Indoor container gardening is one of the most popular hobbies nowadays among urbanites. With not enough space for outdoor gardens, these homes have to make most of their home’s square inch footage to bring in vibrant blooms and improved air quality therein. But along with enthusiasm and excitement also comes a serious challenge — bugs. So how to get rid of bugs in houseplants soil as well as on the plant itself?
From cutworms to fungus gnats, grubs, weevils, and what-have-you, these miniscule creepy living things are collectively called “bugs” for a reason– they can bug you to no end causing distress not just to the plant itself but also to your sanity. To get you and your houseplants out of these messy situation, these tips on eliminating bugs from your houseplants soil can be of great help.
1. Carefully observe the type or types of bugs infesting your houseplants’ soil. Springtails, for instance, can be seen after watering. Mold, gnats and others may manifest in cream or gray color. There are many types of bugs in houseplants, and identifying what’s infesting your potted plants will make the effort more efficient and less time consuming.
2. Eliminate bugs at first instance by drying out at least 2 inches of your potted soil. This will help dry out eggs being laid by adult ones. When this does not work, take out the infected soil and wash pot using mild soap and hot water. Replace with new potting mix particularly with moisture control quality like this one from Miracle-Gro. It does not only provide key nutrients to plants to grow better, it also prevents bugs from thriving.
3. If new larvae still emerges in your newly potted soil, introducing parasitic nematodes is another way to eliminate these bugs. These harmless worms eliminate bugs larvae by entering their bodies then, eat them. Dr. Pye’s Scanmask comes with 7 million live beneficial nematodes that can destroy soil bugs and pests ranging from cutworms, weevils, grubs, gnats, flea, subterranean termites, Japanese beetles, and other soil-dwelling, wood-boring insects. Though proven safe and effective, it is wise to apply them on your potted plants in an open area like patio or terrace.
4. Another way is to spray insecticidal soap to eliminate bugs that gnaws at a plant’s base just a few inches below the soil. Other lurkers like aphids, spider mites and white flies will also be eliminated using insecticidal soap like this one from Espoma.
5. “Shower” your plants the natural way. You can mix 4 cups of water and 5 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a sprayer then, spray unto plants leaf, soil and stem to dehydrate pests and bugs. Essential oils can also be mixed to create a concoction to repel bugs on soil. Aside from pyrenthrum spray, natural insecticide from dried chrysanthemum flowers, neem oil spray is also an excellent option as it works as both insecticide and fungicide.
6. Stick a clove or two of garlic into your houseplants’ soil. This positive and non-toxic way of eliminating nibbling bugs and pests like mole, gophers and voles. Its overpowering smell repels bugs. You may also concoct your own garlic water recipe to be used as spray or to water plants.
There are ample of ways on how to get rid of bugs in houseplants soil as well as on the plant itself. Some people standby using natural means of doing so, while others go the easier route of buying organic insecticides that eliminate such bugs at their onset. In all these, one important aspect is common though– to immediately apply quick and effective measures in protecting your houseplants and make your container gardening project thrive without pests hanging around.
Houseplant bugs are a real pain. They usually appear after outdoor plants are brought inside for the winter, or when a new houseplant is brought home.
So let’s look into details of common houseplant bugs in soil
- Spider mites are common garden pests grow to about 1/20 inch long with a white, green, red or yellow body and difficult to identify without a magnifying glass. They thrive in warm, dry houses and appear as tiny dots moving across stems, foliage, buds and blooms.
At times the spider mites may appear clustered together on the bottom side of foliage. The biggest telltale sign of spider mites infestation is a white web-like covering on the plant and the soil around it.
A spider mite infestation does not cause severe damage to the plant unless the infested plant is already sick and dying.
How to take care of spider mites infection in home plants
Remove the top layer of soil. Since Spider mites don’t live in potting soil, you can control it by removing the top layer of soil once the spider mites are hosed off the plant with water.
Repeat this control method several times to get rid of any returning spider mites.
Do not go for chemical control unless spider mite infestation is extreme. If you have no choice other than chemical control use the least toxic pesticide options, such as insecticidal soap or neem oil.
