Today's Gardener (todaysgardener.com) participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.
Whether you’ve been a fellow gardener for years or you’ve just started caring for houseplants, you must agree that one of the most annoying things regarding house plants are insects. They can damage not only the look of your plants but also their overall health. There’s nothing worse than putting time and effort into watering, repotting, fertilizing, and pruning, and then having everything go to waste because of the stubborn bugs.
How to get rid of bugs on indoor plants? You can remove bugs from house plants by using:
- Soap + water mixture
- Neem oil
- Pyrethrum spray
- Garlic spray
- Bug-repellent herbs
- Apple cider vinegar
- Diatomaceous Earth – Food Grade
- Herbal water spray
- Sticky traps
As you can see, you have a variety of choices on what to use to get rid of insects on your houseplants, and almost all of them are things we already all have at home. The most important thing to remember is to isolate the infested plant so that the infestation doesn’t spread. Now let’s explain better how each of these methods works so that you can try them out and keep your plants pest-free!
How to Get Rid of Bugs on Indoor Plants— 14 Methods that Always Work
Isopropyl, a.k.a. rubbing alcohol, is something almost everyone has in their homes. Other than being used for disinfection of surfaces and wounds, alcohol is a fantastic bug-repellent.
Here’s how to use it:
- Add around 470ml of alcohol (70%) into a clean spray bottle
- Add 900ml of water
- Spray the pests on the plant
You can also use a cotton swab, damp it with the mixture and then apply it directly on the bugs. However, that method is time-consuming and not very practical. Pouring the solution into the spray bottle is the fastest solution.
2. Soapy + water mixture
Soap is known for killing bugs very efficiently. On the other hand, it’s also known to be harsh on the leaves, and if you choose the wrong soap, it could dry out your plant and kill it.
When making this solution, choose insecticidal soap or go with mild liquid soap. Avoid products that have additives such as perfumes and dyes.
Mix your soapy solution like this:
- Take a clean bottle (preferably spray)
- Add a tablespoon of soap
- Add around 800-900ml of water
- Shake well
- Apply on bugs
Even though mild and insecticidal soaps shouldn’t damage your houseplant, the best thing to do would be to try the mixture on a small surface and see how the plant reacts.
If you notice that there are fewer insects and the leaf isn’t dry and seems normal, use the mixture all over the plant. However, if you notice that your plant is too sensitive to the soap, try out another solution from this article.
3. Neem oil
Are you looking for a solution that’s safe for your plant, pets, and family? Neem oil is the way to go.
Not only is it safe for everyone in your home, but it is also one of the most efficient ways of removing insects from indoor plants since it can kill and repel all of them—from tiny insects to larvae and the eggs.
Let’s say that you’d like to make around 2 to 2.5l of this solution with 2% neem oil, here’s what you should do:
- Prepare a clean and dry bowl where you’ll combine the ingredients
- Fill it with lukewarm (make sure it’s not too hot) water
- Add 7-8 ml of plant-friendly liquid soap
- Pour in around 50 ml of neem oil
- Mix well until everything melts and combines together
- Pour the mixture into a washed and dry spray bottle
- Shake well
- Apply generously
Treat your plants with this mixture once every seven days until you notice that all bugs have disappeared. Then you can make a new mixture with 0.5% neem oil and use it every once in a while as prevention.
4. Pyrethrum spray
This spray is very poisonous for all insects. That’s why it’s recommended to use it only on houseplants and avoid spraying it outdoors as it can be deadly even for beneficial insects such as bees.
Also, you should be super-cautious with this mixture around your pets and family members and wear gloves when making and spraying it.
The spray is super-effective, but it’s not long-lasting, and you’ll need to re-apply it.
You can go with the store-bought pyrethrum spray, or you can make it by yourself. Here’s how:
- Mix 130 gr of dried chrysanthemum flowers powder with around 1.9l of lukewarm water
- Leave the mixture for a couple of hours
- Strain well
- Add one teaspoon of mild liquid soap to the strained water
- Add around 5ml of cooking oil
- Mix well
- Pour it into a (preferably) spray bottle
5. Garlic spray
Garlic is fantastic for plants’ health in general. It’s also highly effective when you need to get rid of insects on indoor plants. An added plus is that, although unpleasant in contact with eyes or mouth, this mixture is risk-free to use around pets and family, so you won’t have to worry while using it.
