Growing plants indoors is generally easier and has less problems than keeping them outdoors. That’s because you can keep your houseplants in a controlled environment.
However, one thing that you’ve probably noticed is that indoor plants are not immune to pests.
So, the question is, do indoor plants attract bugs and pests?
In this article, I’ll explain why pests occur on houseplants. And I’ll cover the most common bugs and pests you’ll likely deal with for your indoor plants and garden.
Do indoor plants attract bugs? Yes, indoor plants attract bugs. This is due to a few factors including stagnant air and high humidity. The most common pests houseplants will experience include spider mites, mealybugs, fungus gnats, aphids, scale, whiteflies and thrips.
Each of these bugs are different. And they will damage the houseplants in different ways. Similarly, how you get rid of them can vary as well.
Why Do Houseplants Attract Bugs & Pests?
Houseplants are known for attracting bugs and pests. And any houseplant owner will tell you that you always need to be on the lookout for these critters.
So why do indoor plants attract bugs?
Well, there are a few reasons. And these make it different from the outdoors.
Although your home or office is not as exposed to all the elements as our garden or backyard are, there are some factors that make bugs and pests regular problems to look out for.
High Humidity Attracts Pests to Indoor Plants
Bugs enjoys high humidity due to the moisture.
This becomes a problem since most houseplants are tropical in nature.
The reason for this is that tropical plants are well-suited to indoor living conditions especially temperature. Thus, they easily acclimate the climate conditions indoors.
Additionally, tropical plants don’t need a lot of water.
These two features make them easier to care for indoors.
Of course, they come in many shapes, sizes and colors which make them attractive for displaying and home décor.
Unfortunately, because their native habitat has high humidity, tropical plants usually need moderate to high humidity to thrive.
As such, this attracts the bugs and pests.
Lack of Air Circulation
Our homes are mostly closed areas. This is to keep the elements out allowing us to feel more comfortable.
But indoor environments can keep the strong sun away and the dirt from coming in, the air can get stagnant as well.
Some rooms don’t have windows or other openings. And even if they did, many of them can be closed.
This makes the home a safe haven for bugs and insects since there’s not wind or gusts to blow them to where they don’t want to go.
The lack of air circulation also makes it harder for insects that have gotten inside to leave. So, they end up bugging you and your plants longer.
Insects like stagnant water. You probably already know this as you’ve likely encountered mosquitoes overstaying their welcome in your home because there are some pools of water in your bathroom, sink or kitchen.
This is likewise true to all insects and bugs.
Water helps them stay hydrated. It also prevents their bodies from drying out.
Stagnant water is particular attractive because it is easy to get to and access the moisture.
So, if you often water your plant, keep the leaves wet or have some pools of water in the soil or the saucer at the bottom of the pot, insects will find their way there.
Other Reasons that Indoor Plants Attracts Bugs
In addition to indoor environmental conditions, there are also a few other reason why indoor plants attract bugs.
Using Potting Soil That’s Been Sitting for a While
Old potting soil or one that’s stored for a while can harbor pests. This is especially true if the bag has been left open and kept in a shed or outdoors where insects and bugs can easily get access to it.
Therefore, before reusing potting soil or one that’s old, make sure to check or sterilize it first.
This way you’re sure that there are no pests or diseases there.
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Transplants Brought in from Outside or the Garden
If you often move plants indoors to outdoors and vice versa, this could be the reason why you keep experiencing pests in your houseplants.
Unfortunately, many tropical plants cannot tolerate the winter. So, if you take them outside during the warmer months, you’ll need to bring them back indoors once the weather gets cold.
Many of them won’t survive the winter outdoors.
However, before you bring any plants from your backyard or garden indoors, make sure to debug it first.
It is important to remove any possible bugs and pests before taking the plant back indoors because these critters can hitch a ride from your yard with the plant and infest all your other houseplants.
New Plants You Got from the Nursery or Other People
When bringing any new plant home from the nursery, garden center or someone else’s home, it is important to check it for pests beforehand.
I like to quarantine the plant for about a couple of weeks outside the house or in the patio just to monitor it for anything.
This can happen because all it takes in a few bugs in the store, and they will spread to the rest of the plants there.
No Natural Predators in Your Pots
One of the biggest differences between your garden and potted plants indoors is that there are no predators and beneficial insects indoors.
Insects and animals like birds, bugs and other creatures tend to neutralize pests. This is what makes nature amazing.
But indoors, potted plants don’t have this unless you introduce such predators intentionally to handle the pests.
Are All Bugs in Potted Indoor Houseplants Bad? And Should You Worry?
Common Bugs Found in Indoor Plants
Below are the common pests found in houseplants. These are the bugs you’ll likely end up dealing with and have to get rid of as they will damage your plant in the long run.
