Prevent & Control Houseplant Pests

Kentia Palm, moderate lightThere is nothing like the positive energy provided by greenery. Plants add color, life and beauty to any environment and improve the quality of your indoor air by filtering out common pollutants. Unfortunately, plants—like humans and pets—can also become weak and contract diseases, and when that happens, it is important to act quickly. Attacking the problem fast helps to prevent pests from spreading to other houseplants and can save the life of your sick plant.

The most common pests that attack indoor plants are fungus flies, white flies, scale, aphids, spider mites, and mealy bugs. If you don’t over water your plants and you are able to keep them happy and healthy, you won’t have many pest problems (visit Houseplants Care Guidelines). However, if you come across an infestation, GSU recommends that you control them naturally, avoiding pesticides or chemicals.

aphidsThe following are some natural methods to control houseplant pests:

  • If the infestation is severe, cut off all off the heavily affected leaves.
  • Gently hose insects off of your plant (you can use the shower).
  • Manually remove or scrape off insects with your finger, a damp cloth, or a cotton ball (depending on how delicate your plant is).
  • Soap & Water: In a spray bottle, mix water and a few drops of biodegradable dish soap and spray bugs daily.
  • Spray the surface of the potting soil with your Soap & Water spray bottle. The soap will kill the eggs laying on the soil. If your problem is fungus flies, you must allow the soil to dry completely before using this method—fungus flies are attracted to humidity and moisture.
  • You can also control pests and fungi with neem oil. Neem oil is a natural pesticide obtained from the endemic Indian tree called neem (Azadirachta indica). To learn more about how this natural oil affects chewing and sucking insects and how to apply it properly, visit You can also visit Tips Bulletin’s article and read about 28 Fantastic Ways to Use Neem Oil for Plants & Garden.

Remember that plants cannot talk or bark, so make sure you check the health of your indoor plants frequently. A good time to do so is when you water them—every week or every ten days.
Moonlight PhilodendronAdditionally, to replenish the nutrients that leech out of the soil during watering, improve the well-being of your potted plants and prevent common pests and diseases, feed your house plants at least once every six months with organic fertilizers or super nutritious dirt from you compost bin (visit Compost It!).

Finally, if your plant is suffering from root rot—a common disease that affects chronically over-watered plants—repot your plant and use a fast drying potting soil, and of course, schedule your watering less frequently.

Basic maintenance and preventive care are the best ways to keep your plants healthy and thriving. Happy gardening and keep your green thumbs up!

Check out this really cool science article by Robert Krulwich:Plants Talk. Plants Listen. Here’s How.”