Gardening Tips

Your Houseplant Has Bugs—Now What? Here’s How To Get Rid of Common Pests

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Photo: Getty Images / Lumina
Dealing with a pest infestation is every plant owner's worst nightmare. But don't give up! It is possible to get your indoor garden back to normal with a little extra effort. There are a handful of ways to go about getting rid of all kinds of houseplant bugs, including fungus gnats, spider mites, or other creepy crawlers.

From homemade sprays to non-toxic treatments for your plant's soil, here's how to make houseplant bugs a thing of the past. These methods are almost foolproof and promise to keep your plants insect-free with regular maintenance.

These are the best ways to deal with houseplant bugs

1. Use a two-step process

The best way to keep your houseplant bug-free is to tackle the issue as soon as you bring it home. Even if a plant looks pristine, there might be bugs hiding between the leaves and in the soil, says Jules Acree, the Austin, Texas-based wellness blogger and plant expert behind Om and the City. "You never know what might be lurking in the soil waiting to hatch a few weeks later, so you always want to be one step ahead," she says. To prevent any bugs from taking over, Acree has a two-step, non-toxic routine she uses.

As soon as Acree gets home with a new plant, she puts it in the bathtub in order to do some pest control. After lightly spraying them with a natural homemade bug repellant—which you can make with 1 tablespoon of tea tree oil and one cup of water—she tops the soil with a pet- and kid-safe food-grade diatomaceous earth powder, which dries out the insects and their larvae.

2. Spray your plants

If you're dealing with soft-bodied insects like spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs, your best bet is making an insecticidal soap to spray onto your plants. While you can pick up one from the store, creating a DIY version using natural ingredients is easy. Simply put 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp liquid dish soap (it must be free of bleach, degreaser, synthetic dyes, and fragrances) in a spray bottle, then fill it to the top with warm water and shake. You can spray the mixture onto your plants once a week in order to combat pest issues.

3. Dry out your plants

Pests like fungus gnats that thrive in moist soil in houseplants can be combated by simply taking away what they love: the moisture. (Sorry, gnats.) According to Susan Spanger, professional gardener and floral designer of Bloomful Floral Design, the best thing you can do in these types of situations is to water your plants less often than you normally would in order to let the top couple inches of soil completely dry out. "Watering frequently and keeping soil consistently damp is ideal for egg hatch and larvae survival,” she says.

Without moist soil, you're taking away fungus gnats' food source: fungi in the soil. By allowing it to dry out, The Sill says that major food source will be gone—and, because of that, the fungus gnats will be gone, too. Spanger says you can spread a half-inch of sand over the surface of your soil as well. "It dries out quickly and provides a scratchy surface that’s unappealing for adult fungus gnats looking to lay eggs," she says. Those houseplant bugs will be gone for good.

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