Being a plant parent brings a lot of joy and life into our homes. As we see our plants grow, we form a connection with them and become so proud watching them get bigger and stronger each day. The last thing we want to see is our plant babies struggling. Preventing and spotting pests as early as possible is important to keep our plants alive. Pests can be the biggest stress of being a plant parent. In this article, we will discuss what to look for, different types of pests, and how to treat them.
Before taking a plant home make sure to inspect the leaves and the soil to spot any pests that could have already taken over. Often, plants come home with you already infested, so be sure to look out for that when picking out your new baby. Looking for webbing between the stems and near the soil, this can be spider mites. If you notice white fuzz on the plant, that is most likely mealy bugs. Check the backs of the leaves, front of the leaves, the stems of the plant, and in the crevices to make sure it is pest free. This is also important to check on plants you already own. If you notice your plants are declining, do a thorough check to be sure it’s not pests. Plants that are underwatered, not getting sufficient light, left dusty and grimey, are more prone to getting infested. Paying close attention to your plants will help them remain pest free so they can thrive and live their happiest lives.
The most common pests are fungus gnats, although they are more of an annoyance than harmful to the plants.
Signs: Tiny flying insects flying in close proximity to your plants, near moist/damp soil, come out more as you water them.
Treatment: Live gnats live in the top couple inches of the soil and start to fly around when they are disturbed with water. They are attracted to moist soil, so to rid them from your plants allow your plants to dry out about half way. Sticky traps that are sold at most plant stores will help trap and decrease the amount of gnats flying around your home. Another option is to cover the top soil with sand to trap the live gnats and kill off any larvae lingering. Systemic insecticide is an option too, but we always encourage home remedies for gnats first before the chemicals go into your plants.
Prevention: Soil is usually the main source of fungas gnats. Check the soil thoroughly and be sure not to overwater your plant, causing it to become soggy. Be sure to dump water that drains into the trays when water your plants as that is another breeding ground for gnats.
Signs: These mites will visibly show webbing around the stems and leaves of the plant. If you notice the leaves of a plant start to become speckled, wilty, browning, yellowing and then falling off, you may want to inspect it for spider mites. Curling and deformed leaves may also be a sign of spider mites.
Treatment: If you spot spider mites on your plant, Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew can help with that. Simply spray the leaves and stems generously and let it air dry. After a few days, give it another spray. If you still see pests after two rounds of spray, continue to spray it down every few days until the pests are gone.
Prevention: These pests typically attack dry plants, especially in the winter time when the air is dry. To prevent this from happening you must keep plants hydrated and humid. Be sure to check your plants before bringing them home.
Signs: Have you ever noticed a white fuzz all over your plant? Or in the crevice of the stems and the axils of the leaves? Those would be mealy bugs. They are obvious to the naked eye and easy to catch if you are checking your plants regularly. They resemble cotton on a leaf and these pests suck the life out of your plants. Leaves may also leave a sticky residue called honeydew, that could attract other insects.
Treatment: To get rid of them you can take a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol, go through and take off all the mealy bugs you see. You will notice they will turn from white to a tan color, which shows they are dying off. After doing that use Captain Jack's DeadBug Brew to spray down all the leaves generously and let it air dry. After a few days, spray the plant down again to ensure the pests stay away. This should get rid of your mealy bug problem.
Prevention: Frequently inspecting your plants can prevent an infestation from developing too far. Mealy bugs and all other pests are easier to control the earlier you catch them.
Root Mealy Bugs
Signs: Mealy bugs do not only attack the foliage but also the root. These are called root mealy bugs and they are much harder to spot than foliage mealy bugs. Some indicators of these pests are slow growth, wilting leaves, and sticky spots on the pot. If you are unable to spot any other pests on the foliage of the plant, take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. Root mealybugs resemble foliage mealy bugs, white and fuzzy pests on the roots. These can spread if you use the same saucer for your plants so be aware to not use the saucer of the infested plants on any other.
Treatment: To get rid of these, take off all the potting medium and dispose of it. Use a new pot or disinfect the old pot. Systemic insecticide can also help with that but make sure to let the new potting soil settle for about a week before using the insecticide.
Prevention: To prevent root mealy bugs, be sure to inspect the roots of new plants you've purchased. Avoid letting your plants become too root bound and make sure to use clean or new pots when repotting a plant into a new home.
Signs: A pest similar to mealy bugs are called scale insects. Instead of the white fuzzy they are solid brown or white and don’t move. They look like little dots on the leaves and they are raised so you can tell they aren’t just a mark on the leaf. These pests force the plant to slowly decline and can easily go unnoticed.
Treatment: To get rid of them you can pick them off or use a toothbrush to brush them off (if you notice a bump and are unable to scrape it off it is probably apart of the plant). Then generously spray Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew onto the leaves to prevent them from coming back. Repeat after a few days and the scale insects should be gone.
Prevention: This particular pest are pretty difficult to prevent other than good care. Consistency check your plant to catch the infestation because it becomes uncontrollable.
Signs: Baby thrips are white and the adults pests are small, black, fast moving bugs. They thrive off of new growth so once you spot them, do not fertilize. They typically love flowering plants because they like to feed off the pollen sacks.
Treatment: Thrips are a frustrating pest to encounter and could take some time to get rid of but the faster you spot them, the better. First, you should remove all flowers so they cannot thrive much. Then, spray the leaves generously with Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew. You may need to do this a few times to really keep them away.
Prevention: Similiar to scale insects, these pests are mysterious in their origin. Well cared for plants and plants kept at proper moisture levels and given proper humidty will be more pest-resistant. Check your plants frequently and if you notice leaves having a silverly streak or speckles that turn brown over time may be spotted before you notice the actual pest.
SIgns: These pests carry viruses that can easily spread so make sure to really quarantine a plant that is infested with aphids. They are found on new growth and are detectable to the naked eye. These pests may be black, red, yellow, or green. Because mother aphids have live births, they multiply rapidly so the sooner you catch them the better. Aphids force the plant leaves to curl under and become deformed.
Treatment: Spray the plant down with a jet hose to knock them off. IF they re caught early doing that could simply get rid of them. If the infestation is further along, spray the plant generously with Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew. This may need to be done a few times to really get rid of them.
Prevention: Aphids are commonly found on outdoor plants and can easily hitch a ride from outdoor plants to indoor ones. If they are spotted, use caution bringing that plant around others and they spread easily.
Sources: “Houseplants The Complete Guide” Lisa Eldred Steinkopf
"Houseplants for all; how to fill any home with happy house plants" Danae Horst
Photos from google and in store