There is nothing more annoying than having a houseplant with insect infestation and not knowing what to do about it. To prevent destruction from pesky insects, though, you must know what you are up against and what is effective to keep the pests away.
Signs of Insects
Usually, yellowish leaves are a sign of over-watering, but in some cases it can be an indication of an insect infestation. In most cases you can identify an insect problem if you notice deformed, yellowish, curled, or dropping leaves, stunted growth, or sticky deposits on the leaves and stems. Or you may even see the insects that are visible to the eye.
Common Houseplant Insects
Since some houseplants have fragrances or saps that are attracting, just about any common household insect can live in or off your plant. But some insects are more commonly found in houseplants ready to destroy it in a matter of days if not prevented.
Aphids are a type of plant lice that form colonies or clumps on the undersides of leaves, especially on new growth. Inside the pear-shaped, green, black, or brown bodies are the lice-like insects sucking the juices from the plant, and aphids reproduce rapidly.
Mealybugs are oblong, waxy-white, and hairy-looking insects that live in the stem joints where they suck the plant’s juices and cause fungus and disease.
Fungus gnats are tiny gnats that produce larvae that feed on the soil and roots of plants. These insects can cause disease in the plant making it difficult to cure.
Spidermites are microscopic insects that live off plant juice. You may notice light webbing around the stems or underside of leaves if the plant is infested with a spidermite.
Scales are white, yellow, brown, gray, or black insects that form a hard-shelled lump on the stem or leaves. They can be hard to recognize since the lump can appear as part of the plant.
Whiteflies are triangular, white-bodied insects that live on the underside of leaves. You’ll notice a swarm if the plant is disturbed.
If you have a mild case of the insect, you can easily wash plant with dish liquid and water to remove individually. However, if an infestation begins, these insects can cause disease and be hard to rid.
Insecticides and Home-remedies
You can take preventative measures before an infestation happens. An approach that is more common is the use of insecticide sprays. One effective and popular product is Soap-Shield, though most any insecticide spray works well. If you prefer a cost-effective route, homemade remedies such as mint tea, rhubarb tea, buttermilk, plant juice, and alcohol can be formulated into sprays to kill, prevent, and repel insects.
Here are some recipes for home-remedies.
Mint Tea Spray Boil mint tea bags, strain tea juice, and add two parts water in a spray bottle.
Spray the solution directly on infested areas and around topsoil.
Rhubarb Tea Spray Boil tea and rhubarb together, strain tea juice and add two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly on infested areas and around topsoil.
Buttermilk Spray Add two cups buttermilk with four cups wheat flour to five gallons water. Pour into a spray bottle, spraying infested areas.
Plant Juice Take infected leaves and extract the juices, then mix with one or two parts water to make a spray solution. Spray the solution directly on infested areas.
Alcohol Spray Mix four parts water with three parts rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture around topsoil and infested areas.
When using an insecticidal or homemade spray to rid an infestation, be sure to use continually for about five days. If used as a continued preventative, spray around topsoil and leaves once a week.
Keeping an Insect-free Plant
Maintaining a healthy houseplant requires little effort. A good organic potting soil, the proper amount of water, regular feedings with plant food, regular cleaning or trimming of leaves and stems, and repotting when necessary are really all it takes. It takes little more effort to give extra care to prevent insects. Besides thoroughly checking the plant on a regular basis and spraying weekly with an insecticide, there isn’t much more to do unless you find an insect infestation.
If you find insects living in your houseplant, make sure you quarantine the infected plant so others do not become inhabited. Try washing the plant with dish liquid and water to remove insects. If this doesn’t help, spray with an insecticide. It is best to go ahead and change the potting soil since a healthy, organic soil helps prevent eighty percent of insect damage.
Before repotting, make sure to thoroughly clean pot and wash hands. If a plant is beyond saving, destroy it immediately, and spray other plants as a precaution. When bringing in a new plant, it is best to isolate it for a week before placing it inside and around other plants.
Don’t let an infestation take over and ruin the attractiveness a houseplant can add to your home. Follow this simple insect prevention to help keep your houseplants healthy and growing.