Houseplants are susceptible to various types of insect pests, many of which are introduced to the home by an infested plant. Inspect new plants carefully for pests before you bring them inside where they can infest other, healthy plants. Knowing how to identify and treat common indoor pests infestations can help keep your plants looking their best.
Always check for common pests, such as whiteflies, scale insect and mealybugs before purchasing a new plant. These pests often appear as whitish patches on the foliage of the plant, and sometimes you can see them moving. As a precautionary measure, keep new houseplants away from existing houseplants for at least three weeks. During this time, check the plants for insects.
Pests such as mealybugs and spider mites are particularly common indoors. Mealybugs are small, oval-shaped bugs that often have a long "tail." Severe infestations may cause a houseplant to wilt or stop growing. Spider mites are tiny red spiders that crawl all over plants and form unattractive small webs. An infestation of spider mites may cause spots on leaves, and the leaves will often die early and fall off the plant.
An insect infestation may be easy to spot thanks to the presence of bugs on the plant, but sometimes the bugs are small and hard to see. Scale exists on the underside of plant leaves cause irregular blisters on the stems and leaves of the plant. Unusual spots, premature leaf wilting and sticky patches on new foliage may all be symptoms of an insect infestation.
Treatment is often as simple as washing away bugs with a steady stream of water. Many gardeners prefer to avoid harsh chemical insecticides, as these may be unsafe to use in the home. Dabbing a plant with rubbing alcohol may help to rid the plant of mealybugs, although you should use it sparingly to avoid burning the plant's foliage. Neem oil, a naturally derived oil made from need seeds, can be applied to the plant to disrupt whiteflies.
Preventing pest infestations is a matter of keeping a houseplant healthy. Avoid over-pruning a plant, as cuts or wounds on the plant are an invitation for pest attacks. Always water away from the foliage, as damp leaves make the plant more susceptible to fungus and pests. Using a fertilizer that's well suited to your specific plant will help boost the plant's immune system, helping it to better fend off attacks.