Houseplant Pests and Pest Control

The first part of houseplant pest control is overall plant care. Most strong, healthy plants have natural defenses that it can use to prevent pests from getting a foothold. Pests are not common in most types of houseplants, but they do happen. Some plants are also inherently more vulnerable to pests than others. In some cases, companion plants that naturally repel pests can be used to protect vulnerable plants, but this is more common for outdoor gardening than indoor houseplants. Often, it’s obvious that something is attacking your houseplant, but it’s harder to tell if the pest is scale, aphids, mites, or some other bug. Find out how to identify, control and prevent the most common houseplant pests.

Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Scale on Houseplants

Beware of small, dark spots or bumps on the undersides of plants, especially if it’s a cluster. This could be the beginning of a more serious scale infestation with growth that is stunted or dies back altogether. Caught early, you can control and remove scale from houseplants, though it’s often necessary to reapply insecticidal treatments to make sure you’ve got them all. Once these bugs breed and become established in a plant, they can still be treated but are very difficult to eliminate completely. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent scale on houseplants.

scale insects on underside of leaves

Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Aphids on Houseplants

Bigger than many houseplant pests, you may be able to identify aphids by directly examining your plants. Aphids can be almost any color, but most varieties are green, black or white. They primarily live on the backs of leaves, stems, flowers, or roots. They also secrete a sticky honeydew coating, which can attract other insects or mold growth. You may have more success treating aphids because you’re more likely to identify an infestation early on. However, aphids can stunt, deform, discolor, and ultimately destroy houseplants. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent aphids on houseplants.

Aphids on underside of leaves

How to Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Thrips on Houseplants

Thrips are so small (often less than one millimeter) that they are most often identified indirectly by the white or silvery spots they leave behind when feeding on houseplants. As with any pest, early identification is essential before multiple generations are given the chance to breed and do serious harm to your plant. Not sure if your houseplant is struggling with thrips? Use sticky paper traps near plants to trap and more closely examine any thrips or other bugs that your plant may be hosting. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent thrips on houseplants.

Thrips damage on leaf plant

How to Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Spider Mites on Houseplants

There are thousands upon thousands of plant mites, but by far the most common is the two-spotted spider mite. While some types of mites prefer very specific plants, the two-spotted spider mite can attack almost any kind of houseplant. These mites are almost always too small to spot with the naked eye, but they will create webbing to travel along and help attach themselves to plants. This is why they are known as spider mites. Remove as many as you can see and then apply an insecticide/miticide. You can also introduce the predatory mite phytoseiidae to control this pest. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent spider mites on houseplants.

Spider mites on underside of leaves

How to Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Mealybugs on Houseplants

Mealybugs are not easy to identify at first but can be identified by the naked eye once infestations start creating groups of crawlers, larger flying males, or when they begin to cover themselves in white filaments. This is another houseplant pest that secretes honeydew when feeding which may attract other pests or mold growth. Even on their own, mealybugs will do plenty of damage in discoloration and stunted growth that can effectively kill your houseplant. Several rounds of insecticidal treatments are often necessary. You can also introduce the cryptolaemus bug, known as the “mealybug destroyer” to your houseplant. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent mealybugs on houseplants.

Mealybugs on plant stem

How to Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Whiteflies on Houseplants

Whiteflies are often small enough to evade detection at first, but an infestation usually becomes apparent by the time adults start flying around. The adults all have wings, but the crawling nymphs do not. They are just as likely to prefer the tops of plants to use as a launching pad as the underside of leaves. This is another type of houseplant pest that will cause discoloration, stunted growth, and a sticky residue of honeydew. Treatment involves manually spraying and removing as many whiteflies as possible before applying insecticides. Read more about how to identify, treat, control and prevent whiteflies on houseplants.

Whiteflies on top of plant leaves