Figuring out how to get rid of indoor plant bugs is extremely frustrating, and it can be very difficult to control houseplant pests. In this post, I’ll show you how to identify the most common pests. Then you’ll learn how to get rid of bugs on houseplants naturally, and get tons of tips for how to keep bugs off indoor plants, for good.
One of the biggest frustrations an indoor gardener can face is finding bugs on a beloved houseplant. Not only is it frustrating, but indoor plant bugs can quickly kill the plant too. Ugh!
You may have already had issues with a houseplant pest infestation before, and never realized it. Maybe your indoor plant seemed perfectly healthy one day, then the next it started to die and you couldn’t figure out how to save it.
Or maybe you had one that you knew was infested, but you didn’t know what to do – so you just threw it out (how you like me now bugs!?).
Don’t despair my friends! There are many ways to control houseplant pests. We can win the battle, and get rid of bugs on houseplants for good!
What Are Houseplant Pests?
Houseplant pests are tiny bugs or mites that feed on the leaves, stems and/or roots. There are many different types of bugs that can infest indoor plants.
Some will crawl around on the leaves or in the soil, and some can fly. Others don’t appear to move at all, and look more like a fungus or disease. Regardless of how they move around (or don’t), they are super annoying!
Wait, What? My Houseplants Have Bugs!?
I know, it seems really weird that a plant growing indoors can get infested with bugs, but it’s a very common problem. Trust me, I’ve been growing houseplants most of my life, so I’ve dealt with my fair share of infestations.
It’s no fun. But, if you have houseplants, at some point you will probably have to deal with plant pests. It just goes with the territory.
Why Does My Indoor Plant Have Bugs?
Infestations are worse in the house than they are outside because there are no natural predators to control houseplant pests.
Though houseplants can be infested with bugs any time during the year, they are most vulnerable in the winter. Here’s why…
- Houseplants go into a state of dormancy during the winter, which can make them more prone to attacks from pests.
- Winter growth on a many houseplants is weaker than it is in the summer, making it more vulnerable to infestation.
- Humidity levels are much lower in the house during the winter, which is the perfect breeding ground for some types of plant bugs. Plus, your plants don’t get any fresh air.
Where Did These Plant Bugs Come From?
In order to get rid of bugs on houseplants, and keep them from coming back, it’s important to know where they came from in the first place.
Houseplant bugs are tiny and can seem to appear from nowhere. Below I will list a few common ways a houseplant can become infested with bugs, but you can read all about where houseplant pests come from here.
- bags of potting soil
- new plants
- open windows and doors
- a plant that was outside
- fresh flowers or produce
How To Identify Common Houseplant Pests
If you suspect that you have indoor plant bugs, below is a quick list to help you with plant pest identification. You can learn more about how to identify each one here.
Click on the links below to read detailed information about each of these common houseplant bugs, and learn exactly how to kill them…
- Spider webs or tiny spiders on houseplants – If you see spider webs on the leaves or stems of your plant, that is a sure sign of spider mites. If you look closely you may even see microscopic bugs crawling around on the webbing. Yuck! Learn exactly how to get rid of spider mites here.
- Tiny white flying insects on indoor plants leaves – If there are small white bugs that look like tiny flies that flutter around the plant every time it’s disturbed (cough, cough), that means your houseplant has whiteflies. Here’s how to get rid of whiteflies.
- Small, slender black, brown, or green bugs with pointy tails – Are there tiny, long and skinny bugs scatter about on the leaves of your houseplants? Ack, those are thrips. Learn how to get rid of thrips here.
- Clusters of fat, juicy brown, red, or green bugs on plants, flower buds or new growth. You may also notice tiny white flakes or specks on and around the plant. Gross, those are aphids. Learn how to get rid of aphids here.
- Hard crusty bumps or brown spots on houseplants leaves or stems – Spots or bumps on the stems and leaf joints that can easily be flaked off with a fingernail is houseplant scale. You may also notice a sticky substance on indoor plants leaves, or around the area where the plant is sitting. Ewe! Read all about how to get rid of scale here.
- Tiny bugs in houseplant soil – Do you see tiny black or white bugs in plant soil, or gnats that look like fruit flies flying around your houseplants? Yep, those are fungus gnats. Find the details for how to get rid of fungus gnats here.
