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How to Use Insecticide for Potted Plants

By Corey M. Mackenzie ; Updated September 21, 2017
Potted plants require insect control, too

Just like plants in the garden, your potted plants--indoors or outdoors--can attract unwanted insects. Many types of insects disturb plants by feeding on foliage, robbing the plants of vitality and sometimes introducing plant diseases. You will help your plant stay healthy (you may even save it from dying) by controlling these pests. One of the fastest ways to control many insects is to use an insecticide on the plant. You can use organic or chemical insecticides, depending on your personal preference.

Determine the kind of insects that are infesting your plant and then choose the appropriate insecticide. What works for mites may not always work for mealy bugs, and vice versa. Mealy bugs often form weblike sticky structures on the underside of leaves, near the stem. Mites are often not as noticeable. If you aren’t sure what kind of insects your plant has, take a photo to your local extension office and they should be able to identify it for you.

Take the potted plants outdoors, if possible, or place them in your bathtub. This will prevent the pesticide from getting on household surfaces such as furniture or floors.

Put on rubber or vinyl gloves to minimize your exposure to the pesticide. If you are using a strong chemical pesticide spray, you may consider wearing eye protection as well.

Follow the insecticide’s label instructions, especially the warnings section about mixing and using the product. If you are using a concentrated chemical that requires diluting, mix it with water in a clean spray bottle. The Colorado State University Extension advises that you only use products that are designed specifically for houseplants on houseplants--don‘t use outdoor garden insecticide on indoor houseplants (if the potted plant is a common garden plant or bush, then go ahead and use a regular garden insecticide, but only use it on the plant outdoors).

Spray the foliage with the insecticide unless you are using a granular pesticide, in which case you place it on the soil and water it in. Make sure you cover all areas, including the underside of leaves where insects like to hide.

Allow the house plants to dry in the shade, if outdoors, before taking them back inside, or before moving them from the bathtub. If you sprayed them in the bathtub, rinse it out after you remove the plants.


Things You Will Need

  • Rubber or vinyl gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Chemical or organic insecticide
  • Spray bottle


  • Sometimes insecticides aren't necessary or are not fully effective for some insects. The Colorado State University Extension advises plant owners to spray plants with a hose occasionally if mites or aphids are a problem. The stream of water removes the insects by force alone.