Aphid infestation in house

Aphids are tiny bugs on plants the like to cluster on new growth and flowers. Getting rid of aphids indoors can take some time but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Follow these organic aphid treatment methods to kill aphids on houseplants, and learn how to get rid of aphids on indoor plants FOR GOOD!

The winter of 2009 will forever be remembered as the year of the worst houseplant pest outbreak I’ve ever had. I found aphids on one of my houseplants, and the infestation quickly spread to over half of my houseplant collection.

I spent the entire winter battling them, and I was on the brink of throwing all of my houseplants out into the snow and giving up. (how you like me now aphids?)

But in the end, I won the battle, and my houseplants remain aphid free to this day (knock on wood).

You can win the battle against these destructive plant bugs too!

Severe aphid infestation on a succulent plant

Contents

What Are Aphids?

Aphids are tiny bugs that feed on plants, and are a common pest outside in the garden. But sometimes aphids can get inside the house and infest houseplants too, and they can be a major problem on indoor plants.

Since they don’t have any natural predators indoors, they can quick infest your houseplants, and multiply very quickly.

What Do Aphids Look Like?

Many times they look like tiny green bugs on houseplants, but adult aphids can be just about any color – red, brown, blue…you name it.

Sometimes aphids blend in so well with the color of the leaves, that you won’t even notice them until their population explodes.

Whatever their color, they are small and fat and juicy – and gross. They can also have wings, but winged aphids are less common.

What do aphids look like? Sometimes tiny green bugs on houseplants

What Do Aphids Do To Plants?

Like most indoor plant pests, aphids feed on a houseplant by sucking the sap from the leaves, buds and flowers.

They like to cluster and feed on the new growth and flower buds of a plant, which can cause stunted growth, deformed leaves/flowers, yellow leaves and leaf/bud drop.

As they feed, aphids release a sticky residue so you may notice that the area around your plant is sticky before you even see the tiny bugs on your plants.

Thankfully, aphid damage isn’t usually catastrophic on a houseplant. Though they will eventually kill a plant, it would take a long time for aphids to kill a large houseplant.

Related Post: How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Indoor Plants, For Good!

Different stages of aphids life cycle

Aphids Life Cycle

Aphids multiply quickly, the life cycle of an aphid can be as short as one week. So that means from the time an egg hatches, it can mature into an adult that can start laying more eggs in one week.

Yah, as you can see, once they get going, their population can grow exponentially. Yikes!

Aphid eggs are super small, so you’ll probably never see those. But you may notice what looks like a bunch of tiny white flecks on the leaves and around the base of the houseplant several days before seeing the adults – those are aphid nymphs.

This might even be the first thing you notice right before you discover an infestation. Every time I’ve seen white flecks on a houseplant like this, sure enough a few days later adult aphids would appear.

Aphid nymphs look like tiny white flecks on plants

Where Do Aphids Come From Indoors?

When you discover aphids on a houseplant, the first thing you’ll probably wonder is where the heck did they come from in the first place?

Aphids can come from anywhere, and you might not ever figure out exactly where they came from. Here are the most common places where aphids come from indoors…

  • A plant that spent the summer outside had aphids on it when you brought it back indoors
  • Fresh flowers or produce that has been brought inside from the garden
  • Bringing home a new houseplant that has aphids on it
  • These tiny bugs can easily crawl or fly though window screens during the summer

Aphids And Ants

As with mealybugs, if you have ants, they may be causing the problem! Ants will bring aphids to a houseplant so that they can feed off of the honeydew which is produced when the aphids feed on the plant.

So, if you have ants in your house, then that may be where the aphids are coming from.

Aphids and ants

How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Houseplants

Once you discover aphids on a plant, it’s super important to act fast because they can spread like wildfire to your surrounding houseplants.

Once the original host plant becomes overcrowded, the aphids will start migrating, and they can easily crawl or fly to other plants.

Aphids can become immune to synthetic chemical pesticides, so skip those nasty chemicals! The best way to kill aphids on indoor plant is to use all natural pest control methods rather than using chemicals for aphids.

Plus, you don’t want to use toxic chemical pesticides in your house, so we’ll stick to talking about safe pest control methods for killing aphids on houseplants (they work better anyway!).

How To Treat Aphids On Houseplants

The first thing you should do is quarantine the infested plant, and then thoroughly clean the area where that plant was sitting. Be sure to inspect all of the surrounding houseplant for signs of aphids too.

Then begin treating the infested plant immediately using these organic aphids treatment methods…

Killing Aphids With Soapy Water

The first thing I do once I find aphids on indoor plants is wash the plant with soap and water. You can do this task in the sink, or in the shower for larger houseplants.

To start, you can spray the leaves of the infested houseplant with a strong stream of water to rinse off all of the aphids that you see.

Then wash the leaves with a weak solution of mild liquid soap and water. Soapy water kills aphids on contact.

