Bug-Free Zone: Indoor Pest Control
An insect infestation can ruin an indoor garden, spreading rapidly from plant to plant. Fortunately, organic indoor gardeners have a range of solutions for pest control and prevention. Learn how to keep pests from ruining your indoor plants.
Quarantine New Plants
Introducing new plants is a common cause of pest infestations. The bugs migrate into the home on an apparently healthy new plant, and suddenly you’ve got a house-wide infestation. The sudden appearance of scale insects can often be traced back to a new plant.
Any new plants should be checked carefully for signs of pests before bringing them inside. Look for chewed leaves, mold, signs of scaly mites and any other indication the plant is unhealthy. Even if you’re certain the plant is healthy, quarantine it in an isolated area for about a month. This simple precaution greatly lowers your risk of indoor plant pests.
Organic Home Remedies
Showering plants regularly with a jet of water can reduce insect infestations. Spider mites and aphids, for instance, will often wash right off a plant. If possible, wash the plant outdoors to prevent the bugs from simply relocating to a different indoor plant. Consider the plant’s resiliency as well: Some plants are too delicate to endure a powerful spray of water.
It’s not pleasant, but you can hand-remove scale insects and mealy bugs. Some gardeners use small, hand-held vacuums on low settings to remove whiteflies and similar pests. Just be sure to empty the vacuum outside as soon as you’re done.
Sticky traps help reduce flying insect problems, such as thrips and whiteflies. Choose a product such as Safer® Brand houseplant sticky stakes, which stick conveniently into plant pots. Sticky stakes trap adult pests, but you’ll still need to treat the plant directly as larval stages of the pests live directly on or around the plant.
Houseplant pesticides are available. Look for products such as End ALL®, which is OMRI® Listed and deemed compliant for use in organic production by the USDA. End ALL® contains neem, an extract from the tropical neem tree that interferes with insect growth, and pyrethrin, an insecticide made from the flowers of the pyrethrum daisy. This insecticide kills insects at all stages of development, yet quickly breaks down in the environment.
When All Else Fails
If a plant has a serious pest infestation, sometimes it’s best to simply dispose of the plant before it infects the rest of your indoor garden. With proper quarantine, careful observation and a quick response to pest outbreaks, this last-ditch solution can be avoided.