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How To Get Rid Of Pests On Indoor Plants

Mar 24th, 2023

Is your indoor plant dying from some unknown ailment? It’s perfectly watered, got just enough sunshine but still, something’s eating away at it.

That may just be the very problem! 

What attracts bugs and pests to indoor plants?

Most of the time, pest and bugs are introduced to your home by already-infected plants. Most plants that come straight from stores and nurseries have a high chance of being infected with some kind of critter already, and once they’re in your home, it’s hard to get them all out. 


These small white pests are hard enough to control on outdoor plants, and on indoor plants they’re just as annoying. 

You can identify mealybugs by their white, powdery appearance, most often appearing in clumps on the undersides of leaves and stems. They are attracted to soft plants with high levels of nitrogen, and they can move quickly from one leaf to another as they breed and multiply. 

Spider mites

Spider mites like dry, hot and warm environments, so any plants in direct sunlight are potential targets for these bugs. Though almost invisible to the naked eye due to their size, these bugs can be identified by a reddish hue on the undersides of leaves, small cobwebs and brown dots on leaves. 

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats start their lives as eggs in moist soil, where the conditions are ripe for fungal growth. Once hatched, the larvae feed off the fungus and, if there isn’t enough fungus, they will feed on the roots of your plants. After the larvae turn into adult flies they are pretty much harmless, though having hundreds of tiny flies buzzing around your home is definitely still inconvenient.  


These bugs leave little black dots of poop over occupied plant leaves, which can help aid in identifying these frustrating creatures. Other signs of a thrips infestation include splotchy plant leaves, wrinkled appearance of new leaves and a silvery discoloration on the surface — the bugs themselves are hard to spot without a magnifying glass. 


Scale bugs typically stick to stems and leaves of houseplants, rather than roots and flowers. You can identify them by their resemblance to tiny brown dots clustered together, as well as by a shiny residue that’s slightly sticky to the touch. 

The very best way to avoid having your plants infected with a pest is to quarantine any new plants that you want to introduce into your home. That way, you can keep an eye on the plant’s health, check for bugs and, if they’re present, kill any pests that hitched a ride on your new leafy friend. 

Here’s how to quarantine a new houseplant effectively, but if you’re already plagued with the little critters then fear not! Below is how you can get rid of them.

Getting rid of bugs on indoor plants 

Neem oil

Neem oil is made by extracting oil from the seeds of the neem tree, which is native to the Indian subcontinent. The oil itself is a naturally-occurring pesticide that gardeners have used for centuries, and now it’s a component in a wide variety of pesticides used for both indoor and outdoor plants. 

Spraying neem oil onto your plants might not kill the bugs on contact, but it does interfere with insect hormones and will make it harder for pests to lay eggs, reproduce, feed and grow. The oil will only coat the outside of the plant, though, so it may not be effective for pests that feed on roots under the soil.

You can buy pre-mixed neem oil spray at any hardware store or nursery, but those sometimes contain additional compounds that are harmful and toxic to pets, children and adults. Luckily, though, you can make your own safe neem oil mix with dish soap, warm water and pure neem oil.

Yellow sticky traps

These are a lifesaver for fungus gnat issues. 

Though fungus gnats are harmless to plants, they can still lay eggs which turn into harmful larvae. Stop the life cycle at the source by placing these yellow sticky traps near the soil of your potted plants to trap the adults before they have a chance to lay more eggs.

Soil cover

Covering your soil with a layer of fine sand can help suffocate fungus gnats and other soil-borne pests, as well as preventing them from burrowing in later on. 

You can also sprinkle mosquito bits over the soil or work them into the first inch of soil to kill any fungus gnat larvae that are already there. 

Castille soap 

You can make a simple and quick bug spray by combining one tablespoon of liquid soap for every four cups of water, giving it a good mix and pouring it into a spray bottle. 

Spray this mix over your plants to suffocate any bugs and pests hanging out on the leaves, stalks and flowers of your plant. Repeat weekly for a light infestation, focus on troubled areas every few days for a medium-sized infestation and, if it’s really bad, spray the whole plant every two or three days. Keep in mind that too much spraying will suffocate your plant, too, so don’t overdo it if you don’t need to. 

Tea tree oil

Pure tea tree oil is a natural pesticide and fungicide, so you can use it to deter fungus gnats, mildew and other pests from your plants. Simply mix two tablespoons of oil with four tablespoons of baking soda in a gallon of water, then transfer to a spray bottle to use as needed. 

Here are some other uses of tea tree oil as insecticides

In the end, it’s not the end of the world if you find a few bugs on your indoor plants. Sure, there are some bugs that are more harmful than others, but with the right kind of information and supplies, you can cure your plants of their infestation. And if you’re unsure what type of bug you’re being plagued with, you can always head to your local plant store or nursery with a picture of your infested plant to ask for an opinion. 

Good luck!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/DomPixabay

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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