Having had houseplants for a few years now, I have certainly had a few run ins with pests: spider mites, scale, mealy bugs and of course those dang fungus gnats! In addition to houseplants, I also have two cats, which dictate a lot of my choices in plants and plant care. I want to make sure I’m getting rid of these pests in not only an environmentally safe way, but in a way that is safe for my cats as well. Below is a list of products or methods I’ve tried and my experiences with them. (I purchased all of these products myself and was not paid to endorse any of them.)
Neem Oil is probably the most common organic pest control option you will find. I purchased a ready to use spray on Amazon for my first go. Neem oil does have an odour to it I found mildly unpleasant but nothing a open window or circulating fan couldn’t help with. The neem oil I purchased was described as being able to be sprayed on plants and vegetables right up to the day of harvest. I used it for spider mite and mealy bug infestations and found it to be fairly successful. I say fairly because you should really be applying it a couple of times to be effective. I’ve read conflicting input on how cat safe neem oil is, but the general consensus was forms of neem oil are safe to use on pets. Since the product I had did not say specifically “pet safe” I opted to spray infected plants in my bathroom or outside to limit cat interaction while the product was still wet.
Verdict: I would use neem oil again, but not my current top choice.
Hot Wax Pepper Spray
Hot Wax Pepper Spray is currently my go-to product for pest control. According to their website the product is made of food grade materials. It is a mix of an extract of cayenne pepper and with refined paraffin wax. Cayenne pepper has been used by people in their gardens to deter pests of both animal and insect variety. Now I will say some people find the use of Cayenne pepper cruel to animals as it gets stuck in their paws and then is later inhaled or rubbed into their eyes and noses. As a wax spray, this is not getting transferred onto my pets once it is set. I, myself have touched sprayed plants and then touched my face with no consequence. If bit however, as my kitten has discovered, it certainly has a taste! The plants I’ve sprayed do have a nice shine to them, but they also have a wax feeling to them. I can see this not being something everyone is interested in, but I’m not really bothered by it. I’ve currently sprayed a few plants I was having a spider mite issue with and look forward to updating their progress. One plant has actually already shown dramatic improvement since being treated.
Verdict: Currently my favorite for environmental, pet friendly aspects, but looking forward to seeing if it really works.
Brand X Foliage Cleaner
Brand X Foliage Cleaner is a product I was introduced to through the book Don’t Repot that plant! And other indoor plant care mistakes By Will Creed. I will admit the website, is very basic and made me nervous. They take payment through paypal so I took the risk to order a small bottle. Brand X is a foliage cleaner with silicon in it making it great at getting into cracks. The idea is it sucks mealybugs and scale dry all while cleaning your leaves and leaving a nice shine. I currently have one plant with scale that is isolated to outside. I haven’t treated it just yet but will certainly update once I do. I have used the spray on a monstera deliciosa borsigiana purely for the leaf shine and cleaning aspect. This plant lives in my husband’s studio which is in an old converted factory and gets extremely dusty. My hope is to reduce the amount of cleaning due to dust buildup on the plant with this spray. I will say it made a great difference and worked as advertised as a foliage cleaner. I did notice a few “water drop like spots after it dried, but that was more due to how I applied it and not the spray’s fault. The website says the product is non-toxic but the further I dug into the ingredients (mostly not listed because they are a “trade secret”) the more it made me nervous since I couldn’t really find much (actually what I found was the green coloring in product seems to be the most dangerous aspect).
Verdict: I decided to err on the side of caution and am limiting the amount of plants I will use this on. I will certainly not be using it on my most cat nibbled plants. If pets are not an issue for you, I would 100% recommend trying this product. Will update on scale issue.
Rubbing alcohol and dish soap
Good ole rubbing alcohol and dish soap is a classic standby for pest control. If I see a mealy bug or scale I will often take a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol straight to the sucker. When I first notice pests I spray down plants with this mixture first. I will also use it to clean surrounding areas where they might be hiding. This is a good combo to use when the above products might damage the plant (no wax or foliage spray on fuzzy plants). Of course I don’t let the cats near this while wet, but overall has been a standard pest control option.
Verdict: Good standard option for cleaning plants infected with pests. Does require some repeat cleaning.
Those dang fungus gnats! Any commercially made houseplant dirt or even orchid bark comes prepackaged with these dang things. I’ve seen some people try potato slices as well as peroxide to get rid of them. If you have tried these, please let me know your experience with them! Usually I ignore them and smush them when I can, but I just decided I had enough with them, and if diatomaceous earth would work, it was worth the try. The idea is the gnats are sliced by the texture of the diatomaceous earth as they try to get out of the soil. As of my most recent watering, I have not seen too many, but I’m keeping an eye out for them. I’m lucky my cats don’t dig in my plants so I feel safe using this option If your pet likes to dig in your houseplants I would try fine sand in its place.
Verdict: So far so good at reducing populations.
If you’re battling pests on your plants I hope some of these suggestions will help you. If you have been a plant parent for a while now, how are you combating pests in your houseplants or gardens? Have you tried any of these products or methods?