Skip to Content

How to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Indoor Plants? Your Complete Guide

How to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Indoor Plants? Your Complete Guide

Share this post:

Disclaimer: Some links found on this page might be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I might earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s natural to bond with your plants. They are living organisms, after all. You feed them, prune them, nourish them, and bathe them on occasion.

No wonder you fall in love with them!

Unfortunately, your beloved plants are susceptible to diseases and bugs. 

Gnats, mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies are all examples of insects that can be fatal to your plant. 

Remember the Daleks from Dr. Who? Can you say: Exterminate! (say it aloud in a robotic voice!)

Anyhow, there are ways and means to get things done. Some family and pet-friendly techniques work to eliminate indoor plant bugs, while others literally exterminate!

Okay, enough puns for now. Let’s get to it. Pick one of the methods below or combine multiple for maximum bug extermination power!

10 Foolproof Ways To Get Rid Of Bugs On Indoor Plants: One List To Kill ‘Em All

Alright. Let’s get to it. Pick one of the methods below or combine multiple for maximum bug extermination power!

10 Indoor Plant Bug Remedies: The Swiss Army Knife of Bug Zappers

Without any more wait, let’s talk business. 

1 – There’s the Castile Soap solution

Homemade Spray To Get Rid Of Bugs On Plants

First things first, we’re not talking about dishwashing soap.

You may have heard a piece of bad advice about suffocating indoor plant bugs using a soapy water solution made up of dishwashing soap.

The problem there is, there’s no such thing. The dishwashing liquid is not a soap. It’s a detergent. Castile soap is a true soap.

That said, ivory dish-washing soap is the only other pure soap you can get your hands on. The rest will harm your plants because of the additives.

Additives are things like:

  • Fragrances like scented oils, essential oils, and perfumes
  • Dyes
  • Moisturizers

Note: Any type of watery soap mixture will kill soft-bodied insects. It’ll also strip the waxy coating from your plant’s leaves, leaving it very likely to dehydrate. Get the mixture too strong, and you’ll kill your plant.

Fortunately, the DIY route for making your own castile soap is as simple as it gets:

  • Get a spray bottle. If it’s a used one, clean it thoroughly.
  • Mix a tablespoon of the liquid soap per quart of water (that’s a quarter gallon, two pints, or four cups).
  • Give it a good shake/mix.

You can spray your entire plant. Better safe than sorry. Coat only one leaf, leave it for 24 hours, and see if the spray damages the plant anymore. If it did, try something else. If didn’t, go ahead and use it on the rest.

Do your best to be careful because the plant will need repeated applications, and you won’t want to damage it further.

How many applications? Good question!

  • For a light infestation – apply a second spraying a week later.
  • If it’s more than a few insects, do spot treatments every few days. In other words, inspect the plant, look for the bugs, and directly spray them instead of soaking your plant.
  • For a heavy infestation, you should coat the plant entirely with the solution every few days.

Be sure to spray it in the morning when the temperatures are cool because soapy water is only good when it stays on the plant long enough. 

Once it dries, it’s useless since it can’t affect the critters. Ideally, you want the mixture on the plant for as long as possible. Do that by spraying it in low temperatures since it won’t dry out as fast.

For this soapy spray to work, the soap solution needs to contact the pests. Once it does, it penetrates their membranes, attacking their nervous systems and causing a complete shutdown. Death!

Good times (sounding evil!)

Bad times are if the mixture is too potent that it damages the leaves to the point of the plant dehydrating. Then there’d be no point in killing the bugs. They’d leave all by themselves since they’d have no nourishment to munch on.

Words to Make You Wiser

Most smaller insects prefer the dark, so you’ll find them on the underside of the leaves. For best results with minimal risk (not saying there’s no risk), spray the liquid soap directly at the bugs you see rather than coating the entire plant.

Look closely at the underside of the leaves. That’s where they like to hide out.

Take the word of the experts for your plant’s safety. The safer way to use insecticidal soap is to use a highly refined version.

For that, authors Carlin Munnerlyn and Joey Williamson, both of Clemson University along with Master Gardener Joyce D. Ubl, report 10 commonly available commercial insecticidal soaps, much safer than the DIY variety.

Those are:

  • Bayer Advanced Natria Insecticidal Soap (view on Amazon).
  • Bonide Insecticidal Soap.
  • Concern Rose and Flower Insect Killer II.
  • Espoma Earth-tone Insecticidal Soap.
  • Lilly Miller – Worry-Free Insecticidal Soap.
  • Natural Guard Insecticidal Soap.
  • Raid Earth Options Insecticidal Soap.
  • Safer Insect-Killing Soap.
  • Schultz Garden Safe Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer.
  • Whitney Farms Insecticidal Soap.