- White fluffy stuff on houseplant stems and leaf joints – If there’s white stuff on plants that looks like cotton or mildew, then it has mealybugs. You may also notice sticky leaves on houseplants, or the area around the plant may be covered in a sticky residue. Ick! Learn exactly how to get rid of mealybugs here.
Why You Should Use Natural Pesticides On Houseplants
I never recommend using synthetic chemical pesticides on plants. Not only are those toxic chemicals bad for our health, they don’t always work to kill plant bugs.
Over time, houseplant bugs can build up immunity to chemicals and become resistant to them. That’s why it’s important to use all-natural pest control methods.
It’s always best to know which pest your dealing with before you begin treating your plant so that you are sure to get rid of them as fast as possible.
But below are some general tips for getting rid of any kind of indoor plant insect, whether they are on the leaves, flying around the plant, or in the plants soil.
To learn more, read about my natural homemade pest control remedies for houseplants here.
How To Get Rid Of Bugs In Houseplants Naturally
If you find any pests on houseplants, it’s important to act fast and begin treatment immediately! You want to control houseplant pests as quickly as possible to prevent them from spreading to your other plants.
When it comes to pesticides, it’s always best to stick with natural methods and products. All of the methods I recommend for controlling houseplant pests are all-natural products or home remedies, and they work great!
How To Get Rid Of Bugs On Indoor Plants Leaves
Most common houseplant bugs feed on plants, and will be found on the leaves, flower buds and/or the stems. Here are some tips for getting rid of bugs on indoor plants naturally…
- The first thing to do is immediately isolate the plant to prevent the infestation from spreading to your other houseplants. Also be sure to monitor the surrounding plants closely for signs of indoor plant pests for several weeks.
- Some bugs can leave the plant and hide for a long time. So be sure to thoroughly clean the area where the plant was sitting using soapy water. You can also sterilize the area with rubbing alcohol if you want.
- Wash the infested plant with insecticidal soap, or use a mild liquid soap. Soap kills houseplant bugs on contact. Be careful with the type you use though. Some contain degreasers and detergents that can harm sensitive plants. Always spot-test any type of soap on your plants before washing all of the leaves.
- Wash the pot and plant tray with soapy water too. Houseplant pests can easily hid under the rim of the pot or tray, or even on the bottoms of them.
- Use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol and dab it on the bugs to kill and remove them from the plant.
- Treat the plant with neem oil for long-term indoor plant pest control and prevention. Neem oil is a natural insecticide for indoor plants that works to kill and repel bugs. You can learn all about how to use neem oil insecticide here. Alternatively, you could use horticultural oil or try using a hot pepper spray.
How To Get Rid Of Tiny Flying Bugs On Houseplants
Most indoor plant insects fly at some point in their lifecycle, which makes them even more difficult to control.
But killing the flying bugs alone isn’t going to be enough to eliminate a houseplant pest infestation. You need to kill the eggs and nymphs in order to get rid of insects on indoor plants all together.
So be sure to follow the steps above for getting rid of bugs on plant leaves in addition to these steps. Here are a few additional tips for getting rid of flying houseplant pests…
- Use yellow sticky traps or houseplant sticky stakes to capture and kill little flying bugs in houseplants. This will help to control them, is non-toxic, and can prevent them from flying to nearby plants too.
- Suck the flying bugs up with the vacuum cleaner. This works well to get a large population of flying indoor plant pests under control quickly. Just be careful not to suck up the plant leaves in the process.
How To Get Rid Of Bugs In Houseplants Soil
Many types of houseplant pests can be found in potting soil, especially fungus gnats. So any time you find bugs on your houseplants, be sure to check the soil too, and treat it if necessary.
Here are a few tips for how to get rid of bugs in the soil of houseplants…
- Remove the top inch of soil and throw it out. Then replace it with fresh potting soil or a soil cover. Using a soil cover like fine sand or a natural top dressing can help prevent a future infestation.
- Drench the soil with an organic pesticide for houseplants. You could use an organic insecticidal soap (I make my own using 1 tsp mild liquid soap to 1 liter of water). Or try a neem oil solution (which can work for systemic houseplant insect control). Be careful not to overwater your plant in the process though.