Aphids are among the most common pests you’ll see in indoor plants. They are tiny and therefore don’t cause a lot of damage to plants when there are only a few of them.
But if you see any, you quickly want to treat them because aphids multiply very quickly.
As such, they can turn into an infestation in a very short period of time.
This is what makes them dangerous as they feed on the sap of your plant. Thus, the more bugs there are, the more moisture and nutrients they’ll rob from your plant.
This will quickly weaken it can cause yellow and brown patches in leaves. Without treatment, you’ll later see leaves dropping as well.
Besides seeing them which is usually best done with a magnifying glass, you’ll also see honeydew on the stems and leaves.
Honeydew is a brown, sticky liquid that’s a byproduct produced by aphids after they’ve feed.
Unfortunately, honeydew attracts ants which gives you more problems to deal with.
Spider mites are another popular houseplant pests.
Note that there are quite a few varieties. Although the most common are red spider mites which look like tiny spiders with red bodies.
Again, these are very small bugs, which makes them hard to notice until they’ve grown in number.
Spider mites like to hide under the leaves and the junctions between the stems and petioles.
Therefore, take the time to check these areas thoroughly.
One giveaway sign that your plant is being infected by spider mites even if you don’t see the bugs is if there are webbings present.
These bugs get their name from the fact that they spin thin webs.
Like aphids, these bugs reproduce very rapidly, they are likewise small and feed on your plant’s sap. Therefore, if there are spider mites present, you’ll see leaves turn yellow and get discolored.
Mealybugs are unique in that they look like tiny cotton balls. It is still hard to identify them because they are very small creatures.
However, when they group together, you’ll see white, cotton-like things on the leaves. These cotton coating actually helps them from drying out due to warm conditions and low humidity.
Ironically, they tend to be attracted to warm, moist conditions.
Like the other pests, mealybugs feed on houseplant sap. They damage the leaves as they grow in number leaving behind honeydew.
The females will lay eggs as well which allows them to quickly grow in number.
Because these bugs are attracted to sweets, they tend to attack plants like sunflowers, orchids, cacti, ferns and gardenia.
Thrips are hard to spot because they are microscopic in size.
There are about 6,000 varieties of thrips around that come in a wide variety of colors. This allows them to blend very well with their surroundings.
As with the other pests, these bugs will lay eggs and within days the eggs will hatch.
While thrips have a relatively short life cycle of around one month, it is hard to get rid of them without treatment because they can produce about 15 generations per year.
One unique thing about thrips is they don’t cause as much damage as some of the other pests by feeding on your plants.
However, the worst thing about them is they tend to spread viruses when feeding.
So, they become more dangerous that way.
Scale enjoy dark, warm environments. And you’ll usually find them hiding under the leaves or in the joints of the stems. This makes it harder to spot them if you don’t know where to look.
The most common scale insect you’ll see in houseplants are the soft armored variety.
Although, there are the hard armored scale as well.
In general scale have hard shells that protect them from other insects and predators. It also helps them against pesticides in some cases.
These pests are problematic as they’ll feed on the plant’s sap by piercing the plant’s tissues through its stems and branches.
As they do their damage, you’ll initially see yellow spots.
But as the bugs grow in number, yellow leaves become more prevalent.
Fungus gnats tend to occur when the surroundings are wet or damp. As such, overwatering, misting too much and wetting the leaves can cause them to come around.
Like the other common houseplant pests, they have different stages in life, beginning from eggs then turning into larvae then maturing into adults.
What’s interesting is that the adults are more bothersome than they do cause damage.
But they are an issue because they can stay around your living room especially near windows.
As such, they don’t only bother plants but are a nuisance to human beings as well.
However, it is their larvae that cause the most damage to your plant. That’s because they feed on the plant’s roots.
These larvae also tend to feed on decaying plant matter and fungi. As such then can transmit pathogens or introduce them to the soil which will eventually damage your plant’s roots.
They have brown or black heads and bodies with legs attached to it. They can easily get around because they can fly.
Like other bugs, fungus grow very quickly in number as they can lay over 200 eggs at one time.
It also only takes the eggs 3 days to hatch.
The whitefly gets its name because it looks like a white fly.
Although, its appearance is similar to mealybugs and moths, which is why some people mistaken them for these insects.
One way to quickly tell if there are whiteflies is if you notice a dust-cloud like small critters fly up when you move or touch the plant.
These are the whiteflies taking flight after you’ve disturbed them.
Unfortunately, this makes them difficult to get rid of and treat because they’ll quickly try to get away.
As with many of the other pests in our list, these bugs are sap suckers that produce honeydew as a byproduct.