Debugging and Cleaning Potted Plants

Share on Google+

Last year, I wrote a blog post about overwintering tropicals as house plants. In this post, I included the steps I usually take to debug my plants to prepare them for the long winter inside the house.

Recently some of my Facebook friends shared different ways they debug and clean their plants to bring them indoors. I like experimenting and trying new ways of doing these things. So, this year I’ve decided to try out some new techniques for debugging and cleaning my house plants.

The first thing I changed this year is that I’ve decided to start early and do it in small chunks. I used to pick one weekend to do a marathon cleaning, debugging and bringing in all my plants at once. This was always an exhausting and stressful weekend.

Not this year! For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to debug, clean and bring in a small group of plants at a time. I’m loving this, it’s much less stressful for me (and easier on my back!!).

Getting ready to bring the house plants back inside

The second change I’ve made is the way I debug the plants. Since I won’t be using the bug fogger to debug them all at once in the garage, I had to try something that would work on a few plants at a time.

I found a large plastic tub in the garage and I filled it up with water and a small amount of Ivory soap. To kill the bugs on the plant I soak the whole plant, pot and all, in the tub of water for about 10 minutes.

The soapy water will kill any bugs that are on the plant or in the soil. I’m hoping that it will also kill any aphids, scale or mealy bugs on the leaves. The bug fogger does not kill these common house plant pests.

Soaking plants to kill the bugs

If the foliage isn’t covered completely by water, I’ve been using a spray bottle of soapy water to wash the leaves. After soaking, I pull the plant out, scrub the pot and rinse the whole thing well with the hose.

We haven’t had much rain lately, so most of my plants were bone dry before soaking them. This is great because now I don’t have the added step of watering all of my plants before bringing them in. One other added benefit to soaking the plants is that all the dead leaves and other debris in the soil will float to the top, making it easy to discard.

Debugging and cleaning house plants

So far, I really like this new method of soaking the plants. When I first read about it, I thought it sounded like it would be a lot more work. But as it turns out, it’s not. I used to scrub the pots and rinse the plants before bringing them in anyway, this way they get a good watering out of the deal. I feel like my plants are cleaner too.

I have a few plants that are too large to soak in the tub, for those I will use the bug fogger. I like use the foggers in my garage in the fall to kill all the spiders anyway. After fogging the plants, I am going to scrub the pot, use the spray bottle of soapy water to clean the foliage, and give the whole thing a good rinse.

House plants back inside

Thanks to my Facebook friends for the ideas. I love hearing about other people’s ideas and learning from them. Networking with other gardeners is a great thing!!



  1. Sasha Dreamer says

    Such a timely post! I just brought a few things in last night, since we're finally starting to get a chill on the east coast. This is one of the first years I've had outside plants (used to move around too much) so I'm thrilled to be able to bring them inside.

  2. says

    Nice post! Never knew of debugging and bug fogger! I always just brought my pots in right away. I will be extra careful next year. Perhaps you could post picture of bug fogger in action? Where do you get it and how much does it cost?

  3. says

    @Megan – I didn't measure, I used a squirt. :-) I use soapy water in my spray bottle to fight spider mites and aphids and I use about 1 tsp per quart of water and that works great. I'm guessing the ratio was less in my tub of water though.

    @Sasha – Glad you found the post helpful. Good luck with overwintering your plants!

    @RandomGardener – Thanks! I get the bug

  4. says

    Tara – I've read that soaps that are heavy on detergent can cause damage to some plants. Most of the forums and articles I've read recommend using Ivory soap because it's a mild soap. I have heard of people using different types of soap though.

    I've only had one plant damaged by soapy water spray a few years ago (and I have a lot of plants!) so even Ivory soap can

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>