I gotta say the least fun aspect of plant keeping hands down is the pests. There is nothing worse then looking at your favorite plant and spotting bugs. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things that comes with the hobby… It’s very common for plants to come from wholesalers with pests, especially spidermites in my area. Most of our small plant shops are going to treat their plants for pests and be as diligent as possible to stop the spread. But not everyone is as vigilant of pest control before selling plants.
There are several things you can do to help reduce your chances of having a pest outbreak in your collection. When buying plants inspect them before even leaving the store, that way you can avoid purchasing something with an obvious pest problem. Then be sure to immediately quarantine your new plant babies, yes I know you have the perfect spot for that wishlist plant you just bought! But seriously, when you bring them home treat for pests even if you see none and then quarantine for two weeks. It could save you a major headache at the least, or a loss of your whole collection at the worst….
Most plants require watering roughly once every week to ten days. Use that time to thoroughly inspect your plants leaves. Look out for any discoloration. Leaves that have a speckled look can indicate pests are feeding on them. Check carefully for any pests who may be under the leaves or even down in the spaces between the leaf and the stem. Ideally you want to wipe you leaves down at this time, but at least aim to wipe the leaves every two-three weeks. Pests seem to really like dusty leaves… Some plants are particularly prone to getting a specific type of pest. So be sure to keep a close eye on those ones. It’s also a good idea to add systemic granules to your soil proactively.
Some Pests You May See
Thrips- literally the worst, they fly so they are hard to contain. If you see thrips or suspect them, treat every single plant you have with with a systemic as well as spraying them all down with a insecticide…. Seriously don’t play around with “all natural” methods here, kill em with fire! They have a long life cycle, so you are in it for the long haul when it comes to them. Around 6 weeks to make sure they are fully gone!
Spider mites- Very hard to see. Generally I know I have them because I see the distinct webbing that can only mean spider mites. That or leaves that have a speckled or blotchy look. Spider mites can be difficult to get rid of. But I found that a sprayer of 4 parts water, 1 part rubbing alcohol, and a squirt of Dawn works great. Spray the plant down and scrub each leaf with a old makeup brush. Repeat for the next day or two. Also make sure you quarantine any you see spider mites on and any that were touching the infested plant. Systemic doesn’t work on them, and they can become resistant to a lot of products. Check out this Video of how I treat my plants for spider mites.
Mealy bugs- do basically the same as for spider mites, but spray or pick off as many as you can first, then spray down with the mix above for spider mites. Repeat weekly for a couple weeks to make sure they are gone. You will most likely want to repot in fresh soil since they can nest in the roots. A systemic is a great way to kill mealies as well.
Scale- pick off all the scale you can see and then use the same mix as for spidermites. Treat weekly for a couple weeks and that should take care of them. Also a systemic in your soil will kill them.
Aphids- Not super common on houseplants unless they are outside. Pretty easy to get rid of. Just spray them off with the hose or a spray bottle. Plain water, or water with a little Dawn works great!