ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bringing Houseplants Inside: Aphids, Whitefly, and Scale! Oh, My

Updated on September 8, 2014
Preparing Bromeliad to come inside for the winter
Preparing Bromeliad to come inside for the winter | Source

We are expecting our first real taste of fall this coming weekend. Temperatures will be in the upper 40s F in the evening and only in the low to mid 60s F. On the one hand I am a bit sad that summer is coming to an end. On the other I welcome the cooler weather and the chance to rotate into my fall gardening tasks . . . which are some of my favorite.

The first order of business is that I will soon need to bring in my collection of houseplants. For me this starts with examining each of them carefully. I have already looked at them several times this summer to make sure I liked the container they were in. I made sure that the container size was appropriate for the size of the plant. I trimmed the roots on the bonsai and replaced the soil. They were fertilized. In short, there are only two last tasks to be done before bringing them inside.

I’m not worried about the second task done just prior to the big move. That is washing and cleaning the containers. These seem to get rather crusted with all kinds of dirt and dried on plant parts and even some other nasty organic matter. It is a rather bittersweet task. I hate having to coup the plants up in my house that is cold with low humidity with no rain to clean the leaves. It is the first task to prepare the plants I really need to focus on now. I need a couple of good weeks of weather to get this done. I start when I see that the seasons are definitely about to change.

Looking at my coffee tree for large damage
Looking at my coffee tree for large damage | Source
Looking closely at the top of a branch where it is tender and sweet to the right insect
Looking closely at the top of a branch where it is tender and sweet to the right insect | Source

Examine your Plants from Different Vantages

The first task is to CAREFULLY examine your plants. You are looking for free loaders. The vermin will unduly take advantage of your plants health and vitality when they are enduring your home’s harsh environmental conditions (from the plant's perspective of course). That is why now is the time to try and fix any problem pest you can.

You will want to take in a long range view of your plants. You are looking for major problems like branches that seem to be turning yellow. These will need extra examination to determine why the branch is dying. It could be physically hurt from a recent storm. If the branch is broken it is best to remove it. This type of injury can be harboring disease or even insects. Be sure to sterilize your cutting tools from time to time. This avoids spreading disease from plant to plant. A 1 part Clorox to 10 parts of water should be enough. Or wipe your tools with some rubbing alcohol and let them dry thoroughly before using. Remove all dead plant material like these branches and leaves. My lemongrass always has a large amount of dead blades to remove.

You will want to look closely at the surface of the leaves, the back of the leaves and especially near the tips of stems where the plant is generally new. Insects love these locations. Do not just take a hasty look. I generally turn my plants on their side and look closely at all the back side of the plant. If you only look at a couple of leaves there is a good chance you will miss something.

Scale infestation on growing tip of a Bearss Lime.  I hate these things.  Notice the oozing mess they leave
Scale infestation on growing tip of a Bearss Lime. I hate these things. Notice the oozing mess they leave | Source

Identifying Insects

Insects can take a variety of appearances. Some like scale crowd the stem in almost overlapping bumps. The young scale are whitish and almost translucent while the adults are generally a brownish color. Adults almost always take the color of the mature stem where they are attached. Aphids can take a range of color as well. The light green almost translucent ones are most common. As with scale, aphids will often be seen with ants. Ants use both of these insects and collect “excretions” as one of their food sources. Sometimes you will find red aphids. Look for a small insect that seems to be relatively slow moving or not moving at all with a fairly rotund body. They are probably aphids.

Other insects to keep an eye out for include mealy bugs and whitefly and fungus gnats. Mealy bugs are fuzzy white one eighth of an inch long bug that can fly. Whitefly and fungus gnats are harder to find. That is why it is so important to look at the back side of the leaf. Even though many insects lay teeny weenie little white eggs, whenever I see one of these I just assume whitefly. Fungus gnats are a nuisance in the house. Keep an eye on the top of the soil. You may need a magnifying glass. The larva is hard to see otherwise.

Scale like Dendrobium orchid.  Fortunately none found.
Scale like Dendrobium orchid. Fortunately none found. | Source

Treatment Solutions

Fortunately many of these pests can be contained and minimized. Fungus gnats are one of the easiest. All you need to do is let the surface of the soil dry out. These little pests feed on organic matter in moist locations. Take away their food and water and they disappear. For the rest it is best to fix your problems before you bring them inside. Scale attaches itself to a specific location and won’t move once their piercing jaws attach to the plant. They just sit there and suck up the plants vital fluids at their leisure. They don’t even have to tip a waitress. Aphids are fairly immobile as well. For these slow moving insects I like to spray every couple of days with oil. Any vegetable oil will work. The best is neem oil. It is even better to add a bit of azadirachtin which is a concentrated compound in neem oil. Azadirachtin works by disrupting an insect’s life cycle change. For example it prevents eggs from hatching and it doesn’t allow larva to go into their pupa state. The oil you spray works by clogging up the air holes in the body of the insect that allows it to “breath”. You are suffocating them. Spray every couple of days to make sure you hit all of them several times.

I also spray every day or two for a two week period with an insecticidal soap solution. Insecticidal soap controls a wide range of soft bodied insects. It is safe to you, your children and the environment. In between spraying with the insecticidal soap I spray with regular water from the hose. You need to make sure to spray tops, bottoms and stems of the plant with a fairly stiff spray. You should do this with both the water and the insecticidal soap. I use the two week time period because that way I have included at least one generation of critters on the plant. I hope that my spraying hits more generations than this. I also hope I have more than two weeks before I need to bring everything inside.

The success of your plant preparation for moving into the house for the winter will be determined by how pest free you are this fall. This system has worked for a great number of years for me. I am not one to drag plants to the bath tub to debug in the winter. I sometimes fail to mist them on a regular basis too. So, I try my best to make sure my houseplants are pest free when they come in to reduce their trauma from my neglect. I am happier too without a pesky fungus gnat helping me drink my tea.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • hostaguy profile imageAUTHOR

      frank nyikos 

      4 years ago from 8374 E State Rd 45 Unionville IN 47468

      Sorry to hear about the scale Mel. I use a small spritzer bottle for the oil. You can also use a small brush. The brush is a bit less messy. Just dip the brush in the oil and make sure you brush several inches above and below the scale. Sometimes juveniles have moved away from the adults to attach. You can find both neem oil and AzaMax at your friendly neighborhood hydroponic store. They have the best selection of organic and natural products anywhere

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      Quite coincidentally, I just found my lime tree infested with what I think now is scale. The kbowledge you have provided in this hub is very timely. Any specific tips? Where do I get neem oil?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)