Common Houseplant Pests

Chances are, if you have houseplants, sometime you will encounter insect pests. There are several different kind of pests which feed off of houseplants. If you notice a plant that suddenly begins to deteriorate and look sick, take a closer look, perhaps you will find the insect responsible. Insect damage can be very severe, and can even result in the death of the affected plant. For this reason, it is important to identify and treat pests as quickly as possible. Below are descriptions of the most common houseplant pests.

Insect Description
Scale Insects Scale looks like tiny, brown, oval-shaped bumps visible on the plant leaves and stem. The scale is actually a protective covering which protects the insect. Scales produce honeydew, a clear sticky substance which can be seen on affected plants.

Mealybugs can be found on stems, leaves, and flowers. The bugs themselves are visible to the naked eye as small light tan softbodied insects. These insects also produce white material that resembles pieces of cotton balls, making them very easy to spot.
Spider Mites Spidermites are small insects, which appear as small white specks, usually on the undersides of leaves, or on flowers. Spider mites will form webbing, like a spider's web around infected plants. The spider mites will be visible in the webbing as white specks.
White Flies White Flies are small, white, flying insects which can usually be seen on the undersides of leaves where they lay their eggs.
Aphids Aphids appear as small green or black insects, usually found on buds and new growth. These insects suck the juices out of plants, and also secrete honeydew.

Thrips are very small brown insects with elongated bodies. Adults are able to fly. Thrips are usually found on flowers and leaves.

If you do find pests on your houseplants, it is important to treat them as fast and as aggressively as possible. Below are some steps to take when dealing with pest-infected houseplants:

Treatment for infected plants:

  • First the most important thing to do is remove the infected plant, and move it to a place where it will be quarantined from all other houseplants. This is to prevent the spread of insects to other plants.
  • 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (Commonly sold as “Rubbing Alcohol”) will kill insects on contact. To kill insects, wet a cotton ball or Q-tip in alcohol, and then wipe away insects. Alcohol can also be sprayed on plants via a spray bottle.
  • Insecticides are another way to get rid of insects. Consult your local garden center for insecticides, and look for an insecticide formulated for use against the particular insect in question, and that is safe to use on your particular houseplant. Some insecticides come in spray forms and kill insects on contact, others can be mixed in water and taken up through the plant’s roots. Regardless of what type of insecticide you use, be sure to follow all safety instructions.
  • The above treatment methods may have to be repeated several times before the insects will finally be gone.
  • If certain parts of your plant are severely infested, they may need to be cut off and discarded. In extreme cases, the entire plant may need to be thrown out.

Written by Adrienne Kleintop

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