Detecting and Defeating Houseplant Pests: A Comprehensive Guide

Houseplants bring beauty and vitality to our indoor spaces but can also be victims of pesky invaders. Common pests can wreak havoc on your plants if left unchecked, but you can keep them at bay with vigilance and proper care. In this guide, we'll discuss how to spot, identify, and effectively deal with these houseplant pests to ensure the health and longevity of your indoor greenery.

The key to making sure your plants stay healthy is regular checks and leaf cleaning. If you detect any pests or signs of infestation, isolate the affected plant to prevent the pests from spreading to other plants.

Identifying Common Houseplant Pests:


Scale insects are tiny, oval-shaped pests that attach themselves to plant stems and leaves, sucking out sap and weakening the plant. They often appear as small bumps or scales on the plant surface and can vary in colour from brown to black. To spot scale infestations, examine plant stems and leaves closely for signs of scale clusters, especially along the veins and in leaf axils.


To treat scale insects naturally: You have several effective options to treat scale infestations on houseplants using natural methods. One method involves creating a solution of water and mild dish soap. Mix one to two teaspoons of dish soap per litre of water in a spray bottle and thoroughly coat the affected plant's stems and leaves with the solution. The soap helps dissolve the protective coating of the scales, ultimately suffocating them. Another method utilises rubbing alcohol, which can be mixed in equal parts with water and sprayed onto the affected plant surfaces. Rubbing alcohol helps dissolve the scales' protective covering, effectively killing them. Lastly, SB Invigorator, a botanical insecticide made from plant extracts, can be diluted according to the manufacturer's instructions and sprayed directly onto the affected areas. SB Invigorator works by smothering and suffocating the scale insects while being safe for beneficial insects and the environment. Regardless of the method chosen, it's essential to monitor the plant regularly and reapply the treatment as needed until the scale infestation is eradicated, ensuring the health and vitality of your houseplants.


Spotting mealybugs on plants and in roots requires keen observation and attention to detail. Mealybugs, small soft-bodied insects covered in a white, cottony substance, often gather in clusters on the stems, leaves, and leaf axils of plants, particularly in areas with new growth. They can also be found along the undersides of leaves, hiding in the crevices where they feed on plant sap. Mealybug infestations may cause leaves to turn yellow, wilt, or become distorted, and the presence of sticky honeydew residue can attract ants or promote the growth of sooty mould. To check for mealybugs in the roots, gently lift the plant from its pot and inspect the soil for white, cottony masses or clusters of insects around the root ball. Mealybugs on roots can hinder water and nutrient uptake, leading to stunted growth and plant decline. Regular monitoring and early detection are crucial for effectively managing mealybug infestations and preventing plant damage.

To treat Mealybug insects naturally: A multi-pronged approach is recommended to eliminate a Mealybug infestation on houseplants effectively. Start by physically removing the pests by gently wiping them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or a mild soap solution. Prune away heavily-infested plant parts and dispose of them properly. Next, natural insecticides such as SB Invigorator, insecticidal soap, or dish soap should be applied to the affected areas, ensuring thorough coverage of the plant surfaces. Repeat the treatment every 7-10 days until the infestation is eradicated. Introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings can also help control mealybug populations. Additionally, improve air circulation around plants and avoid overwatering to create less favourable conditions for mealybugs. Regularly inspect plants for signs of new infestations and take prompt action to prevent further spread.

Treating mealybugs on plant roots with hydrogen peroxide can be an effective and environmentally friendly solution. Begin by preparing a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, using one part hydrogen peroxide to three parts water. Gently lift the infested plant from its pot and carefully remove excess soil from the roots. Then, soak the roots in the hydrogen peroxide solution for about 30 minutes to one hour, ensuring thorough coverage. The hydrogen peroxide helps to kill mealybugs and their eggs while oxygenating the soil, which can benefit the plant's root health. After soaking, rinse the roots with clean water to remove any remaining solution and replant the treated plant in fresh, well-draining soil. Regularly monitor the plant for signs of mealybug reinfestation and repeat the treatment if necessary.


Detecting a thrips infestation on houseplants requires a keen eye and attention to detail throughout their lifecycle. Both juvenile and adult thrips can cause damage, so it's important to recognise signs of infestation at all stages. Look for tiny, slender insects moving quickly along the undersides of leaves or within flowers, as these are likely adult thrips. Juvenile thrips, which are smaller and lighter in colour, may be harder to spot but can still cause significant damage. Early signs of infestation include silvery or stippled patches on leaves, distorted or curled foliage, and brown streaks along leaf veins. Thrips also leave behind dark faecal specks and sticky honeydew residue, which can lead to the growth of sooty mould. Regularly monitoring houseplants, particularly new growth and flowers, is crucial for detecting thrips and implementing control measures before they can cause extensive damage. Understanding the lifecycle of thrips, which includes egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages, can help identify infestations and prevent their spread.

