If your plants have yellow or curled leaves with a shriveled look and stunted growth, there is a high chance that you are dealing with a pest known as ‘Aphid’.
To confirm the Aphid infestation, check the underside of your plant’s leaves or flowers.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of aphids in indoor plants.
What are Aphids?
Aphids are species of insects belonging to the family ‘Aphiodiodea’. There are about 5000 species of Aphids that attack indoor houseplants and outdoor plants.
Aphids are tiny pear-shaped insects and can be green, black, brown, white, pink, yellow, or grey. They are less than ¼ of an inch.
Aphids have an antenna in the front and cornicles at their rear. Certain species of aphids gradually develop a waxy or woolen appearance.
Being tiny, they are very difficult to notice as such. But thanks to their cluster forming habits, they can be noticed easily if you take a minute and look.
Some Aphids have wings. Those having wings fly during the day and lose their wings after a few days in their life cycle.
A female Aphid can give birth to 3-6 baby Aphids per day and does not need males to reproduce. They multiply overnight!
Also read: Do Indoor Plants Attract bugs?
Signs of Aphid Infestation in Indoor Plants
Look for small pears shaped insects in small colonies on the underside of leaves. A magnifying glass will help due to their small size. Aphids reproduce very quickly and the insects are highly mobile.
Look for ‘honeydew’ which is a sugary liquid that is secreted by Aphids as they feed on the plant sap.
Aphids have few distinguishable features and you can easily identify if your houseplant has it by looking for the following:
- Tiny pear-shaped pest with long legs.
- Protruding tube-like structure from its hind
- Aphids can be green black pink bite grey yellow or brown.
- Certain Aphids will have wings and some of them will have a waxy coating.
As the Aphid feeds on the plant’s juices, the plant becomes weak and starts to lose nutrients. If left to grow the Aphid will reproduce quickly and cause massive damage to the plant.
The damage done by Aphids to the plant are :
- Leaves turning yellow – Aphids love to suck nutrients from the leaves of the plant. The draining of nutrients causes the leaves to lose their color and dry up. Eventually, the leaves fall off from the plant.
- Curling of leaves – As the Aphids feed on the plants, some of them inject toxins into plant tissue. This, along with dehydration the plant suffers, causes the leaves to curl.
- Honeydew – Aphids secrete a liquid when they feed called ‘honeydew’. This honeydew attracts ants that protect the Aphid from predators like ladybugs.
- Black mold (sooty) – The black sooty mold is a fungus that grows on the honeydew. It’s growth causes interference with photosynthesis. The plant further dehydrates and becomes sick.
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How do Aphids Get Inside?
Aphids can enter homes through contaminated soil. This is usually from newly purchased plants. They can be hiding or overwintering in crevices of plants stems or undersurface of leaves or flowers.
Being tiny, they are very hard to notice and you might overlook them in the nursery/shop/garden.
They can also lay eggs in the potting soil mix and aphids can emerge after a while on the new plants (preferable choice for them is spring). In such cases, it is best to ‘repot’ new plants in a sterile potting mix.
Aphids can also drift inside with the wind through open doors or windows. They can also come inside through the clothes that we wear or through housepets.
Having understood the danger Aphids cause to the plant, let us now move towards how to kill Aphids on indoor plants
How to Kill Aphids on Indoor Plants?
The only solution is to kill aphids to prevent any plant damage.
Aphids multiply quickly and can become unmanageable in a short time duration. The key is to catch them early and get rid of them.
Isolate and prune the plant away
The first step is to isolate the infected plant from other plants. Once isolated, check the stems and leaves for assessing the amount of damage. Treat the plant naturally with the following methods that we will be discussing further on.
Prune away the heavily infected plant parts. Discard carefully by covering and placing in the trash to avoid spreading of Aphids. Some Aphids and eggs could be present in the soil. Consider repotting the plant in fresh sterile soil after treatment.
A word of caution. If a large part of the plant is infected with Aphids, consider throwing it away and starting afresh with a new plant.
If the infestation is minor, remove the Aphids manually by handpicking them or prune them away.
Wash away the Aphids
Aphids can be removed with a strong jet of water. Take it to the bathroom under the shower or take it outside and use a water hose.
Use strong pressure that will displace the Aphids but will not harm the plant. Flush the plant with good pressure taking extra care to blast the underside of the leaves. Aphids will easily get dislodged under the strong pressure of water.
If the plant has delicate foliage turn it upside down and dip the foliage portion into a bucket of clean water.
Spray the plant with an insecticidal soap solution
Use castile soap or Ivory soap and make a water solution to get rid of Aphids. These soaps are free of additives that might harm the plants. You can go for other insecticidal soaps as well that are free from additives.
Mix a tablespoon of liquid soap with a quart of lukewarm water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on the infected area and the Aphids.
Once the soap solution comes in contact with the pests, it penetrates the membrane and attacks their nervous system.