Before using any type of soap solution for aphids on your plants, test it one leaf first to make sure the soap won’t damage the plant. Some plants are sensitive to soapy water, and the leaves can be damaged

DIY homemade pesticide for aphids

Make Your Own Homemade Aphid Spray

Another great home remedy for aphids on plants is use organic insecticidal soap to kill them. You can buy an organic insecticidal soap for killing aphids on houseplants, or whip up a batch of my homemade aphid insecticide spray…

My homemade aphid spray recipe:

  • 1 tsp of organic mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter tepid water

Mix both ingredients in a spray bottle, and spray it directly on the aphids. This homemade organic aphid killer spray is the best insecticide for aphids, and works great for getting rid of these pesky bugs on contact.

These organic aphid sprays will kill the aphids on contact, but they have no residual effect. Getting rid of aphids with soap sprays alone can take some time, so be sure to treat your plants on a regular basis until all signs of aphids are gone.

Before spraying anything on your plants, be sure to test it on one leaf to make sure it won’t damage the plant.

Use Neem Oil For Aphids

If you’re looking for an even more natural way to get rid of aphids, neem oil is a natural insecticide for aphids that is very effective, and it works great for residual aphid prevention too.

It really works wonders for eliminating an aphid infestation, and I highly recommend it. You can buy concentrated neem oil for pretty cheap, and a big bottle will last a long time.

If you end up getting the concentrate, then you’ll need to mix it with a mild liquid soap to help the oil mix with water (follow the instructions on the label).

A pre-mixed horticultural oil or hot pepper wax spray are also natural aphid sprays that work well when used directly on plant pests, and they can help to get rid of aphids on plants.

Use neem oil for aphids on houseplants

Related Post: How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Houseplants, For Good!

Try Rubbing Alcohol

Another more natural remedy for aphids is rubbing alcohol. Use it to kill aphids on houseplants by taking a cotton swab to dab the rubbing alcohol directly onto the bugs, or spray a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water directly on the pests.

Before you spray the entire plant with a rubbing alcohol solution like this, be sure test this solution on one leaf of the plant first to be sure it won’t damage your plant.

Killing aphids on houseplants using rubbing alcohol

Use Houseplant Sticky Stakes For Flying Aphids

Like I mentioned above, some aphids have wings and can fly around to infest nearby plants. If you take a close look at the aphids on your plant, you can easily see the ones that have wings.

If you find that there are winged aphids on your houseplants, then they could just fly away as soon as you disturb or start to treat the plant, and won’t be killed by the sprays.

So, to capture and kill aphids with wings, I recommend getting some houseplant sticky traps (like these or these), and put a few around nearby houseplants to (hopefully) capture any winged aphids that might be flying around.

Keep in mind that sticky traps will also capture fungus gnats, so don’t panic if you see lots of bugs on the trap – they might just be annoying fungus gnats (and here’s how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplant soil).

Use houseplant sticky stakes to kill flying aphids

How To Prevent Aphids From EVER Coming Back

Aphids are tough opponents, and it can take some time to eliminate them from all of your houseplants (especially when you have a lot of houseplants like I do!).

You can’t just spray or wash an infested plant once, and expect to get rid of aphids on houseplants forever.

Since the are tiny, and they multiply so quickly, getting rid of aphids on houseplants will take persistence and patience.

Here are some additional pest control tips to help you prevent aphids from ever coming back…

  • Check your houseplants on a regular basis for signs of aphids
  • Every time you bring home a new houseplant, quarantine it for several days to be sure there are no plant bugs on it before adding it to your plant collection
  • Neem oil works as an aphid repellent, so use it on houseplants that have been infested in the past to help prevent future outbreaks
  • Be sure to clean and debug houseplants that are outside before brining them back indoors for the winter

There’s no doubt about it, aphid control indoors can be a huge hassle, and it will definitely take some time to get rid of aphids on houseplant – so be patient. Remember, the best way to get rid of aphids on houseplants is to use natural aphid control methods… and don’t give up!

Are you tired of battling bugs on your indoor plants? Then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! It has lots of awesome home remedies for bugs on plants, and will show you exactly how to get rid of pests on plants, FOR GOOD!

Products I Recommend

Recommended Reading

  • Winter Houseplant Care
  • The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual
  • The House Plant Expert

More About Houseplant Pests

  • Organic Plant Pest Control Supplies
  • How To Use Neem Oil Insecticide On Plants
  • How To Get Rid Of Houseplant Bugs Naturally
  • Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
  • How To Get Rid Of Thrips On Houseplants

How do you get rid of aphids on houseplants? Share your tips about organic treatment for aphids in the comments below.

Aphids: How to Identify and Get Ridof these House Plant Pests

What They Look Like

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that may be black, green, or red. They are pear-shaped and have long legs. Some have wings and others are wingless.

