Common Houseplant Pests: How to Deal with Thrips

Thrips are the bane of my existence! Thankfully, this is one pest that as long as you maintain control of its population on your plants, you can still keep a part symbiotic, part parasitic relationship with it. Well, I guess it is mostly parasitic, as thrips literally suck the life out of your plants, but as long as you are consistently applying pest prevention steps, your plant should still be ok.

Common Houseplant Pests: How to Deal with Thrips

Why does My Plant have Pests?

I’ll be straight with you: insects are almost inevitable. Once you introduce nature into your space (that is what plants are after all!), life will run its course. However, there are plenty of ways to deal with each type of potential pest, all you have to do is put in a little time and effort. Also, not every insect will affect every variety of plant necessarily, some are more prone to specific pests compared to others, but I’ve outlined solutions for you to use if or when you come into contact with one of these little nuisances.

In this series, we will talk about some of the most common houseplant pests. It is not an extensive list, I’m sure there are many more pests that are out there, but these are the insects that you will most likely run into at some point in your plant journey. Isolate any plant in your care at the first sight of a potential infestation.

The main ways that houseplants enter our homes are: 

  • Through open doors and windows (many pests come in through the air and find new homes to live and feed off of i.e. our plants)
  • Infested soil (make sure to store your extra soil in airtight containers and check the soil of any new plant you are bringing home)
  • New plants (even if you have inspected a new plant, there is always a chance of bugs still residing somewhere in the soil or on the plant. Make sure you isolate any new plant from your other plants for a little while in order to minimize any potential spread)

Something to keep in mind, sometimes a plant is beyond repair if you catch the damage too late, but we’ve provided you with this article in the hopes that you can learn to see the signs before your plant is too far gone! Don’t be discouraged if you’ve lost a plant to pests before, that’s happened to us all, but this will arm you with what you need to know for the future.

What are Thrips?

Thrips are tiny, almost insignificant, yellowish insects with wings that are generally found on the leaves and stems of houseplants. They scrape away and suck at the plant sap, turning leaves pale, splotchy and silvery before dying. The damage they leave can also be identified on new growth looking twisted, discoloured, or distorted. It is important to stay on top of controlling thrips as they develop wings as they age, meaning they can spread amongst your plants very quickly.

How to Get Rid of Thrips?

As a general rule of thumb with pest control, always get rid of any dead plant debris as this is often where a lot of adult pests exist, after destroying that section of your plant. Also, as I said above with mealybugs, combinations of the following steps may work well for you to eradicate thrips!

  • Rinse: shower the leaves and stems of your plant with water beforehand to get rid of larger thrips that reside on it. 
  • Fly paper: in the case of thrips, blue sticky fly paper will be the most beneficial as they are attracted to that colour specifically.
  • Organic Pest Control: there are plenty of different recipes you can find online, but an insecticidal soap, mild dish soap, or neem oil mix applied to the plant (both leaves and stems) and soil should be effective after a few applications. In the case of thrips, this method of pest control will most likely need quite a few applications as thrips are nothing if not aggressive. 

As I said above, it is possible to live with thrips, as long as you stay on top of the amount of them (if you are having a hard time completely eliminating them). Just make sure you keep them isolated so that the thrips do not transfer to your other plants!

About the author
Hilary West
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About the author - Hilary West
Coming from an engineering background, I never thought I’d be as involved with plants as I am now. My growing collection of houseplants led me to want to work in the plant field, helping others be successful in their plant care, but also realistic. Working with lots of experienced people and doing my own research has allowed me to increase my knowledge and I want to share that with others!