It is an effective method to kill the Aphids. Do this every few days until all signs of infestations are gone.
Use Neem oil to kill the Aphids
Using Neem oil (Azadirachta indica oil) is a great organic method to kill the Aphids, its larvae, and its eggs. Neem has insecticidal and fungicidal properties and does not harm the plant.
Take two 2 spoons of the oil plus one teaspoon of insecticidal soap in one liter of lukewarm water. Put it in the spray bottle and drench the plant with the solution.
The mixture is potent only up to 8 hours and needs to be used up within that time frame.
Increase the neem oil concentration for heavy infestations and keep spraying weekly until all the Aphids are gone.
Use organic pesticide- Pyrethrum
Just like Neem oil, once the Aphids come in contact with Pyrethrum, their nervous system gets attacked and they die.
Being organic, Pyrethrum is not long-lasting and the potency reduces with high temperature and UV exposure. That is why it is recommended to apply Pyrethrum at night.
Pyrethrum spray is available online and also comes in a powder form. If if you purchase the powder, make the spray by adding a little pure soap, cooking oil, and warm water.
Dab rubbing alcohol
This method takes time but gives good results. Aphids get killed instantly if you dab them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol is also called isopropyl alcohol. For a quick kill of a large number of Aphids, pour some rubbing alcohol on a damp cloth and give a gentle wipe to the infested leaves to get rid of lots of Aphids in one go.
Spray with Epsom salt
Epsom salt is very effective in getting rid of Aphids. Make an Epsom salt spray by adding two tablespoons of Epsom salt and one tablespoon of insecticidal soap in one gallon of water.
Use it in the evening time and wipe away in the morning to prevent leaf scorching.
Epsom salt kills Aphids instantly on contact as well as prevents new pests from attacking the houseplant.
Use homemade garlic spray
This is an effective spray to control Aphids. To make this, combine one garlic, one small onion, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender and make it into a paste.
Mix into one quart of water and leave it for one hour.
Strain the water and add one tablespoon of liquid soap. this mixture can be stored for up to one week in the fridge. Apply every few days until the Aphids are gone.
Trap Aphids with sticky traps
Sticky traps are effective for flying Aphids. Use these traps to capture the flying Aphids while you treat the crawling Aphids on your plants.
Hang them around your plant for instant capturing. Sticky traps are available online and at local garden centers.
Use Diatomaceous earth
Aphids can be killed easily using diatomaceous Earth. Dust the plant with this earth to get rid of them. The white powder naturally destroys the Aphids by dehydrating them. This is an easy way to get rid of them.
Diatomaceous Earth is only effective on dry plant foliage. Coat the plant and the top layer of the soil with it. Diatomaceous earth kills the Aphids, their eggs, and their larvae.
Leave Predator bugs on infected plants
There are certain beneficial insects like Ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lady beetles, and lacewings that love eating Aphids.
Predator bugs are known to finish up the pest infestations in a short duration of time.
Use ordinary flour
It is the simplest remedy for killing Aphids.
A quick dusting of the infested plant with the flour constipates the Aphids causing them to move away from the plant.
How to prevent Aphids from attacking indoor plants
Prevention is better than cure.
It is always safer to keep the indoor house plants in ideal conditions to prevent the onset of Aphids.
Below are some of the things you can do to make sure that the aphids don’t infect your plants.
Give your plant good light and nutrition
Always choose your house plant according to the amount of light it will receive in your house.
Plants in unfavorable light conditions get stressed. This makes them susceptible to the Aphid attack.
Make sure to give sufficient nutrients for healthy plant growth. A weak plant is susceptible to the Aphid attack.
Use good draining sterile soil for your indoor plant
Always pot or repot your plant in sterile soil. Outdoor garden soil can introduce eggs and larvae of Aphids into your house plant.
The store-bought potting mix is generally sterile. Do include a drainage layer of gravel at the bottom of the plant for good drainage.
If the roots are constantly saturated in water, it makes the plant sick and susceptible to the Aphid attack.
Dust off your plants regularly
Dust and other indoor components like smoke, pet hair, skin cells, etc leave a fine layer on the plant. This causes stress to the plants and invites Aphids.
Use a moist cloth or a damp cloth and wipe off the dust regularly.
Inspect your plants
Do a close inspection of your plant from time to time and prune isolated infestations.
Grow Aphid repellant herbs
Plant herbs like mint, cilantro, chives near the houseplants.
Aphids and other bugs hate the scent of herbs. Grow them in pots around your plants to stop the Aphids from being attracted to the plant
Now that you have learned all the techniques, let me know which one worked for you. Do follow up on the prevention once the Aphids are gone and you will not have to worry again.
Despite all the treatment and the precautions, know that when the house plant becomes severely infected with Aphids, it needs to be thrown away.
It is safer to say goodbye to it before the Aphids spread to other houseplants. Restart with a new plant. All the best.
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