Where to Find Them

They typically attack new growth of plants. You may find them on growing tips and flower buds, where they suck plant juices leaving sticky deposits of plant sap. These plant-sucking insects cause distorted leaves and buds. Some types feed on roots.

These house plant pests can show up any time of the year and multiply quickly. Look for them clustering on buds, leaves, and stems.

Aphids are visible, especially along stems and leaf axils. Treat infested plants immediately because these pests can quickly cause damage, then move on to your other plants.

How to Get Rid of Aphids

Home remedies sometimes do the trick. Try water or soapy water first, before resorting to harsh chemicals.

Wipe off plant leaves — top and bottom — with a damp cloth. This will remove insects and their eggs. If you have a large infestation, spray the plant with water several times to dislodge the pests from the plant.

Clean heavily infested plants with a cloth or sponge dipped in soapy water. Use mild dishwashing liquid that doesn’t contain fragrance or other additives. Squirt 2 teaspoonfuls into 1 gallon of room-temperature water and gently wash the plant’s leaves, undersides of leaves, and the base of the leaves where they attach to the stems. If this seems too tedious, cover the soil with a newspaper or plastic wrap, hold the plant by its base, and plunge the foliage into the soapy water. Wait 10 minutes then rinse the plant well using room-temperature water.

It’s a good idea to spray your plant once a week with a solution of soap and water to prevent bugs from coming back. Remember to rinse the plant with clear water afterward.

Rubbing alcohol kills aphids, too. Dab them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. Repeat applications every 2 to 3 days. This method works well, but use it with caution. Covering the whole leaf with alcohol damages plant tissue.

If you have a large infestation, or just some stubborn bugs, try an insecticidal soap. Made of sodium or potassium salts, insecticidal soaps are effective and are not harmful to people or pets if they are used as directed on the manufacturer’s label.

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Oh, do I ever hate aphids. These little pesky insects suck the life out of my plants (quite literally!), and wherever they go, they bring plant destruction in their wake. Their presence causes even more disastrous problems to occur to my garden.

But there’s a way to eliminate aphids from your landscape, and by keeping on top of the problem, you can keep them away for years to come. Today, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these tiny pests, how to treat problems that they cause, and how to get them out of your garden for good!

Listen to this post on the Epic Gardening Podcast

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Best Solutions for Aphid Control:

  • Safer Brand Soap
  • Safer Brand Home and Garden Spray
  • Orange Guard Spray
  • Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap

Environmental Control Options:

  • Lacewings
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Insect houses

To Prevent Aphids, Use:

  • Neem oil
  • Diatomaceous earth

Aphid Overview

Common Name(s) Aphids, plant lice, greenflies, blackflies, whiteflies, rose aphids, potato aphids, bean aphids, cabbage aphids, green peach aphids, wooly aphids, wooly apple aphids, melon aphids, lettuce root aphids, plus many more
Scientific Name(s) Over 4400 species (250 harmful to agriculture/forestry).
Family Aphididae
Origin Worldwide, but prefer temperate zones
Plants Affected Most food crops (excepting garlic and chives), fruit trees, roses and other flowering plants.
Common Remedies Insecticidal soaps, diatomaceous earth, pyrethrin sprays, orange oil sprays, neem oil, flour, beneficial insects, row covers, reflective mulch cloth, companion planting trap plants or repellent plants

So, what are aphids? The Aphididae family of insects is incredibly wide. There’s over 4400 species of aphids, about 250 of which are destructive on most common garden plants. There’s tiny black bugs. There’s tiny green bugs. There’s tiny white bugs. Some are reddish, pinkish, or brown. They suck the plant saps out of your plants’ leaves, and the plants die.

Does this seem intimidating? It shouldn’t be. Aphids all have similar life cycles, and all can be defeated in the same fashion. Whether you’re battling rose aphids, potato aphids or wooly aphids, there is still hope that they can be defeated, as long as you act quickly.

Source: Ryan Hodnett

Most aphids are pear-shaped, with long antennae and long legs. Some varieties, such as the wooly aphid, appear to have a wooly or waxy coating. This is caused by a secretion which they produce. Other varieties lack the secretion. As said above, they come in multiple shades and colors, including black, white, green, red, pink, brown, or even almost-colorless.

Adult aphids are usually wingless, although most aphid species have some winged forms. This allows them to disperse to other areas more easily, especially when the population is high or they need to spread out to find more on which to feed. In some cases, this happens only during the spring or fall, but other species can develop winged forms as necessary to keep the population growing.

Many aphids will cluster on the underside of a leaf to suck the sap from it. They aren’t commonly disturbed, even if the leaf is moved. You can occasionally find leaves with hundreds and hundreds of them clinging to the back.

Life Cycle of Aphids

Aphid giving birth. Source: bugldy99

One of the reasons that aphids are so widespread, especially in areas like California that have moderate temperatures, is because they don’t actually have to mate before having young. Female adult aphids give birth to live female nymphs in a process known as parthogenesis. In fact, in moderate regions, aphids can often live year-round, and the population can continually grow.

