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How to Get Rid of Thrips on Houseplants?

Thrips are more common on outdoor plants, yet they sometimes make an appearance on houseplants, causing brown stripes, pale leaves and a host of other issues.

To prevent further damage, it’s important to eliminate thrips as soon as possible, especially that they can easily spread to all the other plants in your home.

But before you can eliminate thrips, you must identify them. If you suspect an ongoing thrip infestation in your houseplants, follow my advice below on how to eliminate and prevent thrips.

What are Thrips?

Thrips are small, narrow-bodied insects with wings and small antennas on their heads. Their color can be yellow, brown, black, white or green, depending on their variety.

They multiply through eggs and they can multiply rapidly. It can take as little as two weeks for thrips to grow into adults. Luckily, they only live for about a month.

Still, with multiple generations multiplying at once, they can be really hard to keep under control.

Thrips feed on the sap of your houseplants. They can attack not only the leaves but also the flower buds, causing all sorts of deformation. On leaves, they usually leave white, brown or grey colored streaks.

How do Thrips Get Into Your Home?

Despite overwhelmingly affecting garden plants, there are a number of ways thrips can make their way into your home:

  • When you move your outdoor plant indoors
  • You can bring them inside on cut flowers
  • Garden veggies can have them on
  • Tools that you use in the garden can spread them to your indoor plants
  • They can even attach to damp laundry that you bring indoors

Therefore, there are several ways thrips can get into your home and then on your houseplants.

Usually, if you’re dealing with a thrip infestation in your outdoor garden, chances are they’ll make their way inside your home too.

Which Plants do Thrips Prefer?

Generally, thrips aren’t picky about the plants they’ll infest and feed on. They’ll set up shop on foliage plants, flowers, veggies and even on some fruit plants.

There are several garden vegetables that are considered to be host plants for these pests including beans, carrots, squash, and onions. So keep these away from your houseplants if you bring them inside from your garden.

Host flowers include roses and gladioli, so it’s not difficult to understand how these pests get into your home.

Indoors, you’ll find houseplants on orchids, pothos, monsteras and virtually all other houseplants.

How do Thrips Affect Houseplants?

While houseplants can survive a thrip infestation and they’re unlikely to be killed by them, but they can do a number on your houseplants, leaving them looking beat down.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of a thrip infestation:

  • White, grey or brown streaks on plants
  • Plants looking like they’re dirty
  • Splotchy, faded leaves
  • Deformed growths
  • Deformed flower buds
  • Premature defoliation

Thrips will hang out on the surface of leaves, underneath the leaves. Once they’re mature, they are visible to the naked eye. They actually hop away when disturbed.

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms on your houseplants, it’s time to get in there and eliminate the infestation.

How to Control and Eliminate Thrips?

Thrips can be eliminated but I don’t advise you to use chemical or synthetic insecticides to do the job. Thrips can build up an immunity to those, plus you don’t want all those chemicals in your home anyway.

There are easy methods you can try with things you already have in your household or that are organic and harmless to you:

– Washing the leaves with diluted soapy water

Dilute 1 tsp of liquid soap to 1 liter of water and wash down the leaves of your plant including the underside of leaves so you can physically remove any thrips and thrip eggs that may be on the leaves. This is a quick fix to immediately reduce their population.

– Use insecticidal soaps to spray or wash the leaves

Alternatively, you can use insecticidal soaps and sprays that are organic to coat the leaves of the plant and kill off any eggs or adult thrips. You’ll need to reapply often for lasting effects.

– Spray your plants with neem oil

Neem oil is an organic oil with insecticidal properties that you can use to control an mild infestation and prevent future infestations.

– Use sticky traps

Sticky traps can trap adult thrips, but they won’t work against eggs and nymphs, so use them in combination with the other methods for best effects.

Once you manage to get an infestation under control, you should also focus on preventing future infestations.

How to Prevent Thrips on Your Houseplants?

There aren’t any extraordinary ways to prevent thrips on your houseplants. Instead, you should focus on limiting the chances of you bringing thrips inside from your garden or via plants you buy for your home.

Here’s what you should focus on:

  • Debug any new plants that you buy from the garden center or that you bring inside from the garden
  • New plants should stay in quarantine for a couple of weeks to see if there are any emerging pest infestations
  • Keep garden vegetables away from your houseplants in case there are any thrips that hitched a ride on them
  • Don’t use the same tools on your houseplant and your garden plants, or thoroughly sanitize them if you do
  • Spray preventatively with neem oil or other organic insecticides
  • Routinely inspect your houseplant for pests and don’t delay applying treatment

With these prevention methods, you can keep thrips at bay or immediately reduce their population should you happen upon an emerging infestation.

Wrap Up

Thrips are much more common on outdoor plants, but they can easily hitch a ride indoors and infest any houseplants they can reach.

Prevention methods can do a lot to minimize the risk of infestation, however, the treatment and elimination methods can also work well against an active infestation.

Luckily, thips won’t kill your houseplants, but the damage they do can interfere with how well your plant will develop and thrive.

Updated: April 15, 2021

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