A comprehensive strategy is essential to combat a thrips infestation on indoor plants using natural methods. Begin by inspecting plants regularly for signs of thrips, focusing on new growth and undersides of leaves. Physically remove thrips by gently wiping affected areas with a damp cloth or using a handheld vacuum cleaner. Improve plant hygiene by removing dead or decaying plant matter, as thrips often hide in debris. Remove any badly affected leaves as they lay eggs in new leaf tissue. Introduce natural predators such as predatory mites, lacewings, or minute pirate bugs to help control thrips populations.

Additionally, apply insecticidal soap or diluted washing up liquid to the affected plant surfaces. These natural remedies disrupt thrips' feeding and reproductive cycles while being safe for plants and beneficial insects. Repeat treatments weekly until the infestation subsides, and maintain regular monitoring to prevent re-infestation. With persistence and a combination of natural methods, you can effectively manage thrips and protect your indoor plants.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that feed on plant sap by piercing leaf tissue and sucking out fluids. They are often found on the undersides of leaves and produce fine webbing, giving infested plants a dusty appearance. Check the undersides of leaves for fine webbing and tiny mites moving along the leaf surface. You may also notice stippling, webbing, and leaf discolouration on affected leaves.

Organic methods are essential to naturally address spider mites infesting indoor plants. Begin by isolating the affected plants to prevent mite spread. Thoroughly wash the leaves with a gentle water and mild dish soap solution, covering both sides to disrupt the mites' protective coating. After washing, consider applying a botanical insecticide like SB Invigorator, which is derived from plant extracts. Dilute it according to the instructions and spray it on the plant, suffocating the mites while being harmless to beneficial insects. Enhance the plant's resilience by providing optimal growing conditions, such as proper watering and humidity levels. Regularly monitor the plants for any signs of mites and continue treatments as necessary until the infestation is under control. By combining gentle washing with botanical solutions and attentive plant care, you can effectively manage spider mites and revive the health of your indoor plants.


 Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that come in various colours, including green, black, and brown. They feed on plant sap by piercing leaves and stems with their mouthparts. Look for clusters of aphids on new growth, tender stems, and the undersides of leaves. You may also notice distorted growth, curling leaves, and the secretion of sticky honeydew residue.

Organic methods offer practical solutions to combat aphid infestations naturally on indoor plants. Begin by physically removing aphids by gently spraying affected plants with a strong stream of water, dislodging and washing away the pests without causing harm to the plant. Alternatively, prepare a homemade insecticidal soap by mixing mild dish soap with water and spraying it directly onto the aphids. This solution disrupts their cell membranes, leading to their demise. Introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings can also help control aphid populations, as these natural predators feed on the pests. Consistent monitoring and treatment are crucial until the aphid infestation is successfully managed, ensuring the health and well-being of your indoor plants without resorting to harsh chemical pesticides.

Fungus gnats

Small flying insects, resembling mosquitoes, are a common nuisance for indoor plant enthusiasts. These pests thrive in damp, organic-rich soil and often hover around potted plants. While adult fungus gnats are primarily harmless, their larvae can cause damage by feeding on plant roots and organic matter in the soil.

To address fungus gnat infestations, targeting both the adults and larvae is essential. Methods to control fungus gnats include allowing the soil to dry out between waterings to disrupt their breeding cycle, using yellow sticky traps to capture adult gnats, and applying a layer of sand or gravel to the soil surface to prevent egg-laying. Furthermore, beneficial soil-dwelling organisms like predatory nematodes or soil-dwelling mites can be introduced to prey on fungus gnat larvae, providing an eco-friendly solution to manage infestations. Regular maintenance practices such as proper watering, good drainage, and removing decaying organic matter also help prevent fungus gnat problems, ensuring the health and vitality of indoor plants.

Hot tips for getting rid of most pests:

One of our favorite methods of pest removal for all of the above (excluding fungus gnats), especially for plants with lots of crevices, is what we call a "soapy water baptism." This method involves literally dunking your plant pot soil and all in room-temperature soapy water and letting it sit submerged for about 20 minutes. This method ensures that all parts of the plant are covered and none of those pesky pests are left untreated. 

In Conclusion 

The key to any treatment method is diligence and continual and thorough treatment until the problem is controlled.

Houseplant pests can be a nuisance, but with prompt detection and appropriate action, you can effectively manage and control infestations. By familiarising yourself with the signs of common pests like scale, mealybugs, thrips, spider mites, and aphids and implementing proactive pest management strategies, you can keep your indoor garden thriving and pest-free. Monitor your plants regularly and intervene at the first sign of trouble to protect your beloved greenery. With natural remedies, you can combat pests effectively while minimising harm to your plants and the environment.

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