Indoor plant pests are the worst type of uninvited houseguests! They sneak in unannounced and quickly wreak havoc on your precious plant collection. To stop them before they take over, you have to know the signs of infestation! Here are six common plant pests and how to detect them so that you can treat them ASAP.
How to Spot and Treat Common Indoor Plant Pests
Plant pests are typically pretty tiny, so you might not always notice the insects themselves. You’ll often notice their damage or waste before you see any actual bugs. Here’s what to look for when you do your routine houseplant inspection—it’s a good idea to check your plants regularly so pests won’t go unnoticed!
We’ve included treatment tips for each pest, so you can use the best, safest method to eliminate them. Bye-bye, bugs!
These teeny tiny pests work quickly, so it’s crucial to deal with them as soon as you see them. They’re called spider mites because they create a fine webbing like a spider.
If you notice a cobwebby material coating your houseplants’ stems or leaves, you likely have a spider mite problem. If you look closely, you might see those tiny mites crawling around—they’re usually reddish-brown in color.
To get rid of spider mites, you’ll first want to rinse your plant off to remove the webbing. Go outside and use the hose on a gentle mist setting—don’t blast your plant, or you’ll end up hurting it!
After thoroughly rinsing your houseplant, give it a generous coating of natural insecticide. We recommend using insecticidal soap, neem oil spray, or pyrethrin.
Spider mites tend to attack neglected plants, so make sure you maintain a regular watering schedule. This way, they won’t get stressed and dehydrated—strong, healthy houseplants have much better pest resistance.
These tiny white pests build cottony nests, so if some mysterious, fluffy cotton is building up on your houseplants, you’re dealing with mealybugs. They spread fast, so you’ll want to spring into action as soon as possible!
Like aphids and whiteflies, they leave behind sticky honeydew as they suck the moisture from your plants’ leaves. Insecticidal soap spray is a great solution for this common houseplant pest, but you can also use cotton swabs dipped in neem oil or rubbing alcohol to clear away the cottony gunk.
Problems with fungus gnats have skyrocketed since 2020. The reason is that people are at home more often and are overly tempted to water their houseplants more frequently than needed! Overwatering the soil is a recipe for fungal growth, and where there’s fungus, there are fungus gnats.
Fungus gnats are annoying, buzzing insects that look like tiny flies. While the adults won’t damage your plants, their larvae will hungrily feast on the delicate roots. To get rid of fungus gnats, coat the leaves, stem, and soil with a natural insecticide, such as soap spray, neem oil, or pyrethrin. Repeat the application every 4–5 days until you stop seeing any mature insects. Since the bugs go through different life stages and mature quickly, repeat applications will help eliminate previously unhatched larvae.
Folks often assume that scale insects are some kind of disease or fungus when they first see them. To be fair, they definitely don’t look like your typical pest; this is because they create a hard outer shell that protects their tiny, fragile bodies. They find a spot on a leaf to set up camp, build their shell, and then suck up moisture from the leaves to survive.
There are different types of scale, and their shells vary in color and texture, but they generally look like tiny, hard lumps. If a leaf or section is severely infested, cut it off and dispose of it. If the infestation looks manageable, you may be able to pick them off by hand. Alternatively, you can dip a cotton swab in pure neem oil or rubbing alcohol and rub it all over the scales.
Aphid infestations are common on both indoor and outdoor plants! You can find them in a variety of colors: green, brown, gray, red, yellow, or black. They cause damage by sucking out the liquid from leaves like vampires.
The telltale sign of an aphid infestation is a sticky, clear substance called “honeydew,” which is a surprisingly lovely term for what is essentially bug poop. If there’s sticky gunk all around your plant, you’ve got an aphid problem on your hands. Use any of the natural insecticides listed above to kick those aphids to the curb!
Strangely, these little white insects aren’t actually flies—they’re cousins of the aphid. You may notice them crawling on your houseplant, and they lay large quantities of tiny yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves.
Like aphids, they leave a sticky honeydew substance behind. Insecticidal soap, neem oil, and pyrethrin are all effective in eliminating these pesky pests!
If you have any questions about identifying or eliminating common plant pests in Orange County, drop by OC Succulents, and we’ll be happy to assist! If you like, you can take a picture of the problem, and we can help you troubleshoot from there. We have an excellent selection of natural insecticides that are safe for indoor use and won’t threaten ladybugs, spiders, or pollinators, so you can rest easy knowing your plants—and the local beneficial bugs—are safe and sound!