Healthy Houseplants and Pest Control Go Hand in Hand
National Houseplant Appreciation Month is underway — time to celebrate all the joy and oxygen houseplants provide. Houseplants provide tons of benefits for amateur indoor gardeners, including improved breathing function, cleaner indoor air, increased attentiveness and focus, and an overall boost to health.
National Houseplant Appreciation Month is also a great time to spread the word on how to keep your indoor flora friends happy and healthy, and that means learning about household pests that can damage or even kill houseplants. The unfortunate reality is that when you bring plants (whose natural habitat is the outdoors) into your home, you’re also inviting all the critters that share their outdoor ecosystem, and that means bugs.
Cold Outdoor Temps Drive Bugs Indoors
This time of year, especially, pests like to move indoors because — just like you — they want to stay warm. Even though insects are more populous during warmer months, your houseplants have been insulated from the far more attractive (to bugs, anyway) warm, humid climate outside your house. Now that it’s winter, your home has the preferable climate, so even though you might not have had an infestation earlier in the year, you could very well be facing one now.
Some of the most common pests you’ll find on indoor plants are the common brown scale, mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, fungus gnats, and thrips. Some, like spider mites with their plant-killing webs, are extremely detrimental to your plant’s health and well-being, but even the relatively harmless ones (like fungus gnats) are still an annoyance to humans.
A Good Offense Always Starts With a Good Defense
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so doing your best to stop infestations before they begin is almost always the best course of action. The key to preventing insects from invading your houseplants is proper care of the plants themselves. That means neither over- nor under-watering and regularly changing out the soil, as well as proper light, humidity, and temperature conditions. Unhealthy plants attract more pests than healthy ones.
It’s also important to carefully observe your plants for any problems, and take action as soon as you detect a pest problem. If you do discover tiny (sometimes almost microscopic) critters, one universal measure you can take immediately is applying an insecticidal soap, which you can make on your own with common household ingredients. Be sure to follow the directions, because you don’t want the solution to be too strong and harm the plants.
One commercially available, safe treatment you can apply yourself is neem oil. Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide found in seeds from neem trees. It has a garlic/sulfuryl smell and bitter taste that insects don’t like — and it’s even safe for food-producing plants.
Of course, if an unnoticed infestation has already gotten out of hand, Tell Us What’s Bugging You today.