A Guide to Common Household Plant Pests
Plant pests…every plant owner’s fear! Pests can come from a variety of places – from plants that spent the summer outside to new plants from a nursery to just bugs flying in through an open window! The downside to plant parenthood is that no matter what, you will have to deal with pests at one time or another. Below is a handy guide to different types of pests and how you can combat them.
Follow guidance on proper watering for each plant. Too much water results in pests and root rot, both of which can be difficult to get rid of.
Keep your plants well-groomed! Prune when needed and keep the dirt free of detritus.
Choose well-draining soil and make sure that the pot you use has drainage as well.
When a pest is found, isolate the plant and deal with the problem as soon as possible to avoid spread. Overall, washing the plant with a gentle dish soap and rinsing in the sink or bathtub is the most effective and natural way to dispose of pests. Sticky traps are also effective for removing adult pests, but don’t prevent them from laying eggs.
If the plant is too far gone for any treatments to work, you can always try to find a healthy steam to use for a propagation and start over again.
One of the most obnoxious houseplant pests, spider mites make tiny webs between plant leaves. If you have plants that are on high shelves, you can sometimes miss the early signs of them – they create what looks like tiny holes in the leaves and look like little brown or red dots on the underside of the leaves.
Once you have spider mites, it is very easy for them to spread. Isolate the plant from the rest of your collection. Remove dead or dying stems from the plant, then give it a rinse in the sink or shower. Toss out the old soil, and rinse the roots. Spray liberally with neem oil weekly while your plant is in quarantine for 2-3 weeks. Once all signs of the mites are gone, you can put the plant back in its place – but make sure to check the plants around it and disinfect its home!
These can be annoying inside your home, but they are pretty easy to dispose of! Gently rinse them off your plant with your sink sprayer. For remaining aphids, you can use a q-tip to remove the rest of the bugs. Spray with neem oil to ensure they do not return.
Clip off destroyed or dying leaves and stems. Like with aphids, you can use a q-tip to remove any remaining bugs. For extra help, you can dip the q-tip in rubbing alcohol, but be careful not to use so much that it drips onto the rest of the plant.
While fungi like mold are very annoying to deal with, they are pretty easy to contain. When spotted in a pot, take the plant out, rinse the roots, and dump the tainted soil. Once the plant is cleaned, spritz the roots with neem oil and thoroughly clean and sanitize the pot before replanting in fresh soil. Avoid overwatering, as that leads to fungus growth. Invest in a dehumidifier if your home’s humidity is excessively high.
Neem oil can clear out a fungal growth, but if the mold is extensive, remove the plant from its pot and rinse the roots off. Spray them with neem oil before repotting in the a clean pot.
Gnats happen primarily as a result of overwatering. They lay their eggs in the soil, so even if you set out the sticky traps to catch the adults, you will still have a problem until you deal with the eggs.
To combat the gnat eggs, spray the soil of the plant liberally with neem oil. This may need to be done weekly to make sure the eggs are gone. Keep an eye out for gnats crawling in the dirt or flying around the infected plant.
If the neem oil is not taking care of the gnats, mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide with three parts water and water your plant as usual. This mixture will bubble, so don’t panic! If gnats persist in spite of these treatments, add a half inch layer of sand to the top of the dirt. As gnats lay eggs directly in the soil, the sand will confuse them and prevent them from laying eggs.
A note on using soap and neem oil on plants
Neem oil and dish soap are two of the most “natural” and gentle ways of cleansing plants of pests, but it is important to note that they can still be harsh on certain plants. Test the treatment on a leaf before dousing the whole plant.
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