The advantages of growing plants indoors are many. Besides controlling almost every variable, from the light your plants receive to the amount of water they receive, you will most likely also be able to prevent many pests and diseases.
As with all plants, there can also be houseplant pests. As your plants’ conditions are likely to be the ones that best support their growth, the bad news is that they can also be hospitable to pests.
However, there are ways to prevent and eliminate some of the most common indoor plant pests. Here is a list of the most commonly found indoor plant pests and how to get rid of them for good.
Why Grow Indoor Plants in the First Place?
Growing plants indoors offers several excellent benefits. For example, you will be in control of all the variables.
Tropical houseplants can be grown even in an unfriendly environment, so there’s no need to worry! On the other hand, if you live in the tropics and want to grow carrots, you can grow them indoors much more easily because they stay cool.
Regardless of whether outdoor-grown plants are overwintered indoors or are grown indoors to completion, you will have the utmost flexibility in what you choose to grow.
Plants indoors will not only be able to produce plenty of delicious edible crops for your enjoyment, but they will also provide you with a healthy boost in terms of mental and physical health. We feel good when we are gardening, regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors.
Although indoor-grown plants face some challenges, you also have to consider things like less light, a lower humidity level, and the heat from the heating (or cold from the cooling). Often, the leaves and flowers of your plants, in particular, will be more susceptible to disease and pest infestations.
Most Common Indoor Plant Pests
Indoor plants are often covered in spider mites of all kinds, but red spider mites are one of the most common ones. This arthropod is closely related to spiders, although it is not a true insect.
Generally, you won’t see these pests with the naked eye, but you’ll probably notice a red film on the bottom of the leaves of your plants or hear some loud cracking.
The presence of beneficial insects such as minute pirate bugs can help control spider mites. Maintaining a humid environment is also beneficial since these pests prefer dry conditions.
A similar group of pests, the pseudococcidae, is frequently found on houseplants. Even so, these bugs can be tedious to control.
Like aphids, which we will discuss further in the next section, they look like soft, cottony white growths on plants. They produce honeydew. Ants, another pest that can be disastrous to your indoor plants, are attracted to honeydew.
So it’s important to keep mealybugs under control. You can either release beneficial insects to colonize your plants or spot treat them by putting a bit of isopropyl alcohol onto the pests themselves.
Despite the fact that fungus gnats are one of the most common indoor pests, they do very little damage to your plants – they tend to annoy you more.
These pests are commonly found in moist, fresh soil with higher nutrient levels looking like fruit flies. In addition, you can control them by controlling soil moisture, as well as using antifungal compounds and Bacillus thuringiensis to eliminate them.
Aphids are tiny insects, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t work their magic! There are several types of aphids to watch out for. Most are plant-specific.
The most common species of aphid that attack indoor plants are root aphids. They are often infested in greenhouses and other controlled settings, but can grow out of control quickly.
The pests themselves usually do not appear, but the white, waxy material the pests leave behind is more likely to do so. This is called honeydew, a material secreted by other kinds of aphids as well.
Easily adaptable, root aphids bore into the roots of plants and make them more susceptible to diseases. If your plants’ leaves are withered, curled, or yellow, it may be a root aphid infestation. In addition to root rot and mildew, other diseases can indicate an aphid infestation.
Professional gardeners often ignore nutrient deficiencies when diagnosing aphid infestations, making plants vulnerable to these deficiencies. It may be that a root aphid infestation is the cause of the problem – if your soil concentrations are reasonable, you should test them before adding any nutrients.
Yellow sticky traps can be used to identify root aphid infestations. Beneficial nematodes or an insecticidal fungus like Beauveria bassiana can then be used as an insecticide. You should also remove any plants that have been infested badly.
Insect scales, also known as the common brown scale, love indoor plants. Brown soft scale is the most common form with several varieties to avoid, the most widespread being Coccus hesperidum. In fact, they look like strange growths on your plants and not like regular insects.
