Preventing Bugs on Indoor Plants

No matter the season, filling your home with plants is a fantastic way of bringing nature inside, providing that much-needed garden therapy in the comfort of your own home.

Having a family of houseplants can make your home feel very tranquil and cozy... until you discover an infestation of unwanted pests, urgh! I know the pain of finding out your beloved houseplants have been plagued by bugs, but the good news is that it's a common problem and easy to resolve.

Today I'll explain how to prevent bugs on indoor plants and identify and eliminate those annoying pests if they've already set up home on your plants! Read along to find out how to protect your plant brood.

What Are The Common Houseplant Pests?

  • Aphids: Aphids can live outside and inside, and they can be identified by their small black or green bodies and the honeydew they produce. They can be found on flower buds, plants, and new growth.

  • Mealybugs: Flat, waxy, and small, mealybugs resemble little cotton spots. They can be found on hippeastrum, palms, azaleas, and ferns.

  • Scale insects: A sapsucker species, scale insects thrive in dry and warm climates, and unfortunately, this means certain indoor plants are the perfect home for them. They're recognized by their small, oval-shaped bodies that resemble wax-brown disks.

  • Fungus gnats: Spotted some tiny flies whizzing around your plants? Yeah, you've probably got fungus gnats. They infest potting mixes and soil, preferring moist soil so they can lay eggs.

  • Red spider mites: Just like a spider, these small red insects have eight legs, and they thrive in dry, hot conditions as they look for moisture from the plants. Their sucking motions cause mottling, and you may even find webs in severe cases.

  • Whitefly: Whiteflies are tiny insects that zip around and are covered in a powdery substance. They excrete honeydew, and the powdery covering can be found underneath leaves as the flies slurp on the plant's sap.

What to Look For When Buying a Plant

The first step in reducing houseplant bugs is to buy already healthy plants. If you're buying plants in person, be sure to have a thorough look at them before you take them home. The odd yellow leaf or brown spot isn't an issue.

But, more widespread problems like extremely pale foliage or patterns of spots on its leaves mean the plant is a distressed pest magnet. Once you've picked out your new plant, take the time to examine it well (top AND bottom).

It's common for pests to make themselves comfortable on the underside of the leaves, so make sure to flip them over and give them a look!

How To Keep Your Plants Bug-Free

Don't overwater

The perfect breeding ground for pests is soil that remains moist for long periods. These annoying flying insects are often confused with fruit flies, but they won't hurt your plants; they're just distracting and unpleasant to look at.

To avoid them, don't water your plants again until the top of the soil is dry - the fly eggs and larvae won't survive on the dry soil surface. You could also try yellow sticky traps to catch as many adult flies as possible.

Routinely check your plants for common houseplant pests

Because houseplants are especially vulnerable to pests during winter, you'll need to be super vigilant. You might only need to water your plants once per week in the winter, but you'll need to take a look at them more often.

Pay particular attention to the undersides of the leaves, plant roots, and the joints where the limbs attach to the main stem.

If you find any of these signs, the infested plants will need to be quarantined in a room without other plants and treated to eliminate the infestation. Look out for yellowing leaves, wilting, or mold growing in the soil.

Quarantine new plants

Ok, I understand it's hard to resist bringing home another houseplant baby! But, be careful when introducing new houseplants to your current gang.

Always quarantine them, preferably in a room on their own, for a minimum of two weeks. During the quarantine period, check them for signs of pest infestations every few days.

Provide good airflow

Stale air can create the perfect environment for pests to thrive! But, keeping a fan running in rooms where your houseplants are kept is an excellent way of keeping the air circulating well to avoid pests and mold.

Occasional baths

Giving your houseplants an occasional shower using tepid water has two benefits: firstly, it helps to eliminate dust from the leaves. Secondly, spraying the stems, leaves, top, bottom, and pot can help prevent plant pests.

Wash and bleach your pots

Don't put your plants into dirty pots during the repotting process. Get into a habit of bleaching and washing the pots when you remove a plant. Alternatively, you can do it before you begin repotting your plants.

Turn the humidity up

Most indoor plants need humidity levels of around 40-60%. During the winter, the air inside can get very dry. If so, consider getting a humidifier and placing it near your plants.

Use fresh sterile potting soil

Always use soil designed for indoor plants, and never use regular garden soil! As long as you're repotting a bug-free plant, it's ok to reuse some of the soil for a new pot for the same plant.

How Can I Have Healthy Plants?

Keeping your plants healthy means a bug infestation is less likely to happen. But how do you do this? Just follow these tips:

  • Ensure your plants are getting plenty of light

  • Provide your plants with enough fertilizer during the growing season

  • Use suitable size pots

  • Use high-quality fresh soil


What causes bugs in indoor plants?

To get rid of houseplant bugs and stop them from returning, you need to know where they initially come from. These pests are teeny tiny, and they seem to just suddenly appear out of thin air.

Below, I've listed some common ways houseplant pests can make their way onto and terrorize your plants:

  • Newly arrived plants

  • Outdoor plants that are now kept inside

  • Potting soil

  • Fresh produce or flowers

  • Open doors or windows

Why do my plants keep getting bugs?

Indoor plant infestations are typically worse than outside because no natural predators live in your home to control the pests - so unless you have an army of ladybugs in your home, an indoor infestation can easily occur.

Although your plants can suffer an infestation during any season, they're most vulnerable in the winter months.

How can I keep bugs away from my plants without using pesticides?

I recommend using organic insecticidal or gentle liquid soap to wash plant leaves. Then, spray them using neem oil, a natural insecticide, especially for houseplants. This oil can ensure long-term pest control.

Synthetic pesticides shouldn't be used because indoor houseplant pests can become resistant to synthetic treatments.

Final Thoughts

As a houseplant parent, it's unfortunately inevitable that you'll have to deal with pests at some point. But, with some planning and some TLC, there are ways to ensure your plants stay healthy and pest-free.