DIY Hacks To Get Rid of Plant Bugs for Good

Even if you're a caring and attentive plant parent, sometimes, through no fault of your own, your indoor oasis will become infested with bugs and mites.

The tiny insects can become mightily annoying, damaging your plants and making you feel icky in your own home. Below, gardening experts offer quick and easy hacks to banish the bugs.

What's That Bug on My Plant?

According to Planet Natural, an organic gardening specialist in Montana, the most common species you'll see on your houseplants are aphids, fungus gnats, leaf miners, mealybugs, root aphids, russet mite scale insects, spider mites, springtails, thrips and whiteflies.

If there's only a small number of pests on the plant, they usually won't cause significant damage. Higher numbers can lead to leaf yellowing and curling as the plant weakens. Aphids, mealybugs and others will feed on your plants and secrete honeydew, a sticky substance that can attract ants and encourages the growth of sooty moulds.

Mealybugs
Two mealybugs on a plant. They are among the most common species found on houseplants, along with aphids and fungus gnats. Getty Images

Home Hacks To Get Rid of Plant Bugs

It is possible to get rid of these common pests without using toxic or expensive pesticides. Here are a few expert recommendations.

Dump Towel

You can physically remove the bugs from the plant by using a damp towel or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or vegetable oil.

Before you start removing the bugs from leaves and stems, place some paper over the soil so it's easier to clean up afterwards.

Wash the Plant With Clean Water

Water is the most effective, natural way to get rid of the bugs, according to Kurt Morrell, associate vice president for horticulture operations at New York Botanical Garden.

If not all your plants are infested, it's better to isolate the affected plant first, so the bugs don't simply move on. Then some water should do the trick.

"The best thing to do is just bring your houseplant outside and wash it off with regular water. If you live in an apartment, you can use a little spritz bottle and spray the plant off," Morrell told Newsweek.

Essential Oils

Another natural option is essential oils and there are a lot of fragrances you can choose from. Among the most effective oils are eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, garlic and clove.

Syringing essential oils on the plant is totally safe and is the second best natural remedy after water, according to Morrell. You should only use them when needed, though. "You only use it when [the plant] has bugs, you don't spray something if your plant doesn't need it."

Horticultural Soap

Horticultural soap is made specifically for pest control purposes and is completely harmless for plants. Morrell recommended using insecticidal soap only if the water and essential oils haven't done the trick.

"You don't start right off with the hammer. You start off with a very soft approach with any insect. So, you start water and then maybe go up, if the bugs are too strong."

Are Bugs Harmful?

The bugs won't do any harm to humans, but a big infestation could kill your plant. Morrell explained that if a plant is riddled with insects it won't be able to complete its photosynthesis, which is crucial for any plant's survival.

What Attracts Bugs to the Plant?

Bugs often target plants because they are attracted to the pheromones they produce.

Morrell said: "Very often bugs go after plants because the natural pheromones that plant releases might attract that particular bug. But also a lot of the time, depending on the type of bug, some will go after plants they sense are under stress."

A plant in distress is either not fertilized properly, doesn't have enough light, or doesn't have the right amount of nutrition and moisture, he added.

Where Bugs Lay Their Eggs and How To Get Rid of Them

Most female bugs hide their eggs in the soil or under leaves. Some species such as mealybugs lay them under a white, waxy coating, which is often the first sign that you have an infestation. Bugs reproduce rapidly. Mealybugs can complete their development in about a month in mid-summer, explained the U.K.'s Royal Horticultural Society.

To get rid of the eggs, Morrell recommends the same process as for the bugs. Wash the eggs off the plant. If that doesn't work, try an insecticidal soap or essential oil.