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How to Treat Bugs in House Plants

By Pamela Gardapee ; Updated September 21, 2017

Knowing how to treat bugs in house plants will help you keep your plants healthy and thriving. Plants that have bugs will show signs of infestations either with discoloring of or small holes in the leaves. Just because houseplants are indoors does not meant that they are safe from bugs. Bugs can travel inside on pets, shoes and clothes. But you can treat the plants to get rid of the bugs and save the plants.

Treat whiteflies, which look like dandruff but with two wings, with an insecticidal soap spray. Make sure to get underneath the leaves. Apply this spray every two days until the whiteflies are gone. Quarantine the plant so that the bugs do not infect other plants.

Use a spray bottle with a strong sprayer and water to treat thrips. Repeat the process in three days to ensure the thrips are gone. The thrips will suck on juices in the plant leaves causing pale spots.

Treat red spider mites with mild soapy water and a washrag. Wipe the leaves gently with the solution and rag. Pay attention to the bottom of the leaves. Give the plant another treatment in four days to make sure the eggs dead. This process might take a month or so to complete. The spider mite is a tiny red dot that is hard to see with the naked eye.

Check the underside of the leaves and stems for an oval-shaped insect, which can be scale. Use a small toothbrush to remove the scale from the leaves and stems by gently brushing. Use mild soapy water to wipe the areas where the scale was removed.

Treat mealy bugs, which are oval-shaped bugs with strands that resemble legs, and leave cotton masses that are actually eggs on the plant leaves, with a mild soapy solution and a washrag. Alcohol-soaked rags can be used, but can damage the leaves of the plants. Test a small area by gently wiping it with the rag and allow it to sit for a few hours to see whether the leaves burn from the alcohol. If so, use the soapy water.

Treat aphids with a soft toothbrush and soapy water. Place a piece of plastic over the pot and soil so that it holds the soil in the pot. Use the brush to remove as many of the aphids as possible. Turn the plant upside down and swish around (dunk and move from side to side a few times) in a mild soapy water solution. Otherwise, use a washrag and a soapy solution and wipe every leaf and stem by hand. Aphids are oval-shaped and may be gray, red, yellow, black, green or white in color.


Things You Will Need

  • Soft toothbrush
  • Washrag
  • Soapy water
  • Plastic bag
  • Spray bottle


  • Always try the alternative methods as described in these steps for controlling bugs before using harsher chemicals such as insecticides on plants.

About the Author


Pamela Gardapee is a writer with more than seven years experience writing Web content. Being functional in finances, home projects and computers has allowed Gardapee to give her readers valuable information. She studied accounting, computers and writing before offering her tax, computer and writing services to others.