House plants can bring a sensory circus into your home: beautiful colors and enticing scents, as well as a touch of the beauty of the outdoors. If you keep plants in your home, however, you run the risk of attracting insects. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln says that the most common houseplant insect infestations involve white flies, aphids, mealy bugs, trips, scales and spider mites. Getting rid of these pests will protect your home and your plants from potential damage.
You can remove many insect infestations on house plants without using chemical insecticides, especially if the infestation is light, advise professors from the University of Minnesota. Prune any areas of the plant that have substantial infestation and damage to prevent the bugs from spreading to other healthy areas of the plant. If a plant is too badly infected or damaged, cut your losses and remove it from your collection before the infestation spreads to the other plants in your home.
Use a spray bottle filled with warm water to remove smaller insects, including aphids and mites, from the plant with just a few sprays. For more resilient infestations, mix a half-teaspoon of mild detergent (such as dish soap) with a quart of lukewarm water. Soak a soft cotton cloth in this solution and wipe away the insects; the detergent will kill small bugs, but will not harm the plant itself.
Pick off larger insects with tweezers, a nail file or a pen knife. Remove or kill all of the insects you find, as well as any larvae, to prevent more bugs from propagating. Setting sticky traps near your plant will help to reduce the number of flying insects, trapping them on the sticky surface, but will not eliminate all insects from your plant.
If non-chemical solutions do not eliminate your pest infestation, use insecticides. If possible, take your house plants outside to apply insecticide solutions, to avoid contamination to family members or pets.
Insecticides are available at nurseries, garden centers and hardware stores. There are a number of insecticides on the market, and their applications instructions vary. Follow the product's instructions regarding dilution and the amount to apply to the plant. To much insecticide would kill the plant as well as the insect. If you have questions regarding a particular product, consult an expert at one of these retailers.
Identifying and Preventing Infestations
All of your removal efforts depend on properly identifying an infestation. Leaves that turn yellow could be a result of infestation, but could also mean that the plant is not getting enough nutrients and water. If leaves are curling, drying and dying, immediately remove the plant to avoid contaminating other plants. Always isolate new plants you bring into your home from the rest of your house plants, until you are sure they carry no insects.
Make sure that plants receive the proper amount of sunlight, food and water; plants that are struggling to survive will be less likely to fight off insect infestations. You can also clean the leaves and stems with lukewarm water or the cleaning solution mentioned above to prevent dirt or decaying material from attracting bugs.