Note: I retrieved information from Factsheet HGIC 2771 from the Clemson Cooperative Extension, which was last updated on Aug 12, 2015. Disclaimers apply. It’s only a list, not an endorsement.

Still, though, there are more tricks to put up your sleeve.

Check this out:

Note: This was retrieved from Factsheet HGIC 2771 from the Clemson Cooperative Extension and was last updated: Aug 12, 2015. Disclaimers apply. It’s only a list. Not an endorsement.

Still though, there’s more tricks to put up your sleeve.

Check this out…

2 – Neem Oil – A Superb All-Rounder that Insects Hate

Spraying Indoor Plants

Neel oil has a good reputation. So it’s always good to hear its name.

It’s pet-safe, family-safe, organic (always great for plants), and can control hundreds of different insect breeds, adult, larvae, and their eggs.

It’ll even fight off predatory nematodes.

In other words, it’s a dream oil for your plants, and get this: It’s ideal for indoor use!

Here’s how to make your own neem oil spray:

What you’ll need:

  • A pale or bucket large enough to mix the amount of spray you’re making.
  • An empty (and clean) spray bottle.
  • Neem oil extract (link to Amazon) – cold pressed is best.
  • Liquid castile soap (link to Amazon) for an emulsifier.

If you’re making your own oil, try to use cold-pressed neem oil extract because the active ingredient (Azadirachtin) is more potent.

Then, you’ll need an emulsifier (because oil doesn’t mix with water). For that, go with the trusted liquid castile soap.

The quantities you need for 10 liters at 2% (1% is for general purpose) neem oil spray are:

  • 200 ml neem oil.
  • 30 ml liquid castile soap.
  • 10 liters water.

Adjust the concentration to suit the quantity you’re making.

For example, use five liters at 2%, half the quantities to 100 ml neem oil, and 15 ml liquid castile soap, and reduce the water to 5 liters.

If you want to make it stronger, say for a heavier plant infestation, increase the amount of neem oil while leaving the other quantities the same.

How to Put it Together

  1. Add the liquid castile soap to the warm water.
  2. Slowly pour in your neem oil (constantly stir this to get it mixed thoroughly).
  3. Once it’s dissolved, put it in your spray bottle, shake it well, and keep shaking it. Use it right away by drenching your plant with it. The mix is only usable for up to eight hours, after which it loses its potency. 

You’ll repeatedly need to apply this solution as it’s not an instant bug killer. It takes time. Give it a week before retreating the plant, and keep spraying weekly until the bugs are gone.

Once the infestation’s cleared, you can drop the concentration to 0.5% of neem oil and use it as a bug repellent.

Or there’s this organic bug controller:

3 – Pyrethrum spray – An Instant Contact Poison for Insects

That’s pronounced pie-wreath-rum. Think festive. Christmas pie, a wreath on the door, and a bottle of rum.

It’s not the same as permethrin spray. That’s something used to control other insect pests like bed bugs, mosquitoes, and insects around the home that aren’t making a home in your plants.

Look at it this way:

  • If your bugs are bugging you. It’s permethrin spray.
  • If the bugs are infesting your plants, it’s pyrethrum spray.

Like neem oil, it’s a contact poison.

When insects come into contact with pyrethrum, it attacks their nervous system. It shuts down, and they die.

Still, while it is organic, it’s not long-lasting. High temperatures and exposure to UV light will reduce its potency. For that reason, like neem oil, spray when the temperature is cooler, but instead of in the morning, apply it at night.

Remember that, despite being safe for indoor use, you can’t safely use pyrethrum spray in your garden.

It’ll kill beneficial insects too. More importantly, the kind that’s on the endangered species list – the Honey Bee. That means you can’t be (or shouldn’t be) knowingly killing them.

Pyrethrum spray is highly toxic to all insects. Beneficial or plant-wreckers. It doesn’t discriminate. Since honey bees are usually outdoors in pollinated areas, it’s unlikely they’ll be of concern indoors.

Making Your Pyrethrum Spray

You can make your own, but you’d need to have grown flowers from the Chrysanthemums family or Tanacetum family. The most common is the perennial daisy.

If you’re doing that, when the flowers bloom, (wear gloves since this is harmful), pick the flower heads, and dry them out in a cool and dark place.

Then grind it down until it’s course. For every cup (130 grams), add the ground powder to two liters of warm water, then leave it to stand for a few hours.

Then drain it so it’s just the water left.