If you use pesticides, cover the entire plant including the underside of foliage and the top layer of soil. Note, if you are using insecticidal soap and neem oil the spider mite must come in contact with the liquid to have any effect on them.
Organic Homemade remedy of spider mite infection
Make a solution made of the following:
- 1 cup flour,
- ¼ cup buttermilk,
- 1 gallon of cool water
Mist the plant including the underside of the leaves with the above-made solution to get rid of spider mites.
Since spider mites thrive in dry and hot conditions and tend to attack water-stressed plants more than vigorous ones, providing enough water for the plant without overwatering will keep it healthy and free of problems such as a mite infestation.
Fungus gnats are tiny, mosquito-like flies that may occasionally appear around houseplants. They are harmless to plants in their adult form, but their larvae stage can damage young plant roots.
Since these bugs love the moist potting soil of houseplants, allowing the soil to dry out a little in between waterings can prevent fungus gnats from growing/.
If you see a trail that looks like traces of slugs or snails across the topsoil it is a telltale sign that there are gnats in your houseplants.
While it may be tempting to spray the adult fungus gnat, it will not solve the problem as more adults will appear from the larvae in the soil. So a better approach to stop fungus gnat infestation is to kill them at the larval stage of their life cycle.
Since the gnats lay their eggs in the moist soil around houseplants, reducing moisture is the main key to getting rid of gnats in houseplants. Also, ensure that the houseplants have good drainage. The eggs and larvae usually die in dry soil.
Aphids are tiny sucking insects and the most common ones on houseplants are the light green ones (pear aphids), but aphids can also be found colored pink, white, grey and black.
Aphid infestations happen quickly, and can rapidly travel from one plant to another. In indoor houseplants, aphids spread between plants by flying or crawling.
Aphids damage plants by sucking sap from plants. They generally cluster at the growth end of plants and attach themselves to the soft, green stems. Aphid infestation makes the new foliage look crinkled or stunted.
Note: If the infestation is real bad the plant will begin to drop leaves so if you see aphids on your indoor plants immediately start controlling using one of the options discussed below:
- Wash away the aphids from your plants by blasting a strong stream of water. This is the best method if an infestation is light.
- In case the plant has delicate foliage it won’t be able to tolerate strong hosing of water. For these types of foliage dip the entire plant in water to dislodge the aphids. The best way to do it is to turn the plant upside down and dip the foliage section into a bucket of clean room-temperature water.
- Use insecticidal soap or you can make your own by using a dish detergent such as Ivory Liquid. Use a product free of perfumes and additives that might harm plants. Mix the soap in a weak concentration with water and spray on plants, mainly on the undersides of the leaves.
- Apply neem oil . which besides its insecticidal properties, also is a fungicide.
- You can also apply rubbing alcohol to kill the aphids though it is a little time-consuming.
Mealybugs are scale insects commonly seen on houseplants. They suck the sap out of the leaves and stems of plants, resulting in stunted or deformed leaf growth, yellowing of the leaves, and leaf drop.
Mealybug damage is not as quick to occur or as devastating as it is when you have spider mites on houseplants. But if a mealybug infestation goes left untreated, the plant will eventually die. Although it will usually take a long time for them to kill a plant.
You can use a mixture of rubbing alcohol, water, and dishwashing detergent on mealybugs and scale, too. Regular monitoring of your houseplants is key to beating an infestation.
As with any houseplant pest infestation, when you find a problem, begin mealybug treatment immediately. The first thing to do is quarantine the affected plant(s) so that you can prevent mealybugs from infesting your other houseplants.
The next thing to do is to kill mealybugs using organic pest control products and methods mentioned above. Don’t use synthetic pesticides, as mealybugs are resistant to most chemical pesticides.
So, skip the toxic stuff and use the safest pest control methods mentioned below:
Neem oil: It is a natural pest control product that is very effective for getting rid of mealybugs on houseplants. Not only will it kill the bugs, but it’s also great for residual pest prevention as well.