or four days for major infestations.

Spider mites thrive in dry air. Add humidity to the environment using a humidifier and try to maintain at least 48-50% humidity in the air.


These slender insects bite the leaves and cause yellow spots. Thrips especially like palm, philodendron, monster, and alocasia.

It is important to isolate infected plants from others, preferably in another room. “If a leaf barely touches another leaf, it can still reach another leaf,” Mignon said.

To eradicate thrips, Lalicata washes its plants in the shower and treats the leaves with insecticide or neem oil. “You want to do intervals every three days for three times,” she said. “If you use the same type of treatment over and over again, the parasites can become resistant, so after three applications I will move on.” At the conservatory, Natoli sprinkles the undersides of the leaves with water to fight against thrips and spider mites.


If the infestation is small enough, aphids usually won’t hurt a plant, but the little marks they leave after piercing plants can be an eyesore. Aphids can be difficult to get rid of because they multiply quickly, Natoli said. They turn the leaves yellow and secrete a sap that can attract black sooty mold.

She uses her hands and water to remove them, adding that nature sometimes steps in to help her: “There are a lot of beneficial insects. [such as ladybugs] around the world who like to feed on aphids that might find their way to help solve the problem. »Reducing the amount of fertilizer can help control.

Even if it hurts, sometimes the plants die. Cut a small mowing and replant it. “Keep some of it out before it gets out of hand, and you’ll have a nice, clean plant and can throw away the damaged one,” Saltiel said.

If a plant dies, it is okay to be sad and regretful. “This plant has played a role in your life and served you and you want to give back, and it’s a good feeling to nurture,” Natoli said. So try again.

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