- Ensure you’re watering your houseplants properly, the soil should never be soggy. Wet soil is not only bad for houseplants, it’s a breeding ground for pests like fungus gnats. If you struggle with watering, I recommend getting an inexpensive soil water meter to help you get it right.
- Store your unused potting soil in a bug-proof container, houseplant pests can’t live without air. I use a 5 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid (this airtight seal lid is perfect).
How To Keep Bugs Out Of Indoor Plants For Good!
In order to get rid of houseplant pests, you must be vigilant in fighting them. You can’t just treat the plant one time and expect to kill all of the indoor plant insects, nymphs and eggs. It can take several treatments to eliminate them for good.
So once you start treating a plant, inspect it daily and continue treatment until all signs of the infestation are gone.
Most common houseplant pests multiply very quickly, and it takes several treatments to control them, and eventually get rid of them completely.
How To Prevent Bugs In Houseplants
Once you get rid of bugs on houseplants, you don’t want them to come back, right!? The best long-term defense against any houseplant infestation is preventive pest control.
So here are a few more tips for how to keep indoor plants pest free and healthy for the long run.
- Always clean and disinfect pots and plant trays before reusing them. You can wash them with soapy water or, if they are sturdy enough, run them through the dishwasher.
- Check your plants on a regular basis for signs of indoor plant pests. I usually do this each time I water my plants.
- Never repot a plant just because it has a bug problem. Repotting can further stress an unhealthy houseplant, which could end up killing the plant.
- Always use fresh, sterile commercial potting soil to repot plants – and never, never use garden soil! If you’re repotting a houseplant that doesn’t have any bugs, it’s fine to reuse the soil in the new container for the same plant. But you should never reuse potting soil from one houseplant to repot another plant.
- Whenever you bring home a new plant, make sure that you inspect it closely for any signs of bugs. It’s also good to isolate new houseplants for a few weeks to make sure no bugs show up.
- Sterilize your pruning shears and other tools every time you use them. You can wash them with soap and water, or dip them in rubbing alcohol between uses.
- Always wash your hands after handling an infested plant.
- If you put any houseplants outside for the summer, be sure to debug them before bringing them back inside in the fall. Learn how to debug plants before bringing them indoors here.
FAQs About Controlling Houseplant Pests
Below you will find answers to some of the most common questions I get about controlling houseplant pests. If you can’t find the answer to your question after reading through this post and the FAQs, then please ask it in the comments section below and I’ll answer it ASAP.
Do houseplants attract bugs?
Yes! And some types of houseplants are more attractive to bugs than others are.
What is eating my indoor plants?
Most houseplant bugs feed on plants by sucking the sap out of the leaves. So, if you’re finding holes in the leaves, or parts of the leaves are being eaten, then there’s some other bug to blame.
Inspect the leaves closely to see if you can find the culprit. Otherwise, check the “Identifying Common Houseplant Pests” section above to identify the bugs on your indoor plant.
What can I spray on my houseplants to kill bugs?
I recommend using organic insecticidal soap or a mild liquid soap for washing the leaves. Then spraying the plant with neem oil (a natural insecticide for houseplants) for long-term organic pest control.
Just be sure to always use a natural pest control spray because indoor plant pests can build up resistance to synthetic pesticides. See the “How To Get Rid Of Them” section above for more details and product suggestions.
How do you kill bugs in potting soil?
If you have a bag of potting soil that’s infested with bugs, there are a few ways to kill them. If you live in a cold climate, simply put the bag of soil outside, and allow it to freeze completely.
Otherwise, store your unused potting soil in an airtight container. A basic 5 gallon bucket with an airtight seal lid works great. Read the “Bugs In Houseplants Soil” section above for more information.
Is it normal to have bugs in houseplants?
No, it is not normal to have bugs in your houseplants. Don’t feel bad about it though, because it is a very common problem. But you don’t have to just live with it. You can eliminate them, and have bug-free indoor plants!
It can be very difficult to control houseplant pests, and recurring infestations are no fun. But now that you know how to get rid of houseplant bugs and keep them from coming back, you can win the battle!
If you’re tired of constantly fighting houseplant pests, and you’re ready to get rid of them for good, then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! It’s has everything you need to know so that you can debug your houseplants, and keep them bug free! Download your copy today!
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How do you control houseplant pests? Leave a comment below and share your tips for how to get rid of plant bugs.