In addition to the very welcome benefit of purifying the air in your home, a little foliage around the house is a great way to give any room a bit of color and a fresh, natural vibe. Unfortunately, though, houseplants tend to be as attractive to pests as they are to you, which can be a major problem for houseplant appearance, growth, and overall health.
These tiny insects typically linger on the underside of leaves, feeding on sap. And while they can be relatively harmless when scarce, larger infestations can lead to stunted plant growth and distorted, discolored foliage.
Get rid of aphids by wiping or spraying infested leaves with a solution of water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent, or by enlisting the help of natural aphid predators, like ladybugs or lacewing. For plants that are heavily infested, carefully pinch off the stem to remove from the plant. Because aphids are attracted to moist soil and high nitrogen levels, it’s a good idea to avoid overwatering and over fertilizing your houseplants in order to prevent another aphid infestation once you’ve alleviated your problem.
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These small insects, which have a cottony white appearance, can usually be found on the stems, leaves, and nodes (the area where leaves meet the stem of a plant) of houseplants. As they feed on the sap of plants, leaves tend to curl and turn slightly yellow, and plant growth becomes stunted.
If you’ve only got a few mealybugs on your hands, then you can get rid of the pesky insects by dabbing them lightly with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, or by enlisting the help of natural mealybug predators like ladybugs, lacewing, or the aptly named “mealybug destroyer.” To prevent mealybug infestations from recurring once you’ve gotten them under control, avoid over overwatering and over fertilizing, and regularly polish leaves with neem oil, which has a residual effect that keeps mealybugs from coming back.
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Fungus gnats, which bear a slight resemblance to mosquitos, aren’t as much a threat to plants in their adult stage as they are in their larval stage, when they feed in the soil and damage plant roots. The gnats, which are especially damaging to flowering plants like carnations and poinsettias, can lead to serious yellowing and wilting, in addition to poor growth.
Because fungus gnats are attracted to, and thrive in, moist environments, it’s important to avoid overwatering your houseplants, and to make sure that plants have good drainage and that the soil dries out in between waterings. Nontoxic, yellow sticky paper can also help catch adult gnats before they have a chance to lay more eggs, helping keep the gnat population under control. It could also be a good idea, if you have a confirmed fungus gnat infestation, to repot your plant after thoroughly cleaning the roots.
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Moth-like whiteflies typically congregate in groups on the underside of leaves, sucking on the sap of houseplants and causing stunted growth, yellowing, and poor plant health in the process. The pests are also largely linked to the transmission of plant viruses.
If you’re looking to detect and control whitefly populations, you might want to grab some nontoxic, yellow sticky paper to help do the job. You can also use natural predators, like ladybugs, lacewing larvae, and whitefly parasites to help fight an infestation, as well as use a neem oil mixture – just a combination of organic neem oil and water – to kill whiteflies at any stage.
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Technically arachnids as opposed to insects, spider mites are super small, reddish pests that collect on the bottom of leaves, where they feed on plant fluids, leaving small dots on the plant with each feeding. Especially common in plants like English ivy, spider mites can cause plant leaves to yellow dry up, and fall off. Webbing one leaves is also a common sign of spider mite damage.
Spider mites thrive in dry, hot conditions, so one way to fight them off is by regularly misting plants with cold waters to keep the plants unappealing to the pests. It’s also important to clean and dust leaves regularly to prevent spider mites from from laying eggs on them. For really heavy infestations, try spraying plants with a mixture of neem oil and water.
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