Every plant owner has faced this dilemma at one time or another: the appearance of unwelcome pests on their indoor plants. What should you do if pests have invaded your plant? The following guide will help you understand why pests show up, how to do your best to prevent them, and the best methods for treatment.
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Houseplant Pests: Why Do They Appear?
Pests can enter your home and infest your plants in several different ways. One common way for pests to enter the home is by merely flying through an open window. They can also come in latched onto clothing, pets, produce, or even other plants purchased from nurseries or stores. If the pests go undetected, they can easily turn from a few stowaways or eggs into a full-blown infestation.
Preventing Houseplant Pests
Many plant owners will say that the best treatment for houseplant pests is to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. The following are some ways that you can drastically reduce the chances that your plants will be infested.
Maintain your houseplant properly
Weak and improperly cared for plants are more likely to be infested then strong plants. You can help prevent infestations by caring for your houseplant properly. Ensure they have enough water, adequate lighting, and nutrients through good soil and regular fertilizing.
Use clean soil and planters
Pests can hitch a ride on dirty soil or planters, so you can help prevent pest infestations by using clean soil and containers for your plants.
Inspect your plants regularly to identify problems early
Some pest infestations are not easily noticeable until they are well underway. You can help stop infestations before they explode by regularly inspecting your plants for signs of pest problems, such as the presence of insects, holes or discoloration on the leaves, and so on. The earlier you spot pest problems, the less likely the issue will become an infestation.
"Quarantine" new plants for a month or use gentle insecticides
Bringing a new plant into the home carries the risk of bringing passed along with it. You can help prevent this type of exposure by quarantining your new plants for about a month away from your other indoor house plants appear. This will give you time to spot potential problems, such as pest infestations. If it’s not possible to quarantine your plant, you can use gentle plant-friendly insecticide as a precautionary measure.
Treating Pest-Infested Houseplants
If your house plant has become infested with pests, then you need to treat it as soon as possible. The longer you wait for treatment, the more likely the plant will become too infested to save. The following are some of the best ways you can treat pest-infested house plants.
Physically remove pests and problem areas with fingers or tools
If the pests are large enough, you can remove them with your fingers or tools such as Q tip or plant sticks. For this method, come through every area of the plant and remove any pests that you see. To kill them, have a dish filled with gentle soap (such as Castile) and water nearby; drop the pests into the soapy water to kill them. You may also need to remove areas of the plant that are heavily affected, such as entire leaves or branches covered in pests.
Use gentle household products to treat infested plants
You can use some gentle household products on many indoor plants. Gentle soaps, such as Castile soaps, can be used on most plants without harming them. Make sure to avoid putting your plants into sunlight until you have thoroughly washed the soap off since soap will increase your plant's chances of sunburn.
Never use dish soap on your plants. Although dish soap can kill insects (it is a common natural treatment for fleas), it is too strong for plants and will likely cause them to become damaged or even die.
Treat the plant with insecticide formulas
If physical removal and household products are not enough, you can consider using specific insecticide products.
Diatomaceous earth – a type of powder, and Neem oil are both natural and effective. Simply spray the oil or sprinkle the powder on your Pilea so that there is a light layer on the leaves and the soil. Keep treating the plant every day, for at least 7-10 days. The bugs will walk through it and die shortly after contact.
Although these are gentle products, make sure to err on the side of caution when using them. Test the product on a small plant area and wait for 24 hours to see how it reacts.
Should You Give Up?
If the pest infestation has expanded to cover more than half your indoor plant, then it is likely not worth the effort of attacking the pest infestation. If the pest infestation has caused significant damage to the plant, particularly to the roots, it is likely not worth attempting treatments.
If you would like to keep a memory of the infested plant, look for a healthy cutting that you can propagate and grow into something new!
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