How do Remove Pests from My Indoor Plants?

“How can I keep the bugs from eating my plants inside?” Question from Wanda of Franklin Furnace, Ohio.

Answer: To make sure your houseplants are pest free, start by washing their leaves and then spray them with insecticidal soap. This will take care of common foliar pests like spider mites, white flies, and aphids. It also helps to remove and replenish the top two inches of potting soil to catch any pests hanging out in the upper soil layers. I recommend topping your pots with Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix. Here is the full process:

Step-by-Step House Plant Cleaning

  1. Wash all your plant’s leaves well. Start by spraying them all over with a strong stream of water from a spray nozzle, and wipe the leaves and stems down well. Sometimes it helps to wipe them down again with a gentle moist cloth dotted with mild soap and then double rinse and dry them again. Finally, thoroughly spray all leaves and stems with insecticidal soap. (You can also cut off any dead leaves or unhealthy looking growth at this time.)
  2. Remove and replenish the top 2 inches of potting soil to catch any pests hanging out in the upper soil layer.
  3. Wash the plant’s saucer and pot exterior well.
  4. Give your plants the correct moisture, light, and fertilizer to help them resist any potential pests, and keep a lookout for any lingering pests, especially in the first month after treatment. Use more insecticidal soap, as needed.

If you have problems with tougher pests, like hardscale or mealy bugs, you’ll need to take tougher measures. Click here to get further information about scale insects and their management.

I hope this helps!

Happy indoor gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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