Campus News

Assistant professor discusses ways to prevent pests on houseplants

Julie Campbell, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ horticulture department, spoke with Axios about houseplant pests and ways to prevent and treat them.

Pests like mealybugs, aphids and fungus gnats can enter homes via potting soil or a new addition to a plant collection. They can also come in through doors and windows and attach themselves to plants.

“Pests in general are everywhere,” Campbell said. “It’s kind of ubiquitous and you just have to have the right conditions to hit a plant.”

Hot, humid and moist conditions attract pests, making plants like ferns and calatheas more susceptible to pests. According to Campbell, plants with more dense foliage also attract pests.

Due to the protective coating on mealybugs making them harder to kill, Campbell opts to throw away plants infected with the insects instead of giving them the chance to spread to other plants.

To prevent pests, learn a plant’s watering routine and lighting needs to ensure it remains healthy. Too much or too little water or fertilizer can weaken the plant and make it an easy target, Campbell said.

She recommends bottom watering plants and grouping plants together depending on their watering and lighting needs. When buying a new houseplant, keep it separate from other plants for at least two weeks to be sure that they are not bringing in pests.