If your plants had a summer vacation outdoors this year, there’s a chance they may have acquired a few hitchhikers of the insect variety before you brought them back inside for the winter. Bugs on your houseplants are the main reason we always recommend you quarantine your plants when you bring them back inside at the end of the summer, so you don’t end up with all of your houseplants infested.

Bringing Your Plants Indoors

Moving your plants back inside for the winter is a shock to their system, similar to when you moved them out in the summer. So, make sure to give them time to adjust. Ideally, this should involve acclimating them to indoor life over about 7-10 days. Reduce the amount of time they spend outside each day.

Since your houseplants will be a bit stressed by the transition, they’ll be more vulnerable to bugs. This can be a blessing in disguise since they’ll probably show signs of bug stress faster, which means you can start treating them sooner than later.

Bugs in my Plants - How to Combat Common Household Pests

How to Treat Common Household Plant Bugs

Some of the most common houseplant bugs that we end up with from outdoor plants are things like spiders, spider mites, thrips, mealybugs, and fungus gnats. Luckily, these bugs are relatively simple to deal with, but it does take some commitment, patience, and dedication. 

There are several different ways you can tackle bugs in your houseplants:

  • Shower/spray bottle of plain water
  • Castile soap and water
  • Insecticidal soap
  • Nematodes
  • Rubbing alcohol

The most effective course of action for many houseplant pests (not fungus gnats) is to remove the bugs as quickly as possible with water spray and stay vigilant. If you have a small infestation on just one plant, you can shower it in the bathtub with tepid water or spray it down well with a spray bottle. Make sure to get the tops and bottoms of all the leaves, the stems, branches, and all the tiny nooks and crannies. You’ll probably need to repeat this treatment every few days.

Bugs in my Plants - How to Combat Common Household Pests

For a more significant infestation, mix a few drops, or a small squirt, of soap and water in a spray bottle. Castile soap is usually the best, but general dish soap also works well. Similar to water treatment, you’ll need to check and spray for pests every few days. Once you’ve taken care of the bugs, give your plant a shower or a wipe down with a soft cloth to get all the soap residue off.

Insecticidal soap might be your best option if you have a lot of pests on multiple plants. Again, you’ll need to stay vigilant and treat multiple times, and then wash the residue off your plants when you’re finished.

If you have bugs in the soil, you can also use mosquito dunks or nematodes to tackle them. Both products are dissolved in water, which you then use to water your plants.

When it comes to the dreaded mealybug, rubbing alcohol is usually the best solution, applied with a cotton bud. Mealybugs can be difficult to get rid of; it may take months. Sometimes the best bet with mealybugs is just to get rid of the plant altogether.

Bugs in my Plants - How to Combat Common Household Pests

Tackling Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are a bit different from other household bugs. The main differences are: 

  • They don’t cause any damage to your plants’ foliage.
  • They are incredibly annoying and fly in your face a lot.

Fungus gnats show up when the soil in your houseplants is consistently over-saturated. You can water with mosquito dunks and spray with insecticidal soap, but if you just keep watering your plants and never let the soil dry out, you’re never going to get rid of fungus gnats. 

The best way to get rid of fungus gnats is to stop overwatering your plants. Let the soil dry out quite a bit. Wait until the soil is dry to at least an inch deep before watering again, even deeper for tougher and larger plants. Adding yellow sticky sheet traps will catch the adult flying fungus gnats over time. 

Using a layer of something that drains fast and dries quickly over the top of your potting soil can help, too, since the larvae will dry out before they reach the surface. Sand or small decorative gravel can help.

Bugs in my Plants - How to Combat Common Household Pests

How to Prevent Common Houseplant Pests

Once you have your bug situation under control, here are some tips to help prevent infestations from taking over your house in the future:

  • Raise humidity levels with pebble trays or a humidifier.
  • Inspect plants regularly.
  • Thoroughly wash your plants and their pots when you bring them inside.
  • Quarantine new plants for 1-2 weeks and check them every day for signs of pests.

If you need supplies to battle a current pest problem, or if you just want to be ready in case you find evidence of pests in the future, we’ve got you covered. All the supplies you need to protect your houseplants from pests are available at Mother Nature