Unlike many other insects, aphids don’t normally lay eggs during optimal weather conditions. The female adult will give birth to her nymphs. Those nymphs will then go through four stages of development, shedding their skin as they increase in size. In warm conditions, adulthood can take as little as 7-10 days to full maturity. And as an adult nymph can have as many as 80 young in a week, population growth is incredibly rapid.

A few species of aphids that live in climates with colder winters will produce sexual, winged forms during the late summer and early fall. These aphids will mate and lay their eggs typically on the underside of leaves of perennial plants. The eggs do not hatch until weather conditions are optimal, which means that come spring, another upsurge in the aphid population will rapidly occur.

Needless to say, reducing the population of aphids in your yard is essential, and must be done quickly and consistently enough that they don’t just replenish their numbers.

Common Habitat of Aphids

Aphids tend to live where they eat, and what they eat depends on the species of aphid. They can be found on most fruit and vegetable crops, on some flowering plants like roses or chrysanthemums, on trees, and in some bushes. Often, the wingless aphids remain hidden on the underside of leaves, but it’s very easy to spot a large infestation as they’re clustered together in large quantities.

Colonies can also be identified if black, sooty mold begins to appear on plants, as that is a sign of mold growing on the aphid secretion known as honeydew. Honeydew is a sticky, sweet material that can create more problems (such as sooty mold), and which entices ants to come feed on it. Some species of ants actually farm aphids. If you’re finding sooty mold on the leaves of your plants, it’s quite likely that you have a severe aphid infestation!

What Do Aphids Eat?

Source:
hankplank

Aphids bite into the underside of a leaf and feed on the plant’s sap that’s stored in the leaf. While a few aphids on a plant is not enough to cause major concern, large populations draining the sap can cause plants to yellow, wilt, and wither. Since aphids become carriers for any plant diseases that a plant they’ve been consuming has, they can spread disease if they move to another plant. Some varieties of aphid also are carriers for other plant toxins, and when they feed, they will infect plants with those toxins.

Most aphids tend to prefer a singular type of plant. So, for instance, a potato aphid is most likely going to prey on potato plants. Still, there are some varieties of aphid that will feast on multiple plant species. One example is the green peach aphid. Green peach aphids typically stick to stone fruit trees like peaches and plums, but they will also happily eat tomatoes, peppers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, corn, cucurbits like cucumbers, melons, and squash, and flowering plants like roses.

A few species, such as the lettuce root aphid, actually will suck on the roots of the plant rather than the leaves or stems. These are harder to identify as they may be under the soil, but cause similar damage to other aphid species.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids

While they can seem unconquerable, there are some steps you can take to eliminate the aphid threat in your garden. Like most insect infestations, you can start by pinching or pruning off heavily-infested leaves from plants. But what if you need more help, and pinching and pruning isn’t handling it anymore?

Organic Aphid Control

When trying to kill aphids, products like Safer Brand Soap can help significantly. This insecticidal soap kills not only aphids, but earwigs, mites and whiteflies, grasshoppers, mealy bugs, soft scales, and a host of other insects. While the term ‘soap’ may be confusing as it’s not like your normal dish soap, it does a marvelous job of eliminating aphid populations by coating their bodies so that they can’t breathe and suffocate. It’s organic (the active ingredient is potassium salts of fatty acids) and can be used all the way through the plant’s life cycle up to harvest time.

If your problem is very severe, adding some pyrethrins to the mix helps. Safer Brand Home and Garden Spray combines the potassium salts of fatty acids with pyrethrins, making it an effective way to kill aphids as well as a host of other insects. This option is great for people who’re experiencing heavy problems with both aphids and other insects such as mosquitoes, ants and roaches.

A homemade remedy for killing aphids is to mix a quart of water with a teaspoon of dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Blend it together well and apply it directly to the plants. The cayenne pepper acts as a repellent, and the dish soap will coat the insects and cause them to smother.

Ants & Aphids: Wiping Them Both Out

I keep mentioning that some ant species farm aphids for their honeydew. It happens a lot more often than most people think, and if you are seeing a lot of ants running up and down your plants, check the leaves for aphids that they might be tucking away there!

Orange peel extracts are a popular remedy, as most insects can’t stand orange oils. Orange Guard Spray provides an easy-to-use organic solution made from citrus rinds, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. While aphids aren’t as common indoors, the spray also works on ants, roaches, and fleas, which means that if you’ve got ants farming your aphid colonies, this may be a way to wipe out both pests at the same time.

Another problem if you have ants farming aphids, especially on fruit trees or woody plants, is to use a product like Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap. This is a very sticky solution that will catch ants marching up the stems, branches or trunks of trees and keep them from farming aphids or getting to the fruit. This also can be effective for aphids on roses if they’re ant-farmed colonies, although it won’t prevent the aphids themselves. This doesn’t work as well on softer plants, and it is incredibly sticky stuff, so be careful when using this around children or pets.

