The winter of 2009 will forever be remembered as the year of the worst houseplant pest outbreak I’ve ever had. I found aphids on one of my houseplants, and the infestation quickly spread to over half of my houseplant collection. I spent the entire winter battling them, and I was on the brink of throwing all of my houseplants out into the snow and giving up. (how you like me now aphids?) But in the end, I won the battle, and my houseplants remain aphid free to this day (knock on wood). You can win the battle against these destructive plant bugs too!
What Are Aphids?
Aphids come in many varieties and can be just about any color. They are small and fat and juicy – and gross. They can also have wings, but winged aphids are less common. Like most indoor plant pests, aphids feed on a houseplant by sucking the sap from the leaves. They like to cluster and feed on the new growth and flower buds of a plant, which causes stunted growth and deformed leaves/flowers. Thankfully, aphids don’t cause catastrophic damage to a houseplant, and infestations aren’t usually fatal.
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Aphids multiply quickly, the life cycle of an aphid is about one week. You may notice a bunch of tiny white flecks on the leaves and around the base of the houseplant several days before seeing the adults – those are the eggs. Every time I’ve seen white flecks on a houseplant, sure enough a few days later adult aphids would appear. Where do houseplant pests come from? If you have aphids on your indoor plants, they probably came in on a plant that spent the summer outside. They could also come from flowers or produce that has been brought in from the garden, or from the grocery store.
How To Control Aphids on Houseplants
If you discover aphids on a plant, act fast because they can spread like wildfire to your surrounding houseplants. Aphids can become immune to synthetic chemical pesticides, so it’s best to use all natural pest control methods to kill these pests. Plus, you don’t want to use toxic chemical pesticides in your home, so we’ll stick to talking about safe pest control methods (that work better anyway!).
- Spray the leaves of the infested houseplant with a strong stream of water to rinse off all of the aphids that you see. You can do this task in the sink, or in the shower for larger houseplants. Then wash the leaves with a weak solution of mild liquid soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap) and water. Soapy water kills aphids on contact.
- If the houseplant is too large to move, mix a small amount of mild liquid soap in a spray bottle full of water and use this to wash the leaves (I use 1 tsp Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap per 1 liter of water). If you don’t want to mix your own, you can buy an organic insecticidal soap instead. Before spraying or washing any houseplant with soapy water, be sure to test it on one leaf to make sure it won’t damage the plant.
- Neem oil is also very effective to control aphid infestations, and works great for residual pest prevention too. You can buy neem oil for pretty cheap, and a big bottle will last a long time. It works wonders for eliminating an aphid infestation. A pre-mixed horticultural oil or hot pepper wax spray also work well when used directly on plant pests.
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- You could also use rubbing alcohol to kill aphids by using a cotton swab to dab the rubbing alcohol directly onto the pest, or spray a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water directly on the pests.
- As with mealybugs, if you have ants, they may be causing the problem! Ants will bring aphids to a houseplant so that they can feed off of the honeydew which is produced when the aphids feed on the plant. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s a fact. So make sure that you watch out for ants.
Just like with any plant pest problem, persistence is key to winning the battle. Knowing the type of houseplant pests you’re dealing with, and different ways to control them are the first steps.
More Information About Houseplant Pest Control
- Organic Plant Pest Control Supplies
- Neem Oil as Organic Pest Control
- How To Control Houseplant Pests
- Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
- Debugging and Cleaning Potted Plants
Organic Pest Control Products I Recommend
For more information and tips for how to combat those super annoying indoor garden pests, click here… Houseplant Pests
How do you control aphids on your houseplants? Leave a comment below and share your tips.