How to rid your plants of common pests

Do you have a sick plant but are unsure why? Well, you are in luck. We've compiled some advice to rid your plants of common pests.

General advice on pests

As a plant parent you will sometimes have to make the choice to treat your plant or put it in the FOGO (compost bin). Sometimes you will be fighting a depressing losing battle involving lots of wiping and spraying, and your time and energy would be better spent elsewhere.

Only you can decide whether to persist in the war against pests, my advice is to choose the path of the least environmental impact. And if it is making you feel really down, it’s time to say goodbye!

Well cultivated plants will be less prone to pest outbreaks - so good light, good drainage, good potting medium and appropriate watering and feeding are a start. Make sure to give your plants a little breathing room as good airflow around your plants is also important.

My general pest treatment advice is Quarantine, remove the worst affected foliage, physically remove the pests you can see with a gentle squirt of the hose or a wipe with a damp cloth.

This may be enough, or you might want to treat your plant with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.

I don’t believe in using non organic sprays in my garden, indoor or out. For me horticultural oil and insecticidal soap and neem and are as hard core as I go. To my mind if a plant is getting repeatedly adversely affected by pests or diseases I will try another species.

Fungus Gnats

Consider these tiny black fly-like insects to be an indicator that your soil is staying too wet. This is usually a light-water-drainage issue. That is: not enough light, too much or too frequent waterings or inadequate drainage.

Your pot must have a hole in it, ideally a couple, always feel the soil and lift the pot to see how heavy it is before you water. Unless you are growing a maidenhair fern, your pot should feel lighter than when you just watered and soil should be dry to your middle knuckle.

Most importantly your plant must have a window it belongs too and ideally it should beable to see the sky but not the sun. Light is food for plants and if your plant is getting lots of lovely light you are less likely to have moisture problems.

Mealybug and Scale

These are two different insects, but live and die the same way. Scale looks like little brown, green or or black scabs or scales, or weird white creature (google cottony cushion scale, the stuff horror movies are made of (ewwww!)

Mealybug looks like tiny white specks, white fluffy stuff or white slaters with two tails.

Quarantine, remove heavily affected foliage, wipe and if necessary spray. You will need to repeat the treatment in about 7 days or according to the product manufacturers direction.

Spider Mite

Like little tiny spiders - webs and all. The damage can look like white speckles, like the colour has been sucked out of the plant. These pests can be difficult to spot sometimes.

To remove these pests a gentle spray with the hose works well. Be sure spray away all webs as the pests can shelter underneath from pest sprays. Quarantine, remove the worst affected foliage, squirt, and spray with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap and repeat as directed by manufacturer.


These are also called Thunderfly, They are tiny skinny winged black bugs ...These guys are a right pain, as well as sucking the goodness from your plant they can also transmit planty viruses, and apparently they can bite! I have yet to have an outbreak inside, but I remember them sitting on our faction shirts during school carnivals, they are attracted to the colour blue so blue sticky traps are used in agricultural settings.

Wipe these babies away and then - insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, or neem or you can dust your plant with dimetaceous earth. Because these spread voraciously consider how much you love your plant may be best to throw away and start again. They lay their eggs inside the plant tissue, so these bugs are really hard to deal with.

White fly

These are tiny white winged insects, as the name suggest like teeny tiny white flies. They hang out underneath the leaf munching away. The damage they do can look like little wriggly lines as they much little pathways along the leaves. Quarantine, wipe and spray.

For horticultural oils and care products visit our online store here.

For more hints on growing your indoor garden visit our handy 'Plant Tips' page or check out our 'Knowhow' workshops with our plant guru Claire Greenhill. 

Photo by Rae Fallon
July 21, 2020 — Jasmyn Woodford