Add a teaspoon of liquid castile soap and a teaspoon of cooking oil, and mix them. Add that to a spray bottle, and you’re ready to apply it to your plants.

Still, it’d be much easier to order a bottle of ready-to-use pyrethrum spray online or pick it up at your garden center. Some garden centers may only sell the powder form.

If it’s only powder, make the spray by adding a little pure soap, cooking oil, and warm water.

Another reason to buy it ready to use: It comes with instructions. Follow them!

This spray is not family or pet-friendly, so always use it carefully, especially when putting it in unlabeled spray bottles.

4 – Alcohol

Vodka, stale beer, rum, you name it. Don’t use it on your plants!

When people talk about using alcohol to get rid of pests, what they mean is to get rid of slugs and snails.

For that, it’s called a beer trap. 

All you do is put stale beer in a shallow dish and put it where your slug problem is, indoors or out.

Slugs and snails are attracted to the sugary content caused by fermentation. They can’t help themselves from going into the dish and slugging away.

When they do, they get drunk and often end up drowning. After committing the felony, take the dish outside in the morning to return the suspects to Mother Earth.

Here’s what you ought to know about alcohol and plants.

First, there are three types of alcohol.

  1. Ethanol
  2. Methanol
  3. Isopropyl

Isopropyl is sold as rubbing alcohol. It’s as high as 70% concentration. That’s antiseptic levels. Not like your old-style country western movie antiseptic used for cleaning gunshot wounds with whisky.

  • Ethanol will stunt plant growth.
  • Methanol will encourage plant growth.

However, with ethanol alcohol, 5% concentrate stunts plant growth, but at 10%, it stresses your plant. 25% concentration will kill it. Be careful.

Isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) is the most appropriate. Besides, you can use it for far more applications like glass cleaning or sterilizing anything, including your pruners and scissors.

Even better, it’s cheaper than a bottle of any spirits.

To use it as a pest control method, all you do is use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol and dab it on top of the pests. They hate it. Especially mealybugs.

Now, if you don’t fancy inspecting for bugs and dabbing each one, you can make a spray with rubbing alcohol.

All you need are the quantities. For every quart of water, use one to two cups of alcohol.

Quick reminder: “A quart is a quarter gallon, two pints, or four cups.”

That’s assuming your rubbing alcohol is 70%. If it’s less concentrated, increase the amount. If it’s more potent, reduce the amount you’re using.

Or, here’s one you can apply now if you already have this stuff in the kitchen.

5 – Garlic or Hot Pepper spray – Or Both for a Bug-Killing Punch

Garlic

Garlic spray, on its own, is used to treat the plant foliage and will be effective in getting rid of bugs.

Using garlic water in soil plants, you can treat nematode problems and eliminate fungus gnats in houseplants.

To make the garlic solution, you’ll need:

  • A processor/blender.
  • A head of garlic.
  • A jar big enough to hold a couple of cups of water.
  • A container big enough for a gallon of water.
  • A spray bottle (cleaned out) for application.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Put the garlic through the blender until you’ve got a smooth consistency.
  2. Pour in two cups of water.
  3. Pulse the mixture twice.
  4. Pour it into a jar, cover it, and let it sit somewhere dark for a day.
  5. Strain the mix.
  6. Pour it into the bigger container and top it up with water to bring it up to one gallon.
  7. Fill your spray bottle and apply it to your plant.

Apply your garlic mix weekly until the pests are gone.

Making Your Garlic Mix More Effective

If you want to make it more effective, toss some chopped-up spicy herbs (jalapenos, habaneros, etc.) into your mix and add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

A fair warning, though! This stuff’s harmful to pests, but it’s also super unpleasant for you. That strong pepper smell will throw you into a vortex of sneezing and watery eyes. 

If you don’t remember things quickly, read that last sentence seven times more so you remember it!

Spicy herbs are potent, and when mixed like this, it’s unpleasant on your throat, and certainly don’t touch your eyes after handling these.

Wear gloves and cover your mouth and nose with something (a winter scarf should do the trick).

To help the peppers infuse into the water, heat them, bring them to a simmer, and give them 15 minutes. Then, let it cool down and mix it with your garlic solution.

Growing your own pest repellents is also an option. How? Let’s find out!

6 – Herbs you can grow indoors that are fly and bug repellents

Peppermint As Spider Repellent

Keep mosquitoes and flies away with rosemary and bugs away with mint.

Both of these spread like wildfire when grown outdoors, but they can be potted and grown indoors.

So can catnip. Cats love that, but you’ll need to alternate between outdoors and indoors as catnip needs plenty of sun.

None are fast acting like the others, but once your pests are gone, they’re handy to have around the plants for the scents to keep them away.

