Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the line for your houseplant. You can get rid of whiteflies using organic methods that are both powerful and non-toxic. Say goodbye to those unwanted guests and learn how to get rid of whiteflies and prevent them from ever returning!
If you’re here, chances are you went to water your plant, repot it, or simply bumped into it only to get a sudden cloud of white insects.
Yes, chances are you have whiteflies. These pests are not only annoying but can cause some serious damage to your plants over time.
But I’ve got good news! When you have whiteflies on plants, you can use natural methods to effectively get rid of these pests. In fact, these natural methods tend to be more effective and won’t cause any harm to your plants, you, or your pets.
Before I start talking about how to get rid of whiteflies, I do want to note that I am pro-insect.
Outside, I am all about promoting an ecosystem that supports natural predators. But when it comes to indoor plants, there are virtually no natural predators to stop them from multiplying and taking over. In this case, the only way to get rid of whiteflies is to kill them off to protect your plants.
This post will cover…
- What Are Whiteflies?
- How Do Whiteflies Get on Plants?
- Why Are Whiteflies Bad?
- How to Get Rid of Whiteflies
- Use Soap and Water
- Neem Oil
- Sticky Tape
- How to Prevent Whiteflies
- Happy Plants
- Isolate Plants
- Check and Clean Your Plants
- Bring Them Outside
- Frequently Asked Questions About Whiteflies
- More Posts to Read
What Are Whiteflies?
There are so many tiny little insects that can infest your plant, so you want to make sure you know what you’re dealing with! While there are many kinds of whiteflies, they have a general appearance.
The name says a lot about these pests. Tiny, moth-like insects, whiteflies have heart-shaped bodies and are about 1/10 inch long. White in colour, you might not notice them until you move your plant. The adults will fly around once disturbed. If you see other white bugs that don’t fly, they’re likely mealy bugs.
Females lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. From these eggs, they turn into nymphs that live on the leaves until they become adult flies. By the time they’re flying, there could already be some significant damage to the plant.
How Do Whiteflies Get on Plants?
How the heck do whiteflies even get there in the first place? I know many people scratch their heads at a sudden infestation of the pests, especially on older houseplants. But the annoying insects can come from many different sources, such as…
- New plants introduced to the home
- Fresh produce or flowers that come inside from the garden
- Through window screens
- Contaminated soil
- From plants brought inside from the outdoors
Whiteflies can infest plants inside or outside, although they’re more common in greenhouses and houseplants. Cold weather and predators help to keep them in check outside.
Stressed plants are more susceptible to whiteflies, especially those under water stress from drought. Excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer can also attract the flies as it leads to more nitrogen in the plant.
Using too many insecticides outside can also help the whitefly population. While that may seem backward, many insecticides wipe out the good predators instead such as ladybugs.
Why Are Whiteflies Bad?
Whiteflies suck juices from leaves and flower buds of plants. Eventually, they turn yellow and drop from the plant. They do this at nearly every stage of their life, from nymph to adult.
Without treatment, this can cause major damage to a plant and even kill it. However, it does take a long time for whiteflies to cause major damage and kill large plants. But it can be quick for small or weak plants, as well as new seedlings.
Whiteflies also secrete honeydew which can raise the risk of fungal disease and attract other pests such as ants, especially outdoors.
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies
Never fear, there are ways you can get rid of whiteflies completely naturally. First things first, get your infested plants away from any others to prevent the pests from spreading. You can also cut off any overly infested leaves (making sure to leave some for the plant).
Next, try one of these methods before you give up hope for your plant.
Use Soap and Water
First, you want to tackle the eggs and the nymphs. The easiest way to do this is with a soap and water mixture. Add a couple of drops of liquid dish soap or liquid Castile soap to a cup of water. Mix well and then spray the undersides of your plant.
If it’s a small plant, you can also rinse the leaves underwater in your sink or shower once you’re done spraying. It’s always a good idea to test one leaf of your plant to make sure it doesn’t react poorly to the soap and water.
Repeat your cleansing a few days later to make sure you got all the nymphs and eggs.
Another popular option for getting rid of whiteflies is to use neem oil. Vegetable oil derived from neem trees, neem works as a natural insecticide.
You can easily spray the undersides of your leaves to help eliminate or prevent whiteflies. Like the soap, try it out on a leaf or two before doing the whole plant. You can purchase neem oil for fairly cheap online.
Now that the eggs and nymphs are covered, you’re going to need to trap the adults which are going to be the more difficult part.
Like many insects, whiteflies are attracted to the colour yellow. Yellow sticky tape is the best way to trap adults. Completely non-toxic and safe to use inside, you can either hang them from taller branches of a plant or use sticky tape sticks to put in the soil.
It may sound silly, but you can vacuum up that cloud of adult whiteflies. Get your vacuum ready and then disturb the plant. The flies should fly and then you can vacuum them up. Of course, be careful not to vacuum any of your plant’s leaves.
How to Prevent Whiteflies
If your plants are prone to whiteflies or you just don’t want to get them in the first place, try these steps to keep the pests away.
Whiteflies are not attracted to strong and healthy plants. Even if they do feed on large and healthy plants, it can’t do much damage. Give your plants the right amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients.
If you do have any whiteflies, immediately isolate them so they don’t spread to any other plants. You can also place a clear plastic bag over top to help prevent the adults from flying to other plants.
It’s a good idea to quarantine new plants for a few weeks when you bring them home to make sure they have no pests or diseases before introducing them to your home.
Check and Clean Your Plants
If you’ve had whiteflies before, or you just want to be cautious, check your plants by looking at the underside of the leaves for any nymphs or eggs. Also, give the plant the classic tiny shake to watch for flying adults.
You can routinely clean your plants with the soap and water mixture or with neem oil as a precaution.
Bring Them Outside
Natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, and dragonflies will happily feast on whiteflies outside. I even go as far as to attract these beneficial insects to my garden!
During the warm season, you can place your houseplants outside.
When it’s time to bring them inside, be sure to clean and debug the plants before you place them back indoors.
Frequently Asked Questions About Whiteflies
Yes! Not only does it work, but it’s 100% natural. Neem oil is pressed from the seeds and fruit of the neem tree. It’s yellow or brown in colour, tastes bitter, and has a strong odour. It can kill nymphs by stopping their growth, suffocating adult flies by coating their body in oil, and also works as a repellent.
While it may seem like it, whiteflies don’t just magically appear. They have had to come from somewhere. They could have come from a new plant, infested soil, from spending time outside or through window screens, or via fresh produce and flowers brought inside the home. All it takes is one egg for an infestation to start.
Whiteflies won’t bite humans and are completely harmless. They only affect plants. But they sure can get annoying when they flit around and hurt our plant babies!
Leave any more questions about finding whiteflies on plants down below. Good luck with your plants!