Environmental Aphid Control

Often, just getting the aphids off the plants initially is a good way to slow the destruction of your plants. Using a Bug-Blaster or other sprayer and plain water to knock the aphids off the leaves will slow them down or stop them entirely.

Something to consider is that aphids are attracted to plants with soft new growth. Over-watering or over-fertilizing your plants may make them more enticing to an aphid population, and may have other negative connotations for your plants too. While you can’t prevent new growth on young plants (nor do you want to!), maintaining your older plants properly helps you to protect them from aphid attack.

If you live in an area where frogs are common, encourage one to live under your edible plants! Frogs like to eat aphids as well as a number of other pest insects such as squash bugs, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers.

Beneficial Insects To The Rescue!

One of the most popular ways to eliminate aphids from an environmental standpoint is to make sure their natural predators are widespread in your garden. To do this, you can release ladybugs, and as ladybugs eat aphids quite happily, they’ll gobble down your garden pests. When you do release ladybugs, do so at dusk or in the early evening, as they’ll immediately fly away during the daytime. Spray a fine mist of water onto the plants just before you release, as the moisture may convince them to stick around longer. While they’ll still eventually fly away to develop their own colonies, they should wipe out your aphids before they go.

Other beneficial insects include lacewings and parasitic wasps. A lacewing larva can eat up to 600 aphids before it becomes adult. While parasitic wasps don’t typically consume aphids, they do consume other pest insects that may eat aphids and then populate the garden, and having them in your yard will keep the aphids for the ladybugs and lacewings instead of for pests.

If you do choose to use beneficial insects, you can increase the likelihood that they will stick around by adding flowering plants that they prefer to drink the nectar of when aphids aren’t available. Planting chives, caraway, dill, fennel, marigolds, cosmos, and sweet alyssum in your garden can help keep your ladybug and lacewing population steady, even after the aphids are mostly consumed.

You can also provide housing for your beneficial insects. An insect house can provide shelter for ladybugs, lacewings, and single bees among other types of good bugs. While there’s no guarantees that your beneficial insects will take up permanent residence, it’s a great open invitation, and if they do decide to stay, you’ll have pollinators and natural aphid predators all the time.

Preventing Aphids

Diatomaceous earth is incredibly effective as a repellent. Made of finely-powdered shells from diatoms, food-grade diatomaceous earth will slice up the soft bodies of insects which crawl over it, although it’s completely harmless to humans and pets. It can be sprinkled or dusted over all surfaces of a plant to create a repellent barrier, although it does need to be reapplied after rainy conditions.

Let’s not forget the neem oil. This multipurpose tool coats the exterior of the aphids and causes them to smother and die, plus it has antifungal aspects which help to clear up fungal growths like powdery mildew and black sooty mold. It also helps to cut down the speed of repopulation by acting as a repellent on the leaves and stems of your plants.

An old-fashioned remedy for aphids is to dust plants with flour, as the flour will constipate the aphids and deter them from sticking around. Like diatomaceous earth, this needs to be repeated if it rains.

Companion planting can help discourage aphids from taking up residence. Some plants, such as mustards and nasturtiums, will actually lure aphids to them. This means that you might be able to plant mustard or nasturtium as a trap plant to keep aphids away from your other plants. Similarly, there are plants which repel aphids such as catnip, garlic, and chives. Garlic and chives are especially helpful around roses or other flowering plants that tend to draw aphids, but can be used to good effect around your edible plants as well – especially lettuce.

You can discourage early aphid infestations on your younger plants by growing your plants under row covers. This will keep the aphids away from those tastier young shoots and leaves entirely, but when your plants begin to flower, you’ll need to remove the covers for pollinating purposes.

Silver-colored reflective mulch cloth has been shown to be quite effective in repelling aphid infestation, especially during the warmer months of the year. Summer squash, curcurbits, and other related plants have shown significantly lower levels of aphid infestation, plus increased yields, when a reflective mulch is used.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My plants have curled leaves after aphids are gone! Help?

A: Unfortunately, even after you’ve figured out how to kill aphids and eliminated the pest, the curled leaves are likely to remain. If this is a plant such as a Swiss chard or other leafy vegetable, there’s not much you can do to restore the shape of the leaves, although you can certainly try to encourage new leaf growth. If it’s on a non-edible leaf, leaving the leaves intact is okay, as they’ll continue to photosynthesize. But for visual purposes, you can trim the most curled leaves off as long as there’s plenty of other leaves left to keep the plant alive.

Q: Do aphids jump?

A: You might be mixing up aphids (which are occasionally called whiteflies) with true whiteflies. True whiteflies are also called “jumping plant lice”, which is even more confusing as aphids are often called “plant lice”. Aphids themselves do not typically jump, although they do crawl (and in limited situations may be able to fly). So no, aphids don’t jump!

