Do plants attract bugs to your home? The simple answer is yes!
But as much as most people love having plants in their houses, they are not so keen on the bugs. Here we look at what attracts bugs to indoor plants, the signs to look out for, and most importantly, how to get rid of them.
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Why Do Indoor Houseplants Attract Bugs?
Some pests such as fungus gnats, spider mites, aphids, scale insects, ants, and whiteflies are attracted to the high humidity and lack of air circulation found indoors.
As bugs are small, they seek areas with a high level of moisture to stop their bodies from drying out, which can be fatal. Your house might be high in humidity if you live in coastal areas, or the excess moisture could simply be from overwatering your plants. And if you have a saucer under your pot collecting the drained water, this can attract bugs too.
Having good air circulation stops humidity levels from rising too high, keeps the soil drier and reduces fungus growth – and all these things are less attractive to bugs.
Keeping your plants too close together, or in a spot that is not well ventilated can cause problems. To improve the air circulation make sure your plants are not touching each other, and store them somewhere near ceiling fans or close to a window.
How to Know if There are Bugs in Your Houseplants
Sometimes the bugs will be obvious, but often they will be hiding under leaves, behind stems or in the soil, or they can be so small they are hard to see.
One of the best ways of telling whether you have bugs is to look for signs of damage on your plant. You may notice spots, brown patches or holes in your leaves, or your plant may be wilting. You may find seeds that haven’t hatched yet on the underside of the leaf, or traces of honeydew which is the sticky substance excreted from several common plant bugs.
Check any new plants very carefully before bringing them inside, and spray them with water before you do so. Once inside, you should continue to monitor your plants regularly for any signs of unwanted bugs. If you do this, you can minimise the damage they may be causing and prevent the infestation getting worse.
Common Houseplant Bugs and How to Get Rid of Them
There are many varieties of bugs that can live in your houseplants. Here are a few of the more common ones with tips on how to get rid of them and stop them from coming back.
Whiteflies are small, whiteflies found on the back of leaves that usually originate from an infested greenhouse. They are more commonly found on indoor plants than outdoor plants as they don’t survive the freezing temperatures. They reproduce very quickly so you should deal with them as soon as you see them. If they are left unchecked, they can cause your plant to wilt and have yellow foliage.
The easiest way to get rid of them is by placing a yellow sticky card above the top of the plant. Many bugs are attracted to these yellow glue-based traps and once they land on them, it is hard for them to escape!
Spider Mites look like tiny spiders. They are commonly mistaken for insects, but they are actually a type of arachnid, which is closely related to a spider or a tick. They generally live on the underside of leaves. They are so small they can be hard to see, although you may notice the protective silky web they sometimes spin. The web can cover your whole plant if you are not careful!
If this happens, take your plant outside and spray it with water. Then, once the plant has dried, you can apply horticultural oil to the leaves which will smother the spider mites.
Aphids are tiny bugs that are shaped like teardrops. They can be difficult to spot when they are green, but they can also be black, brown, yellow or red. They cluster together on the back of leaves, and if you have a serious infestation your plant can become sticky from the honeydew these bugs secrete. Eventually they will stunt plant growth by removing the sap.
Try wiping them off with a wet cloth, but if that doesn’t work you can use a natural remedy such as insecticidal soap.
Fungus Gnats are small greyish-black flies. They are very annoying but thankfully an adult fungus gnat only lives for about a week, although they can lay up to 300 eggs. It is the larvae, not the fly, that damages your plant by feeding in the soil and damaging the roots.
They are attracted to water as the eggs and larvae need this to survive. If you cut back on your watering, that will usually solve the issue.
Ants are fairly common in indoor plants. They can destroy the roots of your plant if they are not stopped, and if they are in your plants they are probably elsewhere in your house too!
One way to remove them from your plant is to repot it as they live in the soil. You need to be careful not to destroy the roots in the process. To prevent them from returning, you can use ant baits.
Scale Insects have an odd shape and can look more like bumps than bugs, so they often cause a lot of damage before you even know they are there. They can cause poor growth and yellow leaves.
If you notice them early enough, they can be picked off the leaves or dabbed off with a special cotton pad soaked in alcohol or a neem-based pesticide (but it’s best to take the plant outside to do this and make sure you follow the instructions).
Are There Any Houseplants Bugs Don’t Like?
One way to keep bugs at bay is to choose plants they don’t like. Bugs tend to steer clear of plants with naturally toxic leaves (but kids and pets don’t, so you need to take care!)
The mosquito plant (or citronella plant) has leaves that smell like citronella so this naturally keeps mosquitoes and other insects away. You can even crush the leaf and rub it onto your own skin to use as a mosquito repellant.
Sansevieria is a very sturdy plant that only needs to be watered about once every 10 days. It grows several feet tall and looks good indoors. It has very tough leaves which help keep the bugs away. But this is definitely one to keep away from any inquisitive toddlers or pets who like to chew things, as these plants are poisonous. Lavender has a lovely smell that can be very relaxing, but its scent also keeps pests away. It has long been known as a moth repellent but it also repels fleas, mosquitoes, and rodents.
Herbs are also a good option as the scent is too strong for most pests. And if you grow them in your kitchen window, they will come in handy when you need them in cooking.
The Venus Flytrap is one of my favorites. Carnivorous plants don’t just keep the bugs away, but they digest any insects that land in their trap! Not only do these plants look amazing, but your kids will love them.
Fake plants made out of plastic or rubber are another alternative if you don’t like bugs. Nowadays, there are many that look very lifelike and the best part is they don’t even need watering.
People love indoor houseplants, but so do bugs! The good news is there are some simple tips to reduce the likelihood of bugs living in your plants, and if they do, there are some easy ways you can get rid of them. Or otherwise, you can choose a plant that is less likely to attract bugs in the first place.