How to Prevent Bugs In Your Houseplants

Houseplants offer an easy and relatively low-maintenance alternative to outdoor gardening, which is especially helpful for apartment dwellers. In general, taking care of houseplants does not carry with it all the risks and hassles of keeping outdoor plants healthy. However, you may still find yourself fighting a classic gardening battle when caring for your houseplants - keeping insects from destroying them. Gnats, aphids, fruit flies, and spider mites are all common insects that can attack your plants. There are several steps you can take to prevent bugs in your houseplants, which will work best when used in conjunction.


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    Choose houseplants suited for your available light conditions. The first step in preventing insects actually arises when you choose your plants. Make sure each houseplant is well suited to the amount of light it will receive once in position. Plants in unfavorable light conditions are subjected to stress, which makes them more susceptible to insect infestation.
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    Make sure your houseplants are potted in sterile soil. While bacteria, fungus, and insects are a vital component of outdoor soil health, houseplants are better planted in store bought potting mix, which will generally be sterile. Using outdoor garden soil can introduce insect larvae into your houseplants.
    • Make sure to include a drainage layer of gravel at the bottom of each houseplant pot. Poorly drained soil can saturate the roots, leaving them more susceptible to insect attack.
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    Clean your houseplants regularly. Dust buildup on your houseplant leaves often contains organic compounds (like skin cells or pet hair) that insects can feed on. Furthermore, insects like mites thrive in thick layers of dust and will be less likely to infest a clean plant.
    • Large houseplant leaves can be gently wiped with a moistened rag. Use as nonabrasive a cloth as you can find; microfiber cloths work well for this task.
    • Plants with many small leaves can be picked up and submerged into a sink full of lukewarm, slightly soapy water. Swish the leaves around a bit and then turn the plant right side up to dry.
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    Inspect your plants regularly for insect damage. This may sound obvious, but in fact most insect infestations can be mitigated if you are monitoring your houseplants closely enough to catch the early signs. Discolored, speckled, mottled, and chewed up leaves can indicate insect activity. Of course, you may also be able to see the insects themselves as well as their eggs, larvae, or cast off skins.
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    Control existing insect infestations as well as possible. Even if you take the precautionary steps above, you may still find yourself faced with insects in your houseplants. There are several method you can use to kill and remove insects.
    • Sticky traps can be used to control infestations of flying insects such as fruit flies, gnats, and winged aphids. These traps are usually yellow in appearance and can be hung near the infested houseplant.
    • Pruning can help control isolated insect infestations. If you notice that most of the insects are concentrated on a few leaves of a plant, prune these leaves away and throw them out.
    • Wash small insects away with soapy water. Small insects like aphids and mealybugs can be removed by rubbing the plant's leaves with a cloth moistened with soapy water.
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    Know when to give up on an infested houseplant. The unfortunate truth is that when a houseplant becomes badly infested with insects, it is near impossible to remove the insects and return the plant to health. In bad cases, throw the entire plant away before the insects spread to other houseplants in your home.


  • If you place your houseplants outdoors during the summer, keep a look out for larger insects like caterpillars and millipedes. These insects can be removed with tweezers or by hand.

Things You'll Need

  • Houseplants
  • Potting mix
  • Cloth
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Sticky traps
  • Pruners

Article Info

Categories: Bugs | Pest Control