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How to Kill Insects in Plant Dirt on House Plants

mosquito image by Martin Sevcik from

Houseplants fill a home with beauty and life, but if not monitored carefully, insects can establish themselves in the soil and invade your home in no time. Some bugs that are found in the dirt, such as springtails, can just be irritating, while others insects like mealybugs are known to seriously injure the roots, leaves and overall health of your plant. By using a combination of tactics, kill the insects found in the dirt and other areas of your houseplants so that they continue to thrive.

Allow the soil of your plant to dry out as much as possible between each watering. Insects, such as fungus gnats and springtails, thrive in moist soil conditions; therefore, withholding this moisture helps get rid of the bugs.

Mix 1 tsp. of white vinegar with a pint of water before hydrating your plant. The vinegar kills any gnat larvae and springtails in the dirt.

Spray an insecticidal soap over the soil and all areas of the plant. This process, known as “washing,” extinguishes any larvae and suffocates adults insects including mealybugs.

Remove your plant from the existing soil and replant it in sterilized potting soil. Trashing the old dirt gets rid of any eggs and adult insects that are residing there.

Kill any bugs that you spot on the stems and leaves of your plant so that they do not have a chance to lay eggs in the soil. Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe down the tops and bottoms of the foliage every five days. Further, remove any insects that you can hand pick off of the plant.


Watch your plant closely after you water it to see if you find any insect activity. For example, springtails bounce around after being disturbed.

Rub a small area on your plant with rubbing alcohol as a test before performing step 5. Some varieties are sensitive to this ingredient.


Never use a duster to clean your plant because existing dust can transfer minuscule insects and/or eggs.

Never use garden soil with your plants because the dirt can harbor adult insects and their larvae.

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