13 common houseplant pests and how to eliminate them

Mealybugs, aphids and thrips are some of the insects that can appear on your plants and do a lot of damage to them. Find out what other pests you should be careful with and how to eradicate them.

Last update: November 14, 2021

Indoor plants are a safe bet to decorate, as long as they are free of pests. When these make an appearance, we wonder how to eliminate them without harming the plant in question.

When our indoor plants get sick, we must repay the good they do for us and provide them with due care. Does your mat have sticky things? We show you how to treat this and other types of pests until they are completely eliminated.

Watch out! Pests could be fatal to your plants

Mites, aphids and scales are just some of the pests that could appear on your indoor plants. And its effects are devastating.

Find out which are the most obvious signs that your plant is in trouble:

  • Small flying insects hovering over the plant.
  • Misshapen leaves and shoots.
  • Blackish parts on the stems and branches of the bushes.
  • Leaves discolored to the point of turning yellowish.
  • Silvery traces in the bush, including leaves and stems.
  • Nibbles in leaves and tunnels in flower stalks.
  • Hardened bumps or brown spots, both on the leaves and stems.
  • Tiny black or white insects walking on the ground of the plant.
  • White fluffy substances, similar to cotton, on the stems and joints of plants and their leaves.

Although it seems ironic, one of the causes of this happening is because they are inside the house, a place where there are no natural predators that control these insects. In addition to this, the vulnerability of indoor plants increases during winter, due to their dormancy.

On the other hand, the plague can appear thanks to infected bags of soil, the intrusion into the house of a new plant or one that you already had, but in the garden. Also for fresh flowers that are put in vases to decorate or insects attracted by the breeze when opening doors and windows.

The most common pests of indoor plants

A pest is any insect or microorganism that weakens or causes death, in this case, from the houseplant. Keep in mind that pests thrive if they find a food source.

1. Mealybugs

Mealybugs are provided with a shield that protects them from outside threats. Depending on the type, the color and consistency vary.

These little animals use their beak to stick it into the leaves of the plants. In this way, they suck the sap, which causes the leaves to turn yellow, warp, and dry out.

But this is not all. A percentage of the sap they extract is excreted back into the plant and the black fungus thrives on this molasses. To eliminate this pest you will need a cotton pad impregnated with methyl alcohol, clean the affected area and finish by spraying a little insecticide.

Mealybugs have a small shield that protects them from external aggressions.

2. Aphids

Made with a sucking beak, aphids suck the sap from plants, causing its leaves to turn yellow, bend like a cone, and dry out. The bold mushroom and the black ants appear on the scene.

What can you do? If the damage has been slight, pruning the damaged leaves and shoots is enough. Then give it a soapy bath.

Otherwise, you will have to take more radical measures, such as an insecticide. Keep in mind that aphids can be green, yellow, brown, and black.

3. Whitefly

This pest is easy to recognize. They are small white flies that settle on the underside of the leaf. If the plant is moved roughly, the flies fly out.

This pest, when biting, damages the branches and leaves, causing their early fall. You can eliminate the infection with the help of a cotton ball and methyl alcohol, and then spray with an insecticide.

4. Trips

These are small insects that, unlike the aforementioned, do not cause much havoc. With just a few millimeters, these animals chop the leaves to extract their sap, which produces a color change in the plant. These turn silver, dry and fall off.

You can see them jumping or flying from one leaf to another. They are white, gray, red, yellow or brown in color and do not secrete honeydew.

But you can find white or yellow traces of messy bites on the plant and fecal matter that looks like black dots. To exterminate this pest you can use biological or chemical insecticides.

5. Red spider

These little spiders are barely noticeable with the naked eye.. Spider mites lodge on the underside of leaves, where they bite and cause a yellow appearance with darker or brownish spots.

This type of pest thrives in hot, dry environments, so spraying the plant with water could help combat them. However, a bath with potassium soap is very effective. After an hour has passed, apply a little oil neem on the sheets.

