4 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Indoor Plants

Get rid of bugs on your indoor plants and make sure they stay gone with these easy solutions.

Published February 19, 2023
young man spraying plants

The last thing you want to wake up to is your favorite indoor plants covered in bugs or half-eaten by nature's creepy crawlies. From using cooking oil to rubbing alcohol, there are so many non-toxic ways to get rid of bugs on your indoor plants. Once you can recognize the signs, all you need are a few household ingredients and a little patience to give your indoor plants a clean bill of health.

4 Sprays to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Indoor Plants

When you're primping and pruning your indoor plant babies, the last thing you expect to find are bugs - after all, that's one of the greatest things about not gardening outside! Unfortunately, brand new plants, your own clothes, and open doors/windows are all access points for bugs to get inside your home and onto your precious plants.

While many people use chemical insecticides outside, and they are technically an option to use on indoor plants, they can pose a serious hazard for pets and young children if not used and stored properly. So, homemade bug killers are a great way to go. On top of being kid and pet-friendly, you can also make them using a few household ingredients.

Cooking Oil Spray Combats Most Bugs

Creating a cooking oil, dish soap, and water mixture is one way to get rid of most bugs that attack your plants. Mix a cup of oil with a tablespoon or two of dish soap, and then you can add 4-8 teaspoons of the mixture into a 4-ounce spray bottle filled with water. Once the two are well mixed, spray directly onto your plants. Apply this spray every few days until the infestation starts to clear up.

How does it work? The oily mixture blocks the holes that insects breathe out of and kills them through asphyxiation. Not a pretty way to clear up your insects, but when your plants are on the line, you've got to do your best to protect them.

Neem Oil Can Fight Aphids and Gnats

An all-natural favorite for home gardeners, neem oil is great at combating bugs like aphids and gnats. It's also non-toxic, making it safe for all the kids and creatures in your care. You should never put pure neem oil directly on your plants, though. Dilute it in a ratio of 1 tablespoon of neem oil to 1 cup of water and transfer it into a spray bottle. Thoroughly coat your plant in the spray and wait a week before re-applying.

A Rubbing Alcohol Spray Will Fight Your Infestations

When it comes to alcohol sprays, you don't need to pour the vodka from your cabinet into a spray bottle - save those for victory drinks once you get the pests under control. Rather, you can combine ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol to every cup of water, and spray the mixture onto your plants every few days.

Make sure you do a test spot on a leaf or two before spraying your entire plant. Your plant might be too sensitive to the mixture, and you'll have to use one of the other homemade sprays instead.

Essential Oil Spray Will Give You a Bug-Free Zone

Essential oils have many uses and creating a homemade bug spray is one of them. Keep in mind that most essential oils are toxic to pets and people, so if you have cats running about, this won't be the best option for you.

Mix a ¼ of a teaspoon of any essential oil you favor (eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, etc) into a cup of water. Spray the mixture onto your plants once a week until the infestation clears up.

Signs Your Indoor Plants Have a Bug Problem

mealybugs on plant

Like noticing lethargy or an attitude change in your kids and checking their temperature to see if they're getting sick, there are early warning signs you can look for to see if your indoor plants might have a bug problem. Different bugs attack plants in different ways, meaning that there are a variety of visual clues to watch out for:

  • Browning and husking leaves
  • Colonies of white or brown insects
  • White or brown husks, often found on the leaves and the soil beneath them
  • Unusual webbing spreading throughout the leaves
  • Little brown dots on the leaves
  • Holes and chunks taken out of the leaves
  • Honey-like sap on the leaves

How to Prevent Bugs in the First Place

After you've cleared up your unwelcome bug tenants from your favorite indoor plants, we know the last thing you want is to have to doctor them up again. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to prevent bringing bugs into your plant's lives in the first place.

  • Put your new plants in quarantine. Whether you're getting them from a friend or bringing them home from a nursery, new plants can be deadly to those you already have. Keep your new plants in their own space, away from all your others, for at least two weeks. If there're no signs of bugs, you're in the clear.
  • Try not to over-water your plants. We know - watering can be tricky. The urge to keep your plants fed by constantly giving them water is fierce, but too much water can turn into a breeding ground for fungus gnats and other bugs.
  • Give your plants a bath. If you're new to the plant parent game, then you might not know that you can (and should) give your plants a bath every once in a while. Spray them down with tepid water in the sink or shower, rubbing their leaves, stems, and pots of any debris or potential bugs.
  • Keep your plants pruned and tidy. Life can get busy, and sometimes you forget to pick up the fallen leaves or stems on your houseplants. This dead organic material can be a great breeding ground for bugs, so take the time to remove these from your potted plants the minute you see them.

Grant Your Indoor Plants a Clean Bill of Health

The last thing anyone wants is a colony of invasive bugs taking up residence in their house without their permission, especially when they don't pay rent and use your favorite plants for food. So, regularly check your plants for warning signs and take action the minute you think something's wrong. The quicker you attack the unwanted bugs, the faster you'll be able to give your household plants a clean bill of health.

4 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Indoor Plants