Whiteflies devastate houseplants and are one of the biggest problems that plant owners deal with. Unfortunately, most people end up throwing infected houseplants away. The plants look hopeless with their shriveled-up leaves and mysterious sticky residues.
Identifying whiteflies is relatively easy. Shake your plant in question and you’ll see dozens (if not hundreds) of tiny little white things flying around. Whiteflies are not flies, but belong instead to the Homoptera insect family which means “the same wing.” They also have white and waxy substances that secrete from abdominal glands.
Upon inspection of the leaves, you will also find tiny little white designs on your plants. These circular and spiral patterns reflect the eggs that are usually laid underneath the leaf. Also, honeydew isn’t a green-colored melon — it’s a sticky substance that the whiteflies secrete all over your plant.
Plants are injured by the whiteflies because they literally suck the life out of the plants. The tiny flies suck juices from the leaves causing wilting, drying up and browning of leaves, stunted growth and eventual death. If that isn’t bad enough, a female whitefly can lay from 150 to 300 eggs in her lifetime!
The most important step in ridding your houseplants of whiteflies is to first inspect any plant that you are considering to purchase. Shake the plant, inspect the undersides of it’s leaves for egg patterns and watch for tiny little white insects flying around the plant. (Whitefliles are smaller than fleas.) If you see any of these signs, don’t buy it! If you do, then you will probably infect the rest of your houseplants.
If you have determined that one or more of your houseplants is infected with whiteflies then you need to decide whether you want to treat it with an insecticide or a natural remedy.
Insecticides are dangerous and if you have animals then defer to the natural remedies. If you use an insecticide, choose a spray containing acephate or malathion. Make sure your plant is listed on the product label. Coat both sides of the leaves when spraying. Also, remember to use ventilation and eye protection.
Natural remedies that work just as well or better than insecticides include the following:
Safer-Soap (registered trademark) works well and helps to dislodge the whiteflies from the plant. Spray weekly and follow directions on the back of the bottle.
Home-made wash recipe: blend three large onions, one hot pepper pod or three tablespoons cayenne pepper, one teaspoon vegetable oil, and one garlic bulb. Cover the mixture with a little bit of water and let stand overnight. Sieve and put into one-gallon jug and top it off with water. Spray weekly or more often for heavy infestations.
Home-made remedy: Remove leaves with egg patterns. (They’ll be sucked dry anyway.) Cut out a piece of yellow or orange cardboard and coat with petroleum jelly or Vicks VapoRub.
Stick the coated cardboard into the soil next to the plant. Shake the plant and the flying insects, attracted to the yellow color, will unwittingly “stick” themselves to the cardboard. do this every day until you no longer see the tiny white fliers flitting around anymore.