6. Caterpillars

Any species of caterpillar has sufficient dimensions to be taken by hand. The caterpillars feed on the young leaves, so you can find bites on them. Take into account that if the infestation is very large you can use an insecticide.

7. Geranium butterfly

The geranium butterfly makes holes in the stems of plants and nicks the leaves, in addition to causing the flowers to lose vitality. These larvae are 2 centimeters long and have a greenish color, but as they get bigger they darken.

This pest loves geraniums and gypsies, so preventive measures are recommended. Otherwise, if the plant is heavily infected, there is no remedy. Use insecticides formulated for these animals and remove the compromised stems.

Geraniums don’t have much of a chance when they are infected. That is why they must be treated immediately.

8. Miners or submarines

These pests they are small larvae that can only be observed if the plant is held against the light. The miners make sinuous galleries along the leaves of the bush. You can stop this infection by applying systemic insecticide sprays.

9. Green mosquito

The green mosquito has no wings; he’s just a good jumper. For this reason, it can move from sheet to sheet.

This insect affects plants, since after their bite they turn yellow and lose vitality. Products used to eradicate aphids are also effective against this pest.

10. Snails and slugs

Snails and slugs wreak havoc on plants, much like caterpillars do. That is, bites. Only when crawling, these insects are leaving a silvery cloudscape.

Due to their size, you can catch them with your hands or, if you prefer, cheat with beer or baits that contain metaldehyde base. Snails and slugs are attracted to these substances.

11. Ants

Although ants do not directly harm plants, they are a problem. It turns out that if your kill has ants, it is very likely that it has aphids or mealybugs, since the former feed on the sap secretions left by the latter.

The first thing you should do is get rid of aphids. Next, find the anthill and use an anti-ant product.

Ants are notices that another pest is nearby. Once the original problem is eliminated, then the anthill is continued.

12. Cottony root mealybugs

This type of mealybugs damage the roots of the plant. They are frequently gestated in cacti and one of the symptoms of the plague is that it inhibits the growth of the plant.

To detect the presence of cottony root bugs, remove the cactus from the pot and inspect the root ball for a white milkweed.

Likewise, to free your plant from this pest you must immerse it for 20 to 30 minutes in water combined with insecticide and replant the cactus.

13. Nematodes

These known worms measure a mere 0.2 millimeters, so you will have to have good eyesight to detect them. They feed on the roots of plants.

The symptoms that this worm gestates are very similar to those of excess water, drought or when the plant needs nutrients. Which translates into dull green or yellow leaves and a lack of vitality.

But if you take the plant out of the pot and observe its roots, when nematodes are present, they have lumps or nodules. So that it is recommended to tear off the affected areas and burn them together with the compromised substrate.

Pest prevention will keep your indoor plants healthy

Indoor plants are beautiful, as long as they are healthy and free from pests. Only frequent maintenance can help you prevent an invasion. We give you some tips:

  • Use a duster or a clean, damp cloth to wipe the leaves. This will help them breathe better.
  • Crush garlic and mix with water. Only water the plant with the mixture once every 2 months.
  • Be careful with excess moisture. Remember that each plant has a specific watering period.
  • Lemon, orange and other citrus peel helps against aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies. Make an infusion with the peels and after 24 hours of its preparation, pulverize the plant.
  • Some aromatic plants repel insects, so you can try putting them near your indoor plants.
  • Change the compost or the substrate of your plants in the established times. Try not to let them pass.
  • Dish soap works. Just use little and combine it with water. This mixture must be very smooth to pulverize the mat.

Eliminate pests and protect your indoor plants

Checking your indoor plants frequently can help detect the presence of a pest early. Remember that if the plant is infected, before applying any treatment you must diagnose accurately.

Try to address the pest without delay. This will prevent them from spreading. Specific products for each case can be purchased in specialized stores.

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