You’ve grown your plants from seed. It’s taken time to germinate them, then nurture them and feed them. You’ve got them looking fantastically healthy and it won’t be long now before they flower and all your hard work bears fruit. Hang on, what’s that? Just there, under the leaf. Aaaaargh, it’s everywhere! What, in the name of all things green and getting holey, are these?!
Don’t panic, everyone that grows plants discovers that they’re playing host to indoor plant bugs, from time to time. You probably just need a plant bug spray, but which plant insecticide spray is going to kill these pests before they devastate your precious plants?
It’s not just houseplant bugs that you need to worry about though, garden bugs can pose a threat to both your indoor and outdoor plants. However, if you get your management and prevention right, you may never need to resort to insecticide spray.
Plant management and pest prevention
As the Dutch philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus said around the turn of the 16th century, “prevention is better than cure”. Perhaps old Des’ was a keen grower because the phrase is certainly true when it comes to houseplant pest infestations.
There are a number of prudent precautions that all plant enthusiasts should take to decrease the chance of infestation and of having to spend time, money, and effort eradicating the pesky blighters. These 10 measures describe how to keep bugs out of indoor plants and should be applied to any controlled growing environment, such as a house, greenhouse, or grow room.
- Before you consider buying a plant and certainly before you consider bringing a newly-purchased plant indoors, check the plant, roots, and container for any signs of pests.
- When bringing a new purchase home, quarantine the new plant(s), keeping them away from existing plants for at least six weeks. This will reduce the likelihood of spreading any pest it might be carrying and causing further problems with an outright infestation.
- If you have had a plant outside for the summer, or for any period of time, it may be housing a garden bug. Bugs may have crawled in through the drainage holes or burrowed into the grow-medium. Before bringing it back indoors and quarantining, always remove the plant from the pot to examine the soil and check the plant over.
- While plants are quarantined, give them weekly checks for signs of pests and damage, paying particular attention to the undersides of leaves, where pests are most often found.
- Small and immature pests can be tricky to spot, so consider using a flashlight and magnifying glass to make your job easier. Missing pests in their early stages can lead to much greater problems later.
- Stressed, unhealthy plants tend to be more susceptible to pest problems, so ensure your plants have the growing conditions they need, helping to promote vigorous growth.
- Never use soil from outdoors when repotting a plant, as it may be contaminated with garden bugs. Use commercially prepared potting soil instead, which is sterilized.
- Cut garden flowers can also be a transporter of pests, so be sure to keep them separate from houseplants when bringing them indoors.
- Leaving doors and windows ajar may allow pests to enter the house. Ensure that doors and windows are screened and that the screens fit well.
- Wash your plants every couple of weeks or so, front and back of leaves, to discourage pests. Smooth foliage can be wiped with a moist cloth, which will leave it looking rich and verdant. Larger plants can be rinsed using a hose or shower, but ensure that the water is no more than tepid. If you’re feeling adventurous, cover the pot with kitchen foil or cling wrap and dunk smaller plants in a bucket of tepid water.
So, our advice has come too late and you already have a bug problem. You’re going to have to treat your plants and kill the pests one way or another, or things are going to get worse. You now have a couple of choices, are you going to use a chemical spray or go natural?
Chemical bug sprays
Chemical insecticide for plants is one possible option and you can pick them up at most garden centers and farming stores. If you have pets, you will need to check the bottle, or with the manufacturer of any insecticide spray that you select, to ensure that it is non-hazardous to your animals.
Indeed, only a few chemical insecticides are recommended for use indoors, so that is also something you will need to watch out for. Even if your chemical spray is ok for use indoors, you may want to consider treating your plants outside, where you don’t run the risk of leaving residue on floors and furnishings.
As a general rule, chemical pesticides carry advice as to which plants they are suitable for use on and which plants will be sensitive to their use. In addition, not all pesticides kill all bugs! Certain sprays are only suitable for use on specific bugs and should even be used at a particular point in their lifecycle.
With all these considerations, it might be prudent to use chemical plant insecticide only as a last resort, when an infestation has got out of control, or when you’re dealing with a valuable plant? Prior to its use, there are a number of ‘softer’ options you might wish to consider…
Before looking for a chemical bug spray for plants, your pest problems might be dealt with using one of several simple solutions. The following methods may have to be repeated, or used in combination, but persistence should pay dividends.
It should go without saying that, if you have an infested plant(s), it should be placed in immediate quarantine, to halt the possible spread of the pests.
- If you catch an infestation early enough, you can often remove the pests by handpicking.
- If a more robust plant has been infested, try spraying it with water to blast off the pests. Repeated spraying can be effective in controlling and removing bugs such as spider mites.
- Pests such as aphids and mealybugs can often be wiped from the plant using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, although, ‘scale’ insects may need to be scraped off with a toothbrush or fingernail.
- Consider mixing your own natural ingredients together, as a cheap and sometimes effective, homemade bug spray. A surprising array of alternatives exist, including soapy water, beer, garlic, pepper, and tobacco!
- Sometimes, only an isolated portion of the plant is infested and, in this instance, you should remove and destroy the affected parts. If the roots are infested, consider taking a cutting and start a new plant altogether?
- Insecticidal soap is a relatively harmless, yet effective non-chemical option and can often eliminate a pest infestation on contact. They are most effective against soft-bodied insects and pests, such as mealybugs, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, immature scales (crawlers), and spider mites. Once a soap solution dries, it is no longer effective, meaning it can often take more than one treatment to eliminate stubborn pests.
Non-Chemical Bug Sprays
If you’ve tried the methods listed above and the problem remains, you may reluctantly be considering purchasing an insecticide for houseplants. You don’t need to resort to waging a chemical war on your uninvited invaders, though, there are a number of incredibly effective natural, non-chemical bug sprays for indoor plants.
These represent a more environmentally friendly option than chemical sprays and are often pet friendly. In addition, if you are growing a plant that produces fruit or flowers that will be consumed, you may want to avoid chemicals all together?
For all-round peace of mind and an effective solution to your pest and bug problems, you can use a natural and organic bug spray, such as Homegrown’s Bug Blaster.
Bug Blaster is a great example of a pet-friendly, non-hazardous bug spray for plants, which is applied directly to the leaves. It is a particularly effective weapon in your battle against caterpillars, aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and thrips. but will also eliminate any and all bug-shaped plant enemies.
Having the right bug spray within grabbing distance should be a priority for any grower and Bug Blaster even has a second trick up its sleeve. Not only does Bug Blaster provide uncompromising pest control, but it doubles as a foliar feed, improving the immune system and disease-resistance of your precious plants.
The manufacturer recommends that Bug Blaster is used on healthy and infested plants alike, which will help to prevent the occurrence of pest invasions. For best results, it should be applied at twilight, using a fine mister. Spray leaves, top and bottom to ensure all surfaces are coated and benefit from its fertilizing properties. Using it once every five days, as part of your daily watering ritual will provide you with all the benefits it has to offer.