How to Get Rid of Bugs in Houseplants

Heartleaf philodendron

Adopting a houseplant is a great way to add some flair and better air quality to your home, but houseplants can also be attractive to a variety of different bugs and pests. 

The most common types of houseplant pests are mealybugs, scales, spider mites, fungus gnats, whiteflies, and root ball pests such as pillbugs, millipedes, and slugs. You may find these tiny bugs in houseplant soil, on the leaves, or as the name suggests, on the root ball of your plant. Each one of these bugs can cause several issues. 

If you think your houseplant might be sick, quarantine it away from your other plants to keep the disease from spreading. However, most houseplant bugs are pretty easy to get rid of with just a few tricks and home remedies. Here are four of the simplest ways to remove bugs from your houseplants: 

1. Preventative care 

Taking preventative measures is the most effective way to get rid of bugs in houseplants in the long term. Check plants before you buy them to make sure you’re not bringing home pests. One good preventative care step is to quarantine new plants for a few weeks to prevent any bugs that may be hiding in their soil from spreading to existing plants in your home. You can place yellow sticky cards just above the new plant to trap bugs. If there are bugs on your cards after a day or two, there are likely more on your plant. You should also check all plants weekly for bugs and signs of their damage, making sure to look on top of and underneath leaves. 

2. Physical removal 

Many houseplant bugs are easy to see right on the surface of your plant. You can either remove them with your bare hands or spray your plant with a hard stream of water – not so hard that it damages the plant – to knock off as many as possible. It’s also a good idea to spray your plants with a hard stream of water anytime you move them from outside to inside the house. 

3. Use natural or chemical solutions 

At Martin’s Home and Garden, our favorite way to deal with houseplant bugs is by using a spray bottle with a mixture of neem oil and water. Use one ounce of neem oil for every gallon of water. Each day for 7-14 days, spray the mixture onto your plant until dripping. To spot treat, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol to wipe bugs off and kill them. You can also use 1 tbsp of mild liquid soap mixed with 1 liter of water. However, If you use chemicals on your plant, you should keep the plant away from direct sunlight until it has dried out, as it can increase the chances of sunburn. 

4. Dry out your plants 

Fungus gnats and pests like them live off of the moisture in your plants. When you are dealing with bugs in your soil, drying out your plants is an easy way to remove them. Watering your plant a bit less frequently than you usually would to dry out the top couple inches of soil should be enough to kill the fungi that the gnats feed off of, and in turn, getting rid of your bug problem. Another way to quickly dry out your plants is to put a small layer of sand on top of your soil, as the sand will draw moisture out of the top of the soil. Sand can also prevent bugs from laying more eggs in the soil. 

Visit Martin’s Home & Garden For Your Houseplant Needs! 

Visit our nursery in Murfreesboro at Martin’s Home & Garden today to shop for your next houseplant! Read our Houseplant FAQ for more information and for guidance on what kind of houseplant is right for you! If you need help with a sick houseplant, bring our team a high-quality picture or a sick leaf. Please do not bring your entire plant to the store to avoid spreading the disease to the plants in our stock.