Indoor Plant Pests

Get Rid of your Indoor Plant Pests

By: Catherine Kroot

When we bring home a plant, they become a part of the family. We take responsibility for their care, just like children  or pets. Plants are a dynamic living entity that can become sick. The chances you might find yourself face to face with indoor plant bugs are high. This is when we might step out of our comfort zone and spend a little more energy taking care of our plants. 

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of indoor plant pests. When I started working at Great GrowIN’s I was given the task to help manage a living wall for a client. As I started grooming and watering the plants, I noticed tiny white powdery mildew, or white circular spots on the leaves and stems. This is one of many signs that your plants have bugs. There’s no need to panic, plant pests are very common and there are many ways to prevent them.

Here are some ways:

  • Before buying or bringing a plant indoors, always check it and it’s container for signs of pests.
  • A plant that has been outside for the summer, may likely have pests that have crawled in through the drainage holes. Take the plant out to examine the soil. If you need to repot, use commercially prepared potting soil rather than soil from outdoors. 
  • Washing smooth-leaved plants every two to three weeks discourages pest infestations, while also improving the appearance of foliage.

In my case, the plants were already being infested with a pest. Although I caught it early, I knew it was going to be a process and could take several weeks or more to get rid of the pests.

My Process:

  • If only an isolated portion of the plant is infested, remove and destroy the infested parts. If the roots are infested, then take a cutting and start a new plant. 
  • Early in the process, you can often remove the infestations with a cloth. 
  • Use a cotton swab that is dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe off insects. 
  • Spraying the plant with a pesticide, which can be obtained at garden centers. Be sure the label specifies the use. 
  • If the plant is severely damaged and is not a valuable one, the best solution may be to discard the plant and it’s soil and start with a new plant. 

It’s been a couple weeks and I have made progress with my clients’ living wall. I frequently spray it with Garden Insect Killer, while also grooming and cleaning the plant. It’s definitely not an easy progress, but all the plants need is some TLC and after some time it will start to look like a happy plant again! 

Other Signs of Indoor Plant Pests

  • Aphids / Greenfly / Blackfly – normally hidden under leaves, typically green, but can be black or grey and arrive in small but quickly reproducing colonies 
  • Centipedes / Millipedes – normally beneficial insects, centipedes will hunt smaller insects and other pests, whereas millipedes will eat organic matter like dropped leaves, which helps turn the matter into useful nutrients for plants. They can be worrying and disturbing to see. 
  • Mealybugs – cause damage by sucking sap from plants, resembling furry white woodlice. 
  • Scale Insects – have a hard outer brown shell that locks them in place and are neatly camouflage, sticky honeydew everywhere. 
  • Sciarid flies / Fungus Gnats – small annoying flies zipping around, eventually find a small colony zipping around the base of your plant. They tend not to harm indoor plants and are more of a nuisance. 
  • Slug / Snails – usually come  from plants that you choose to put outside in the warmer months. However, they are one of the easiest to deal with. 
  • Springtails – small white or grey insects that live off the decaying organic matter found in soils. They aren’t really pests because they do no damage but their presence often attracts attention when you water. The water triggers the Springtails to go wild.