As you can see, if you don’t attack the aphids when you first find them, they’ll rapidly breed and spread to take over your garden. These simple steps and measures can help you kill aphids when you spot them, and with luck you can keep them out of your yard in the future. Are there any steps I didn’t cover that you’d recommend in the war against aphids? Share them in the comments!

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Kevin Espiritu
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Aphids on Indoor Plants: How to Control Garden Pests Inside

If you’ve gardened indoors for very long, you may have experienced it.

That sinking sensation in your gut — followed by a hint of panic — that comes when you notice something on your plants: bugs.

Ick.

When it comes to indoor garden pests, the most typical culprits are aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. In this post, you’ll learn about aphids (and how to control them, of course).

A common garden pest, the aphid attacks everything from greens to melons, and it comes in a whopping 4,000 varieties.

But the few species you might encounter indoors tend to look quite similar: pear-shaped, about 1/4 inch long, and a shade of green.

Female aphids can birth live young at the rate of 3–6 little baby aphids per day — without the help of males.

In other words, they literally multiply overnight.

This population surge is especially pronounced indoors because natural forces of control, such as predatory insects and hard freezes, aren’t present.

Signs of an Aphid Infestation

The most obvious sign that you have aphids is the presence of, well, aphids. But their size and color can make them hard to spot — especially in small numbers.

Another telltale sign is the damage that aphids cause.

Aphids feed on plant sap. (They seem to have a hankering for young plant growth in particular.) This stunts and disfigures plants and can even introduce crop-killing viruses.

As if that weren’t enough, aphids also excrete honeydew — a sticky, shiny substance. Honeydew encourages the growth of mold and fungus, which can interrupt photosynthesis and cause other problems.

How Do Aphids Get Inside?

Growing indoors is an effective way to lower the likelihood of aphids. But no environment is completely immune to them.

If you bring in an outside plant, it may already be harboring the pest. Some aphids fly, so they could drift through an open window with the wind. Or they might simply hitch a ride in on your clothes or the dog.

In short, aphids sometimes find their way inside. But you can do something about it if that happens.

3 Ways to Prevent Aphids Indoors

As with any garden problem, the best defense is prevention. (If you already have an aphid infestation, don’t worry — I’ve got treatment tips coming up next.)

To improve your chances of growing a successful indoor garden, follow these three steps.

1. Start seedlings indoors.

As I mentioned, if you bring outside plants inside, you might simultaneously introduce pests. My personal rule is to never use outdoor transplants — even if the plants look healthy and show no signs of pests.

It’s just not worth the risk.

The safest approach is to start all the plants for your indoor garden from seed. It’s a little more work, but at least you’ll know your garden has a fresh, pest-free start.

2. Grow healthy plants.

Unhealthy plants are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. So make sure you’re providing enough nutrients and light.

The Mineral Blend ratio for mature plants is 20mL of A + 20mL of B per gallon of water. But if all your plants are in the seedling stage, a diluted formula is best — 10mL of A + 10mL of B per gallon of water.

Using the Tower Garden Grow Lights Kit? Run your lights for at least 14 hours per day to promote healthy plant growth.

3. Plant aphid-repelling crops.

One of the easiest natural ways to prevent pests (indoors or out) is to grow plants they don’t like. And many herbs — including mint, catnip, chives, dill, and cilantro — actually repel aphids.

Try growing a few of these to keep the bugs at bay.

How to Control Aphids on Indoor Plants

In the event that prevention isn’t enough, it is possible to treat an indoor aphid problem. The key is to catch it early by inspecting your garden as often as daily.

If you notice the signs of trouble outlined above, immediately try one of the following solutions.

Note: Depending on the severity of the infestation, it may be more practical to start over rather than attempt to treat the problem. (Sorry, I know this is something no gardener likes to hear.) If you find aphids on more than one third of your plants, consider cleaning out your growing system and starting new seeds.

1. Remove aphids manually.

For minor infestations, the simplest method of control is to manually remove the aphids.

You can handpick them, prune and destroy infected plant material, or — my favorite technique — press Scotch® tape against infected plant material and then peel it off (with the aphids attached).

2. Wash away aphids.

If the affected plants are small and you’re able to remove them from your Tower Garden, pull them out and run them under a heavy stream of water from a faucet. Alternatively, take your plants outside and spray them with water from a hose.

Aphids aren’t too tough. Often a strong jet of water is all that’s required to flush them away.

3. Spray aphids with natural solutions.

A spray treatment is the most aggressive approach. It’s also the trickiest indoors, as it can be a little messy.

First, you’ll need to prepare the solution. There are two recipes I recommend for indoor aphids. Both are organic-approved.

  • Neem oil + insecticidal soap. Combine one tablespoon of insecticidal soap, one tablespoon of neem oil, and one gallon of water. You can find neem oil and insecticidal soap at most garden stores and online.
  • Essential oils. Per gallon of water, use no more than 10 drops each of peppermint, thyme, rosemary, and clove essential oils.

