Insects are the bane of any plant owner’s existence. When unchecked, an insect infestation can wreak havoc on your monstera! Insects can cause leaf browning or discoloration. And we love monsteras for the characteristic holes in their leaves, but insects can eat holes we DON’T want! It’s important to get insects off your monstera before they cause irreparable damage.
It’s important to recognize common pests that plague monstera, know the signs to look for (because pests can be small and hard to spot if you aren’t looking for them), and how to get rid of them.
But the best way to keep your plant safe from bugs is to take steps to prevent infestations in the first place.
Here are some tips for stopping an insect war before it starts.
Tips for Preventing Insect Infestations:
Inspect plants before purchasing
It’s easy to fall in love with a gorgeous plant at the local nursery, but before you buy, give the plant a good once-over to check for insects. Insects can spread rapidly between plants in a crowded nursery, and this is where a lot of infestations come from.
Check the leaves, stems, and soil of any plant you’re thinking of purchasing to check for insects, webbing, insect damage, or sticky clear sap that can indicate the presence of insects. If you find anything, choose a different plant or a different store altogether.
Quarantine new plants
When you bring a new plant home, keep it away from your other houseplants for a few days or even weeks to prevent the potential spread of pests. This will also give any eggs a chance to hatch so you can deal with the problem and get the insects off your monstera before they spread. If you bring home an insect problem, a quarantine period will let you know and help you isolate the issue.
Use clean pots and soil
Fungus and insect eggs can hang around in dirty pots or old potting mix, so make sure to use new pots or clean old ones thoroughly before using them. If you notice any egg sacks or fungus in old soil, let it sit out in the sun to dry or discard and get a new bag.
Many insects are attracted to overly moist conditions, so make sure not to over-water your plant. This is good advice anyway because over-watering can lead to root rot and infection as well.
Give your plant plenty of light
A lack of light can contribute to moist conditions that attract insects, so giving your plant great light will help your plant grow and create an inhospitable environment for bugs!
Despite your best efforts to prevent it, insects can still find their way onto your plant, so check it regularly for signs of an infestation. If you notice insects or insect damage, act fast before the problem spreads!
Now let’s talk about some common pests you might find on your monstera (and other plants) and how to get rid of them!
How to Get Insects OFF Your Monstera
Thrips are small insects that suck moisture from a plant’s leaves, which causes discoloration, browning, and dehydration. As larvae, they look like little white grubs in clusters on the leaves or stems. Adults looks like skinny brown flies.
There are a few ways to get rid of thrips. You can completely prune the affected leaves if there are only a few of them, which can remove the problem completely. Neem oil is also a popular, natural insecticide (you’ll see it a lot on this list). Simply purchase some straight neem oil or a neem oil spray and follow the directions on the bottle. Spray every few days to kill off adults and eggs.
Another option is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the leaves. This is a type of powdered sedimentary rock with minute, razor sharp edges that kill bugs when they eat it, but is harmless to your plant. (But it doesn’t hurt to get a food grade variety to be extra safe.)
Notice little while fuzz balls on your monstera? You probably have mealybugs.
Mealybugs are a species of scale (we’ll get to those later) without a shell. They suck the juices out of the leaves and cause spotting and discoloration while leaving behind sticky clear goo called honeydew. This honeydew is also a sign of a mealybug infestation, even if you don’t see any actual bugs, and so is cottony stuff on the leaves (the females produce this when they lay eggs).
To get rid of mealybugs, start by dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and dabbing any bugs and cotton you see. This kills the bugs instantly. Mealybugs like to hide though, so give your plant a thorough spray-down with neem oil as well.
Adult gnats are more annoying than harmful, but the larvae in the soil may feed on your plant.
Gnats lay their eggs in the soil, so the best way to get rid of them is to remove the top few inches of soil to get the larvae out and layering fresh soil on top. If your plant can handle being repotted, that’s a good option too. You can also try sprinkling BTI, or Bacillus thuringiensis, a harmless bacteria, over the surface of the soil.
Spider mites are a pretty common pest that can snack on your plant’s leaves and suck out the sap, which causes discoloration.
Spider mites mostly hang out on the undersides of leaves and might look like clusters or small brown dots. It’s easy to mistake these for leave spotting until you notice the dots are moving!
Luckily, spider mites are pretty easy to dislodge these with a jet of water. Use a kitchen syringe with water to squirt off the clustered bugs, give the plant a shower with lukewarm water, or hose it down if the weather is warm.
We recommend using Houseplant Leaf Armor to protects your plant from insects as well as bacteria and fungus. It works just like neem oil but without the unpleasant smell. As an added bonus, the Houseplant Leaf Armor also cleans and adds shine to your houseplant’s leaves.
Scale insects look like little brown bumps. What you’re seeing is actually the insect’s shell while the actual bug hides underneath and sucks juices from the leaf while also poisoning the plant. They can kill your monstera if they go unchecked.
To get rid of them, picking them off is pretty effective. You can use your fingers or a toothpick, butterknife, whatever. Just be careful not to cut your plant! When you’ve removed what you can, spray the plant down with Houseplant Leaf Armor, neem oil, or a gentle insecticidal soap like Safer Soap.
Insects don’t have to spell disaster for your monstera! Stay vigilant, take precautionary measures to prevent infestations, and get insects off your monstera as soon as you notice a problem. You’ll have the happiest monstera on the block!
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