Despite this, they are quite dangerous, living in clumps on the stem of a plant and sucking juice out with their spiked mouthpieces. As they develop, they can become quite aggressive and multiply rapidly, so you’ll likely need to use an insecticidal spray to get rid of them. They’re only mobile when they’re firstborn, but once they’re mature, they can be quite harmful.
Many plants are affected by scales, and you can scrape them off or use alcohol to get rid of them. You should also inspect your plants regularly to make sure that you haven’t missed any scale insects.
Springtails are often found inside homes as opposed to on plants, but they’ll eat your plants as well if they get the chance. These pests love moist soil and damp organic matter.
Basically, this means you need to eliminate excess moisture and don’t overwater your plants. Of course, you still have to water your plants – but avoid overwatering and reduce humidity when possible.
Springtails can be controlled using insect pellets and insecticides.
Whiteflies are closely related to aphids and scale. They are often mistaken for mealybugs, but the difference is that mealybugs will fly when disturbed. They will also eat just about any plant indoors.
As with aphids and mealybugs, whiteflies exude honeydew, which attracts ants and can lead to diseases like sooty mold. If you allow whiteflies to multiply, they will severely weaken your plants.
If the whiteflies are persistent, you can use harsh blasts of water from time to time. You can also use beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles or green lacewings, or you can use specific pesticides for whiteflies.
Leaf miners damage plants in several ways, but most present a problem. They aren’t always fatal, but they cause serious, unsightly damage.
Infestations of leaf miner larvae show up in your plants’ leaves as yellow, squiggly lines. Leaf miner larvae mine the leaves by boring into them. You may have to use a pesticide, but you’ll need to spray at the right time. The larvae need to be killed in between the eggs and adults. If you spray too early, you will kill only the eggs, and if you spray too late, you will kill the adults.
If you want to eliminate leafminers, you can use neem oil to do so in a more natural way. It won’t kill them instantly, but it will get rid of them gradually.
Despite being a less common pest indoors, thrips are still a pest you should keep an eye out for. Thrips usually come indoors from outdoor plants brought inside for indoor planting. It’s most likely that you’ll notice the thrips’ waste first! That’s right, their poop!
These insects damage plant leaves by causing them to turn silvery and discolored. These insects can also damage the outer layer of leaves.
A chemical-free solution for controlling thrip infestations is to introduce thrip predators and minute pirate bugs. You can also use blue sticky traps.
In addition to being sapsuckers, russet mites are transparent wedge-shaped pests that are often found in groups. The insects will start by feeding on the lower leaves and then work their way up.
It is hard to identify these pests as early signs such as magnesium and iron deficiencies are symptomatic of infestation. Therefore, testing your soil is important. Plants should be inspected regularly, and outdoor soil should never be used for starting your indoor plants, as it often harbors russet mite eggs.
Keeping spider mites at bay can be accomplished by regularly releasing predators. Achieving the right level of humidity and temperature in the room is also important (not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, and not too dry). Russet mites can be gotten rid of with products like neem oil or canola oil sprays.
How to Prevent Indoor Plant Pests
In spite of the fact that pests on indoor plants can be irritating and aggravating, the good news is that they are relatively easy to get under control.
In the store, you should always check plants before you buy them, especially before you bring them indoors. If you notice insects on the plant, be sure to notify the owner.
Make sure you use clean pots and potting soil. Diatomaceous earth is a good example of a general pesticide you can use on most plants if you notice pests after you’ve transplanted them or brought them indoors.
In addition to following general gardening guidelines, indoor plants also require moderate watering, just as they should be cared for in the outdoors. Don’t let your soil become overly dry or waterlogged, and stay balanced on nutrients.
When you create an ideal environment for your plants, you’re going to attract some pests who want a free lunch, too. However, you don’t have to allow them.
In addition, healthy plants will be better able to withstand and prevent pest infestations – and you’ll develop better skills to spot and eliminate these pests over time, too.