Shoo fly don't bother me!
Ugh, we have to deal with pests in almost every aspect of life, in some form or another and now we have to deal with plant related pests too?
When you think of plant care we think of light and water being the most important things to grow healthy indoor plants, but pests can make all your hard work go out the window and we absolutely don't want that.
There are quite a few creepy critters that want to harm your plant, or just be generally annoying and we want to give you the low down on how to keep them away from your plants so you can live out your days blissfully together.
Stowaways: Be super careful when you bring your plants home as they'll often have stowaways that you don't notice because you've just fallen in love with your new plant and can't see anything but beauty in here. Beware, don't let her problems become the problems of all your sweet plants sitting quietly at home. Check your new friend from top to bottom (before taking her inside), under all leaves, the stem and even the soil for these common greeblies.
Social isolation: Once you've inspected your plant and you think she's pest free, think again. She might have eggs in her soil that are waiting until just the right time to hatch and yell, 'SURPRISE NEW HUMAN MUMMA'. Don't fall for it. It's time to socially isolate your new sweetie into a room on her own for a couple of weeks before introducing her to the gang. Hot tip, here at Leaf & Co HQ, we have a glass cabinet where all new plants go to spend some time on their own before meeting their new family. At this point, we put a yellow sticky insect trap on a stick and place it into the new plant, just to catch any critters that might have hidden in the soil on the way in.
Type of greeblies (bugs)
Oh these jerks are the WORST. They absolutely love your warm, beautiful home and will thrive on your plants. These tiny black flies are the classic example of an annoying nuisance greebly. When an infested plant is disturbed, you'll see a cloud of tiny flies take flight from the soil. Mature adutls live for about a week and although they're disgusting they don't actually damage your plant. Thankfully neither do the larvae who feed on the fungi that grows in potting soil, so your plant is safe. What this means though, is that there can be several stages of life living in your pot, from new eggs, to hatching eggs, to larvae and then the adult gnats which brings the whole life cycle back around. They can be incredibly difficult to get rid of, so here is the easiest way for you to get on top of them:
- They love moist soil, so stop watering. With no moisture the eggs will die and in a week or two you'll have no iterations of their life present anymore. The good news is that this often happens in winter and your plant doesn't need much water to survive, so dry that baby out.
- If that doesn't kill your gnats there are a number of commercial products that will do it. It generally involves putting them on the soil to kill the eggs and thus, the rest of the life cycle. Neem oil is an easy one to find at Bunnings.
- You can also make a mixture of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide with four parts water, then after your soil has dried out, water with the mixture (don't worry about the soil fizzing, it's fine).
- As previously mentioned, we recommend getting some yellow sticky paper, sticking it to a stick and putting it in your soil, this will catch the adults and take care of that part of their life cycle. Be careful though, these sheets are sticky sticky sticky, so don't let the leaves or any other part of the plant touch them.
Another of the more common types of houseplant bugs, scale is sometimes difficult to spot. There are many different species, each with a unique appearance, but the most common houseplant pest scales look like little bumps and are found along the stems and on leaf undersides. Scale insects often have a hard, shell-like covering that makes them difficult to spot and control. They can be gray, black, brown, or fuzzy.
When it comes to houseplant bug problems, scale is probably the most difficult to control, so let's talk about how we get rid of them:
- Grab a makeup cotton pad soaked in isopropyl rubbing alcohol and physically wipe the greeblies off the plant multiple times over a course of a couple of weeks.
- A neem-based pesticide can also be used, but we recommend taking the plant outside to apply it, just follow the label instructions.
The good news about this revolting critter is that it doesn't survive freezing winter temperatures, the bad news is nor does your plant :(
Whiteflies love the warmth and comfort of your home and once they're in there, they'll put up a fight. Sadly, they actually do damage your plant and because they reproduce so quickly and suck sap from your plant, they can leave them wilted with stunted growth and yellow foliage.
So how do we stop them? Well I'm glad you asked:
- Yellow sticky paper first and foremost and is brilliant for catching these creeps as adults.
- Potassium soap sprays are a good choice of control for the home gardener; spray every two to three days for two weeks. Soap sprays work by blocking the insect's breathing pores and dissolving its outer covering, resulting in dehydration. They are considered very safe for the environment.
- Neem oil on the leaves will also help keep the whiteflies at bay.
- Remove old leaves and if there are any whiteflies (at any stage of life), pop it in a bag and into the freezer for a week before throwing it out.
- Take outside and hose off, be very gentle though, jet streams of water and delicate plant growth don't really go hand in hand.
- If you decide to use an insecticide spray and have any future outbreaks, it's best to alternate between different brands as whiteflies become resistant very quickly.
Tho small in stature, these jerks can cause HUGE problems. They suck plant sap through their needle-like mouthparts (terrifying enough for you?) and cause deformed and stunted plant growth.
The good news is they can be fairly easily controlled:
- Wipe them off plants with a soft cloth soaked in water.
- If there is a bad infestation, then you can use insecticides very effectively.
- Gently hose off with water (outside).
Spider mites, oh dear, ick ick ick. Spider mites are actually close relatives of the spider (surprised?) and can cause lots of issues for your planty friends. They are teensy-tiny and can be difficult to see. They spin a fine, silky web, and collectively can cover your entire plant with it.
You might need to resist the urge to throw your plant far away, but don't do that, they are relatively easy to get rid of:
- Take the plant outside and give it a bath with water. Because spider mites are so small they are easily washed off. Once you've bathed your plant, gently dry off it off, including upper and lower leaf surfaces.
- Once the plant has dried, use some light-weight horticultural oil (like neem oil) to smother them. Reapply ever 2 weeks for a month to help beat the spider mites.
So they are the most common pests that can wreak havoc on your plants. By following the first two steps (preventative) at the start of this post, and jumping on any pests you find, we're confident that you'll be able to keep your green babies healthy and pest free for years to come.
It's worth mentioning that any foliage you remove should be put in the bin and never in compost.
We hope this helps you sleep at night knowing your plant friends are safe from the horror of sap-sucking little a-holes.