What we perceive as pleasant smells, bugs absolutely hate the scents.

If you’d like to take a shot at growing herbs indoors, grow them near your other plants so the smell stops any other pests being attracted to your plants.

For another safe way to flush the bugs out…

7 – Just use water and a garden hose

Yup! Simple as that. Take your plant outside, perch it down, shower it with the strongest jet spray it can handle, and wash those bugs away. This works particularly well with aphids on indoor plants.

You could also use your shower to shower your plant. Here’s one for the most common of all – Gnats.

8 – Apple Cider Vinegar is Effective at Killing Adult Gnats – Stopping Reproduction

Gnats. Annoying as they are, they’re idiots. The adult ones, anyway. They’ll drown themselves, provided you set the bait.

That bait is a bowl filled with apple cider vinegar. They’re attracted to it. Cover it with cling film, take a fork, and pierce the tiniest of holes in it.

They’ll crawl into the bowl and then drown because they can’t crawl back out of the minuscule hole they struggled through to get into the bowl.

There’s still going to be larvae and eggs in the soil, so the problem’s not gone. For that, there’s a trick coming up you’ll love – It’s a heavy hitter!

For more info about getting rid of gnats, see my in-depth guide.

For now, let’s meet our heavy hitter. 

9 – Diatomaceous Earth – Food Grade Only Though if You’ve Kids and/or Pets

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

This is a great way to protect your plants and family and address a deeper issue – how to get rid of bugs in soil. Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is lethal to every insect that comes into contact with it.

The easiest way to use it… In a plastic soda bottle.

Just use a funnel to add the powder, pierce the lid a few times (narrow holes), and then when you squeeze it, out puffs the powder to coat your plants. Great use of plastics, eh?

Also handy is to coat your pot with the powder before you pot your plant. Do that if you’re going to repot your plant.

Then each time you water it, add some more powder to the topsoil. Any larvae or eggs won’t survive long enough to develop wings.

If that’s not enough, here’s the heavy hitter:

10. Bring in Your own Front-line Army to Fight Your Battle for You

Now we’re talking about getting super nasty with the bugs. All-out war! Nematode war that is.

There are good nematodes, and there are bad nematodes. None are frogs, by the way.

And get this: it’s been proven that beneficial nematodes can be used for pest control management. Safe for everything else, bar insects. Farmers needed these and now use them.

And you can too.

Tiny little roundworms (not the type you protect your dog from) but the type that preys on predators.

The same things lurking in the soil munching your plants, these good guys eat them for breakfast, while leaving your plant nourished and thriving.

24/7 protection! Can’t get better than that.

On a Final Note

As soon as you notice a plant with any type of bug problem… Quarantine it! Separate it from all other plants. Put it in the shower cubicle or a room with no other plants around.

Always isolate infected plants.

If you want more tips and tricks on taking care of indoor plants, check out my posts on cost-effective ways to indoor garden and how to save a diseased plant from dying!

Share this post:

Bruce

Monday 27th of May 2024

Hi Lisa. Thank you! I just gave my one and only plant,an indoor Aloe, a shower. I had no other choice because of no products. The small gnats hated it and I got rid of some. But I did not have any bugs at all in it untill new potting soil. Take care and keep writing. Bruce.

Stanley

Wednesday 10th of April 2024

Exquisite, successful and experience proven methods for preventive and ongoing treatment solutions .. Super great digest that uniquely collects the methods all together in one article and punctuates our bug battle plans .. One method I've had success with is, in tandem, the use of "Sticky indoor or outdoor traps;' , as seen in this article's initial image. C'est Bon Magnifique !

Kathy Drummond

Saturday 21st of October 2023

Great sense of humor! Loved the simple and straight-forward approach.Thank you soo much.

Lisa Bridenstine

Thursday 2nd of November 2023

Best of luck with getting your plants bug-free!

Happy Planting! Lisa

Sonya

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi, I have a beautiful peace lily house plant, that I got for my mom’s funeral. I’m really attached to it and I’ve had it for quite some time. Unfortunately it has baby roaches inside the soil, occasionally they come out and get in the house. What can I do with natural ingredients, to kill the bugs but not hurt my plant.

Sincerely: ) Thankyou so very much: )

Lisa

Friday 22nd of July 2022

Hi Sonya, I would try the diatomaceous earth method on the soil. It has been shown to be effective at killing roaches. The catch is that you will need to re-apply it after watering the plant.

Best of luck! Lisa

Mit

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Can I just shove a clove of garlic in the soil to kill fungus and get rid of bugs? Are there any bugs that the garlic won’t work on?