Use natural methods to keep insects from houseplants
Using natural methods keeps insects away from your home and your plants. Using natural methods to keep insects at bay also helps to keep the environment cleaner.
How to use natural alternatives to pesticides
Not only are pesticides bad for indoor air quality, for any produce you grow from your houseplants, and for the environment as a whole, ultimately they don’t work, only killing pests until they come back again. Ever-reliable Mother Nature has methods to keep pests from getting to plants to begin with.
Here are ways to work with it to keep houseplants clear of pests:
- Check plants completely for pests before bringing them home, whether they're from a store or nursery or are a gift from a green-thumbed friend. Keep a new plant separate from other plants in the home for a few weeks to avoid any pests that may exist traveling from one plant to another.
- Choose healthy plants. Then keep them healthy. A thriving plant is the best protection against pests. Water plants only when the soil on the surface is dry, but use enough so that the drainage holes are moist. Give them rich soil by using natural compost. Make sure they have enough light. Prune them regularly, especially if leaves have damage or pests already on them, and clear fallen leaves from the surface of the soil.
- Keep your windows screened so bugs don’t come in from outside.
- If you put your plants outside, perhaps for a rain shower, inspect them for pests before bringing them back in the house.
- When re-potting, it may be better to use commercial soil (and then enrich it with compost) then to use soil from outside that already contains bugs.
- Wash your hands and tools between working with different houseplants.
- Pests can occur in houseplants even when these measures are taken. There are natural home solutions to getting rid of them, from giving plants showers to vacuuming them to applying alcohol, insecticidal soap, or other substances. Because there are different treatments for different pests, you first have to identify the insects. Then you can use the appropriate solution. You can also buy organic pest control sprays that chase different pests away.
Find it! Natural insect control products and tools
USDA-approved spray that is safe for all plants, including those that grow produce. The soap is not an active ingredient, but a carrier for food-grade essential oils and potassium bicarbonate that keeps plants pest and disease-free.
This fast-acting solution for the most common houseplant pests is listed with The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which independently recommends products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing.
Using natural methods to deter insects helps you go green because...
- Pesticides heavily pollute your indoor air, which also effects outdoor air.
- Pesticides contaminate whatever they reach—plants, soil, water, and people.
- Natural pest control is good for everyone in the house; pesticides and fertilizers can be unsafe for pets.
- Organic pest control is designed for the long-term, which means you will spend less time fighting off pests.
- Home methods of controlling pests are practically or completely free of cost.
Almost a billion pounds of conventional pesticides are used in the US every year.
Pesticides pollute soil, air, and water. A national monitoring study that
collected data from 50 river basins around the country found that pesticides
or their degradates were detected in every stream sampled.
According to monitoring studies compiled by the US Geological Survey (USGS),
the common insecticide malathion contaminated over 80 percent of air
Pesticides are also hazardous to fish and birds, and have been found to cause a range of health effects in humans. Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled; exposure may come from contact with mists or sprays during insecticide application. Exposures can also come indirectly from food, drink, or household items contaminated by pesticide application. Pets are also at risk from pesticide exposure.
Related health issues
Studies link organophosphates, a common class of agricultural pesticides, to cancer, fetal abnormalities, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Parkinson's disease. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a five to nine times higher likelihood of having pesticide residues in their blood than those who don't have breast cancer.
A 1999 study by the Consumers Union reported that produce sold to American consumers "contains toxic pesticide levels high enough to be dangerous for young children." Infants, young children, and developing fetuses can't easily detoxify the majority of pesticides, and are especially susceptible to neurotoxins, since brain and nervous system growth continues until children are about 12 years old.
- The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides: Fact sheets and articles on pesticides and houseplant pests.
- Organic Pest Control - Why is it important to control pests the organic way?
- Organic Gardening Magazine - 10 Best Herbs for Indoors
- Bio-Integral Resources Center (BIRC): Information on the least-toxic, sustainable, and environmentally sound integrated pest management (IPM) methods.
- National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service
- Clean Air Gardening - Buyer’s guide to organic pest control
- Beyond Pesticides - How to Manage Houseplant Pests
- Planet Natural - Houseplant Pests
- Organic Gardening - Organic Houseplant Care: Pest and Disease Control
- University of Missouri Extension - Least-Toxic Control Methods to Manage Indoor Plant Pests
- Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides - Publications and Fact Sheets
- Office of the New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo - Home and Garden Pesticides: Questions and Answers about Safety and Alternatives
- Medical News Today - Organic foods in relation to nutrition and health: key facts
- Sustainable Enterprises - What's so important about Organic?
- Mindfully.org - Why Food Safety Will Continue Driving Growth in Demand for Organic Food