Common Pest Problems of Indoor Plants

The insects most commonly found on indoor plants are mealybugs, spider mites, phids and scale insects.
Indoor plants bring joy, life and colour into our homes. When they are growing, they are incredibly pleasing but when they inexplicably start to wither and die, they are nothing but sort of exasperating. Healthy plants will be able to resist and fight off pests and diseases much better than weak plants. Indoor plants are prone to pest problems, and by learning to identify them, you can get to know the root of the cause and get your plant back on track.

Few Common Houseplant Pests

1. Aphids

Aphids are tiny insects that collected on the undersides of leaves. They can be green, brown, or black in color, and their feeding habits inhibit growth and result in distorted or curled leaves.

2. Spider Mites

These tiny spiders are generally light in color and create webs on the stems & leaves of plants. They suck out plant juices; their feeding habits create yellowish, distorted leaves.

3. Scale Insects

Scale insects suck the sap out of plants, leading to slow plant growth. There are many species of these bugs, so look out for either round or oval-shaped brown insects on the stems and leaves. Eliminating scales infection is not easy. Insecticides often do not penetrate in their solid shells.

4. Mealybugs

These bugs are a species of sap-sucking scale insect. They create a white, cottony appearance on indoor plants, and get collected on the undersides of leaves and plant nodes. They are difficult to remove. If you observe them on houseplants, cut off the affected branches. Alternatively, rub the mealybug with a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol.

5. Thrips

Thrips are small insects that can damage the plants. They eat in groups, sucking leaves, flowers and even fruit. These pests feed on leaves and flowers, discoloring and deforming them. Look for brown-colored specks.

6. Whiteflies

Whiteflies are white, gnat-like insects that feed on plant leaves. They will turn leaves pale yellow or white in heavy infestations. Whiteflies reproduce very quickly, therefore catching them soon will make them easier to get rid of.

7. Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are a common pest of plants grown indoors, mainly where humidity and moisture are high. They are usually first noticed when the harmless adults are seen around indoor plants or gathered at a nearby window. These non-biting adult gnats can become a flying nuisance. But it is the larval stage, feeding in the soil, that can damage tender plant roots.

Pest Management

  • While choosing indoor plants, make sure you are aware of their care needs and any specific problems to which they are susceptible.
  • A careful checking of the plant before buying / bringing them indoors is a must.
  • Meeting the environmental needs of plants will entail a healthy plant less vulnerable to pest attack.
  • In case pest-control is required, non-toxic or less-toxic insecticides should be preferred.

Reference links used:
1. – A breath of Fresh Air, La Ronna DeBraak
2. – House Plants for a Healthy Home, Jon Van Zile
3. – The Healing Power of Plants, Fran Bailey

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Know Your Home Air

Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.


Harmful effects
Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.


Harmful effects
All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting,
digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.

Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.


Harmful effects
Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.

A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.


Harmful effects
These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.

Second-hand smoke
Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.

Guest Bathroom

Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

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