- Blend one head of garlic in the food processor
- The consistency should be as smooth as possible
- Add around 400-500ml of water
- Pulse the blender for a couple of seconds
- Cover the mixture and keep it in the place that isn’t exposed to light for one day
- Strain the mixture
- Add water to the strained fluid until it reaches one gallon
- Pour into a spray bottle
You should use the garlic mixture at least once every seven days to see the results. If you want to make the mixture more potent and spicy against the more stubborn bugs, add a bit of hot pepper.
6. Bug-repellent herbs
Why not add some herbs that repel bugs into your collection and take care of them so that they can help you keep your other plants healthy and insect-free? Herbs such as rosemary and mint are fantastic against mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs.
Keep these herbs next to your other indoor plants so that insects are repelled by their smell. That will keep them away from all of your house plants.
7. Herbal water spray
If you don’t want to grow these herbs, you can make a spray mixture from them in two ways.
- Soak crushed herbs into a bucket of water
- Leave overnight
- Pour it into a bottle with trigger spray and use on plants
- Add a few drops of essential oil into the bottle with around 1.5-2l of water
- Spray your plants
This method is the fastest one, and it’s free. Put a pot of the plant that’s infested in your bathtub and shower thoroughly.
You can also do it with a hose in your garden.
Be careful not to be too aggressive and adjust the strength of the jet according to the plant’s durability.
9. Apple cider vinegar
If you’re experiencing problems with gnats, you can use apple cider vinegar to distract them from the plant. Eventually, they will drown. Here’s what you should do:
- Pour the vinegar into a bowl
- Cover the bowl with cellophane
- Make tiny holes in the film
- Place the bowl next to the infested plant
Since they love the smell of the apple cider vinegar, they will surely be interested in the bowl more than the plant. Once the gnats crawl into the bowl, they won’t be able to get out.
Even though this trick is effective, it will help you get rid of only adult gnats, leaving you with eggs and larvae.
10. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Are you struggling with insects and their eggs and larvae inside the soil mixture more than on the leaves? Diatomaceous Earth is an excellent solution that’s also human and pet-friendly.
- Take a bottle made of plastic
- Fill it with food-grade Diatomaceous Earth powder
- Make holes on the cap
- Apply powder on the top of the potting mixture
You can also pour some powder inside the container before placing your plant, as prevention. Then you should add more powder after every watering.
You can safely add a couple of nematodes inside your plant’s soil. They will eat all of the insects without harming your plant, pets, or family members.
This may not be a conventional method of dealing with indoor plant insects, but it surely is effective.
Do the pesky leaf-chewing bugs make your life harder? You can easily get rid of them with a cup of tobacco tea!
- Add one cup of dry tobacco leaves into 1 gallon of warm water
- Add a dash of mild liquid soap
- Leave it for 30 minutes
- Pour into a spray bottle and use on leaves
The only drawback of this method is the potent smell of tobacco that not everyone enjoys.
Even though we are talking about getting rid of bugs on indoor plants here, snails and slugs can also be very tedious to remove from plants. Beer can help you achieve it.
Pour beer into a few bowls and keep it next to the infested plants. The snails will crawl into the bowl, and then you can release them outside.
Orange and grapefruit rinds, as well as grape juice, can also do the trick.
14. Sticky traps
Sticky traps can also be an effective way of getting rid of the majority of bugs. You’ll need to be patient and change the traps often so that you can get rid of as many insects as possible.
You should place yellow sticky traps around the base of the infested plant. The insects will fall and get stuck. Then you can take it off and apply a new one.
If you prefer making your own sticky trap, you can do that by applying a bit of petroleum jelly on a bright yellow carton.
1. How do I get rid of gnats in my potted plants?
Any of the described methods will work fine if you want to get rid of gnats. However, when it comes to prevention, the best thing to do is to make the surface of the soil drier.
Gnats love laying their eggs in damp soil. Consider adding a bit of gravel on the surface of the potting mixture.
The top of the soil will be dry, and it won’t be attractive to gnats.
2. What plants keep bugs away?
As said, there are certain herbs/plants that are bug-repellents. Having them right next to other indoor plants will significantly decrease the risk of infestation. Here’s which plants keep bugs away: Mint, Basil, Lavender, Petunias, Rosemary, Garlic and Marigolds
3. What smells do bugs hate?
You can use quite a few essential oils that will keep the insects away. Bugs will be repelled by the smell and won’t infest the plants. These odors are the best bug-repellents: Lemongrass, Citrus fruit, Tea tree, Cedarwood, Cinnamon and Peppermint