Houseplants: ‘Important’ to control common pests – signs to look for

Gardeners' World: How to care for houseplants

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Pests on houseplants can not only damage the houseplant, but it can also kill it. When it comes to removing pests, experts recommend using natural pest control methods. This is because some chemicals can be toxic to human health and indoor plants can become immune to them over time.

Experts at Essential Living have shared top pests to look for on houseplants and signs to look for.

They said: “Before you can effectively get rid of houseplant pests, you need to know which one you’re dealing with. There are seven common houseplant bugs, and they all have unique looks and cause different types of damage.”

Pests include mealybugs, whiteflies, aphids and thrips.

The experts said: “Mealybugs, often mistaken for fungus or mould on indoor plants, look like cotton or white powder on houseplants and tend to cluster on the stems and leaf joints, or along the veins on the leaves. Damage usually includes stunted or deformed new growth of your plant.

“Spider mites are another common plant infestation that you will spot by fine webbing on your houseplants. This usually begins on the undersides of the leaves, or at the tips of new growth. The damage causes normally deformed, dead and dried out leaves, or the leaves and flower buds start dropping.”

Whiteflies, which are tiny white flies or moths on houseplants, usually lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.

This means the population can grow rapidly without realising.

The experts explained: “Damage from whiteflies will cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop the plant.

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“Fungus Gnats (also known as soil gnats) are annoying little black gnats that you’ll see flying around houseplants and crawling in the soil.

“Unfortunately they live and breed in potting soil, meaning they can be very difficult to control.

“Whilst you don’t cause a great deal of damage they can be extremely annoying.”

Aphids, which are commonly found in an outdoor garden, can “badly wreck” plants if they get inside, according to the experts. 

Essential Living experts said: “They easily go unnoticed until the houseplant is completely infested, as you will begin to see fat, small, juicy bugs clustering on new growth and flower buds ranging from different colours including green, brown, blue, orange, red, or black. Aphids can cause sticky residue and stunted, deformed plant growth.”

Scales, which are extremely hard to spot, tend to look like brown, tan or grey bumps on the leaf surface. 

The experts added: “Scale insects don’t appear to move at all, but fortunately, they come off easily by scraping gently.

“Thrips are the least common of the seven, however again aren’t easy to notice.

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“They look like small black bugs with skinny bodies and pointy tails and fortunately don’t have wings therefore are unable to fly and pester.

“Eventually, damaged parts will turn brown, and leaves and flower buds could begin dropping.”

The experts also shared top tips on how to try and remove the pests without harming the plant.

Tips include isolating the affected plants as well as deep cleaning the area.

Essential Living experts said: “First things first, isolate the infested plant to prevent it from spreading to your other houseplants. Also, make sure you monitor your other surrounding plants closely for signs of indoor plant pests for three to four weeks.”

As well as isolating the plant, you can also try to use natural soaps and detergents.

The experts added: “Now wash the infested plant with insecticidal soap, or you can use a mild liquid soap, as soap can kill houseplant bugs on contact.

“Some contain degreasers and detergents that can harm sensitive plants, therefore be careful with the type you choose. Try dabbing the soap lightly on your plant before washing fully to double-check it won’t cause any harm.

You could also try to use alcohol to kill any remaining live bugs.

Other tips include using long-term plant pest control prevention as well as trapping or vacuuming flying bugs to get them under control.                                        

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