Natural pest control for houseplants …just say NO to toxic pesticides!

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It can be frustrating to find bugs on a beloved houseplant. But if you have houseplants, at some point you will likely have to deal with houseplant pests. It’s no fun – trust me, I know, but there are many ways to control houseplant pests without using toxic pesticides. First, let’s identify which pests are bugging your houseplants, then we’ll look at some methods of natural pest control for houseplants.

Types of houseplant pests

  • Mealybugs are soft bodied scale insects. A mealybug infestation looks like cotton or white powder on the stems, leaf joints or along the veins of leaves.
  • Spider mites are tiny and difficult to see. The telltale sign of a spider mite infestation is spider webs on the underside of leaves, or between newly formed leaves. Look closely and you can see the tiny mites moving around on the fine webbing.
  • Soil gnats, also known as fungus gnats, look similar to fruit flies and are just as annoying. Soil gnats lay their eggs in moist soil, where the larvae will hatch and feed on small roots, fungus, and other organic matter in the soil.
  • Whiteflies are easy to identify, the adults will fly around when the leaves of an infested plant are disturbed. Whiteflies lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.
  • Scale can be very difficult to notice on a plant. Even if you do notice them, they don’t look like bugs. Houseplant scale looks like small brown or greyish colored dots or bumps along the leaf veins, stems, and leaf joints of the plant.
  • Aphids are usually green, but can be just about any color. They are small, fat, and juicy. Many times aphids will blend in with the foliage of the houseplant, making them hard to spot until the plant is infested.

Related Post: Plant vs. pest: 3 ways to victory!

Natural pest control for houseplants

Don’t use chemical pesticides (also known as insecticides) to try to kill houseplant pests. Not only are they dangerous to you, your family, and your pets; chemical pesticides are expensive and they don’t always work to kill houseplant pests. Some common houseplant pests are resistant, or can quickly build up resistance to chemicals. Try these safer, more effective methods instead.

Neem Oil And Soap To Kill Houseplant Pests

  • Soapy water – Soap kills houseplant pests on contact. Treat infested plants using water mixed with a mild liquid soap. The recipe that works the best for me is one teaspoon mild liquid soap  (I use Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild liquid soap) to one liter of water. Use in a spray bottle, or to wash the leaves of heavily infested plants (test it on a leaf first to make sure the plant isn’t sensitive to the mixture).
  • Rubbing alcohol – Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove insect pests from the plant. This can be a bit tedious, but it works great to remove large clusters of pests like aphids, scale, or mealybugs from a plant.
  • Neem oil is a natural, organic product that can be very effective for controlling and eliminating common houseplant pests. Neem oil works by messing with the brains of the pest insects so they stop eating and mating, and then eventually die off.  It also has a residual effect, so you don’t have to treat the plant every day like you would with other methods. If you have issues with houseplant pests, I highly recommend buying some organic neem oil.
  • Soil toppers – Top the soil of an infested houseplant with a product like Gnatnix or sand to control soil gnats. Topping the soil with diatomaceous earth could also help control soil gnats and other pests that live and breed in houseplant soil.
  • Yellow sticky trapsYellow sticky traps are inexpensive and work great to capture adult flying houseplant pests like soil gnats and whiteflies.

It will take several treatments to eliminate any houseplant pest infestation, persistence is key. Once you start treating a houseplant for a pest infestation, continue to treat it at least once a day until the infestation is under control. Don’t despair, we can win this battle and keep our houseplants pest free.

More Posts About Natural Pest Control

Leave a comment below and share your methods of natural pest control for houseplants with us!

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There are many ways to control houseplant pests without using toxic pesticides. Try these safer methods of natural pest control for houseplants instead!

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6 Responses to Natural pest control for houseplants …just say NO to toxic pesticides!

  1. I know this is nit-picky, and I apologize in advance for bringing it up, but this is a pet peeve of mine. These are all pesticides — by definition, anything that kills pests is an pesticide. And soap, neem oil, and alcohol are all chemical pesticides, while the last two are mechanical pesticides. A more accurate way to describe them is as organic pesticides as opposed to synthetic pesticides.

  2. savvygardening says:

    Thanks for sharing your input Joseph, we always appreciate it. 🙂


  3. Hilary McLeod says:

    How do you mix/apply the neem oil?

    • It depends on the type of neem oil you buy. The neem oil that I recommend in the post need to be mixed with a soapy water solution, and I use the Dr. Bronner’s organic liquid soap to mix mine. (it has the exact mixing instructions on the label). Some other types of neem oil come pre-mixed and don’t need any extra mixing, but be careful because not all of them are organic and could be mixed with other chemicals.

  4. Leslie Walker says:

    None of the bugs listed are what I am having a problem with. Mine are tiny black bugs coming from the soil that are fast and scramble every where when I touch the pot the plant is in. I have treated the soil with the soap mixture when I potted it but it seems to have only gotten rid of the fungus gnats.

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