Pour whichever solution you choose into a spray bottle and apply it to your plants. Take care to coat the undersides of plant leaves — where aphids (and eggs) hide in clusters. These solutions will kill only the aphids they come into direct contact with.

If you’re worried about overspray in your house, mix the solution in a bucket and dip your plants (provided you are able to remove them from your Tower Garden).

What about Good Bugs?

When you have an infestation outside, you can introduce or attract good bugs — known as predatory insects — to help with pest control. Lady beetles and larvae, for example, have voracious appetites for aphids.

But most folks don’t want more bugs running around inside. So I don’t recommend that approach for indoor gardens.

Questions?

Whether you’re new to indoor gardening or have been growing food in your living room for several seasons now, I hope this advice helps you prevent and — worst case — treat aphid problems.

If you have questions about what we’ve covered here, please drop me a comment below!

Indoor Aphid Control: Getting Rid Of Aphids On Houseplants

If you discover aphids on houseplants, there are many safe and easy methods that you can use to eliminate them. Aphids are typically found at the tender growing tips of plants and will cause damage by sucking sap from the plant and causing deformities. Left unchecked, aphids can do a lot of harm to your plants. Luckily, there are many ways of managing aphids inside.

Indoor Aphid Control

There are many mechanical and non-toxic methods to address your houseplant aphid problems.

Light aphid infestations

The simplest way, especially if you only have a light aphid infestation, is to simply squash the aphids with your fingers. Aphids are very soft bodied and if you only see a few of them on your plants, this is probably the easiest method.

Another method that you can use for lighter infestations, especially if you don’t want to squash them with your fingers, is to wash them away with a stream of water.

If you have a plant that has finer foliage, a more effective method would be to dip the plant in water. Choose a sink, bucket or other container that is large enough to accommodate the plant. You only want to dip the stems and leaves of the plant into the water and not the soil. Simply turn the plant upside down and secure the soil from falling out using newspaper or even a cardboard disk. Swish the plant around until the aphids are dislodged.

Heavier indoor aphid problems

If you have a larger infestation, you may want to purchase either an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Neem oil is derived from the neem tree and is organic. These are safe options and non-toxic.

For more severe infestations, you may want to choose a product that contains pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is derived from the flowers of a certain daisy. It is fast acting and has low toxicity. Whatever product you purchase, be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure the best result and allow for safe use.

If you want to make your own insecticidal spray, you can easily do so by mixing about 1-2 teaspoons of a mild dish detergent into one gallon of water. Then simply spray your plants and take special care to also cover the undersides of the leaves. Whatever liquid soap you use, choose one that has no dyes and fragrances if possible.

The key to managing aphids inside is early detection. The sooner you find the issue, the easier it will be to eliminate them.

Control Of Aphids On Indoor Plants

Aphids or greenfly are the most common and widespread of all the pests which attack house plants.

Usually green in colour they may also be black, grey or orange. Included in this group of related insects are blackfly and woolly aphids. Individual insects are very small, and may not at first be noticed. However as they thrive in colonies, a severe attack of aphids will be obvious.

These insects have a complicated life-cycle and all stages — egg, wingless nymph and adult aphid — may be present on the plant. They multiply at an alarming rate so it is important to control them.

Attack on buds

They attack plants with soft tissues in preference to those with woodier tissues. They live by sucking the sap of the plants from which they obtain amino acids. Particularly favoured are the growing tips and buds.

Distorted growth

As a result of aphid activity the plant growth will be distorted and the whole plant weakened. Aphids need to consume vast amounts of sap because the concentration of amino acids is not as great as that of sugar in the sap. They are unable to use the sugars and deposit them as a sticky secretion on the leaves and stems of plants, as well as all over your furniture and woodwork.

Ants are attracted to the sticky honeydew and you may find an infestation of ants close to an aphid colony. In some cases ants will actually transport aphids from plant to plant to start up new sources of honeydew.

If there is a large amount of honeydew on the leaves sooty mould will develop. This black fungus thrives on the droplets of honeydew and clogs the breathing pores (stomata) of the plant. This inhibits the plant’s ability to make its own nutrients.

They may also carry disease to your other healthy house plants.

Using chemicals safely

  • Always read the instructions on the label carefully before you use the , product. Note in particular, if spraying edible plants, that there must be a time lapse between spraying and harvesting the plants.
  • Avoid breathing the spray yourself. Spray house plants outdoors, if possible.
  • Make sure that the spray you use doesn’t harm any insects which might be beneficial to the plant’s welfare.

Getting rid of aphids

Minor infestations.

There are many methods of dealing vith aphids. If there are only a few and you have seen them before too much damage is done simply remove them.

Spray them with water from a hand sprayer or hold the affected part of the plant under a gentle flow of water from a shower and rinse them away. If you add a small amount of liquid soap to the water in the hand sprayer the treatment will be doubly effective. You should repeat the treatment after a week to catch any aphids that might have hatched.

You can also wipe them off with a damp sponge or a moistened cotton swab.

Natural controls.

Aphids have many natural enemies which keep their population in check, when they occur outdoors. Ladybirds and lacewings in particular will help to control an infestation.

Serious infestations

Strong measures are needed to combat a severe attack. The safest way is to cut out the aphid-infested parts. However, this may not be successful, as aphids may return to parts so far not affected.

In this case use insecticides which are derived from organic products. Pyrethrum is a mild insecticide available as a dust or powder which is applied in solution with water.

It is a natural product with no known harmful side effects. It is especially useful as a spray on edible plants as it is non-toxic.

It works more effectively if a second application is made a week after the first.

Other insecticides. There are many products available which are effective in combatting aphids. Some are contact sprays which kill the insect on contact. Others are systemic — they poison the insect as it draws up the sap.

Plants to watch

Not only will an attack by aphids damage single plants, but they can carry other diseases and infect healthy plants.

Plants prone to aphid attack include kalanchoe, the Persian violet and busy lizzie. On the Cape primrose, aphids rarely attack the leaves but are often found on flower buds and stalks. On Fatshedera, Fatsia, Schefflera they are found on young growth only; on the asparagus fern on the stems. On cyclamen plants look on the undersides of leaves and on flower petals. Outdoors, aphids attack fuchsias, nasturtiums, pansies, roses, lilies and pot marigolds.

How To: Get Rid of Aphids

Photo: istockphoto.com

Are your garden plants stunted, shriveled, yellowing, or curling at the leaves, despite your best efforts to keep them alive? Check the undersides of the leaves, and you may find the culprit: large groups of aphids and/or the sticky residue they leave behind after feeding. (Or, on plants with tightly-packed leaves like those of day lilies, aphids may take root at the base of the plant instead.) These quarter-inch-long garden pests have soft pear-shaped bodies in various shades of white, black, yellow, green, brown, or red. The bane of gardeners everywhere, they feed on the plant’s sap and literally suck the life out of leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and roots.

Aphids reproduce so quickly—we’re talking several generations created in a single season—that by the time you notice the insects on your plants, you’re likely in the midst of a full-blown infestation. Thankfully, though, homeowners can often combat the pests before major damage occurs. Here’s how to get rid of aphids and keep them from returning to wreck your plants in the future.

STEP 1: REMOVAL

If you discover aphids your garden, follow one of these three methods to get rid of them.

Hose them down. If you spot a few aphids on your plants, the minor infestation can be successfully banished with a strong stream of water from the hose. Run water all over the plant, making sure to target the underside of each leaf. Repeat this process every few days until you’ve successfully eliminated all aphids, which could take up to two weeks.

Spray leaves with DIY insecticidal soap. Waging war with larger numbers of aphids? Make a homemade insecticidal soap, a low-toxicity bug control solution that will desiccate the soft bodies and kill the aphids without doing harm to your plants. Simply mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one quart of water, then spray or wipe the solution onto the leaves, stems, and buds of the plant. (Don’t forget: These bugs like to hide beneath leaves, so take care to thoroughly coat the underside of the leaves, too.) Repeat the process every two or three days for the next few weeks, until you no longer notice aphids on the plant.

Use a systemic pesticide. If your aphid infestation is substantial and not swayed by insecticidal soap, you may need to kill them with a systemic pesticide. Consider using something that contains Imidacloprid, which will kill aphids when ingested, but won’t harm pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Mix and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2: PREVENTION

After eradicating aphids from your garden, take measures to prevent the pests from returning. Here are three ways to deter aphids from your plants.

Introduce beneficial bugs. Several species of bugs—like lady beetles, lacewings, and parasitic wasps—happily munch on aphids. If you provide a habitat of flowering ground covers (especially varieties like cosmos and stonecrop that supply nectar throughout the growing season), you’ll draw them to the garden and successfully keep the aphid population in check. Homeowners can also purchase these natural predators via mail-order. If you introduce beneficial bugs to your garden, do not use broad-spectrum pesticide—it will kill them, too!

Apply dormant oil. If aphids have settled on your fruit trees, apply dormant oil (a commercial oil that controls pests during the off-season) in mid- to late-winter to kill any eggs that are overwintering. Mix the dormant oil with water in a garden sprayer, according to the directions on the packaging, and apply to the leaves, stems, branches, and trunk of the tree. Reapply per the manufacturer’s directions.

Choose neighboring plants strategically. Oregano, chive, sage, garlic, leeks, onions, and other plants with strong scents can deter aphids. Plant these in the areas of your garden where aphids have been a problem. In addition, you can grow plants that attract aphids, like calendula and nasturtium, on the opposite side of your property; they may draw aphids away from the affected area. Companion planting is a long-term prevention measure, but it could help your aphid population diminish significantly over several seasons.

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