Advanced Houseplant Care: Pests | Carmen Whitehead | Skillshare

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Advanced Houseplant Care: Pests

teacher avatar Carmen Whitehead, Plant Parent & Enthusiast

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Pests Intro


    • 2.

      Pests Project


    • 3.

      Fungus Gnats


    • 4.

      Mealy Bugs


    • 5.

      Spider Mites


    • 6.



    • 7.



    • 8.

      Final Tips


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About This Class

You have had some houseplants for a few months and things are going ok, but you think you might have pests? What do you do now?

That’s a question every plant parent asks themselves at some point. At some point, you will deal with pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats. And that’s just to name a few!   But, don’t worry. There are ways to eliminate them and also to prevent them from even happening. 

House plants I've successfully treated for pests recently...



In this follow-up class to my Houseplants Care 101 class, we will go over…

  • The 5 most common plant pests 
    • Fungus Gnats
    • Mealy Bugs
    • Spider Mites
    • Thrips
    • Scales
  • How to eliminate them and save your plant
  • Proper plant maintenance to minimize and avoid pests

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Meet Your Teacher

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Carmen Whitehead

Plant Parent & Enthusiast


Hi! My name is Carmen Whitehead and I am a plant parent and enthusiast, sometimes called a plant whisperer. I love taking care of my 150+ plants in my apartment.  I'm originally from the beautiful island of Cuba, but now living in Arizona.

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about their care and my mistakes in taking care of them. My classes are designed to provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need in caring for your plants. 

The classes will take you from a beginner plant parent, discovering succulents & cacti, dealing with pests, and more advanced planting techniques. 

Stay tuned for a new class every month! 

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Pests Intro: So you've had some house plants for a few months now and things are going okay. But you think you might have pests. What do you do now? That's a question that most parents at some point or another will ask themselves. My name is Carmen Whitehead and I live in Phoenix, Arizona and I have bought a 150 plants in my apartment. And I have had my fair share of problems with pests, pests, fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, just the name of view. I know the names don't sound all that appealing either. Don't worry, there are ways to eliminate these paths and maintain your plans so they don't come back. And we're going to cover that in this class, this follow-up class to my house plants care 101 class, we will go over the five most common house plants, fungus myths, mealy bugs, spider mites, thrips, and scales. I'll show you how I eliminate them so you can save your plant. And we'll talk about the proper plant maintenance to minimize and avoid these paths altogether. Now I know that sounds like some fun, right? So let's get started with the first lesson in introducing some of the pests. So let's get to, and I'll see you over there. 2. Pests Project: But let's talk about first the class project. Now, I want you to select a plant that you have had issues with with a suspected pests. And let us know in the project tab when you upload the picture, let us know in the description what planted is, what pests it had and how you treated it, and how the plant is doing now, okay? And perhaps even there may be some questions that you may have or if the pest continue to come back, ask the questions there and I'll be glad to answer them for you. Okay, so let's get started with the first lesson in introducing some of the pests. So let's get to it. I'll see you over there. 3. Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats. I think those are probably the most common S you'll come across. They fly around the getting your eyes or your nose. And they are just so obnoxious and frustrating. Now, let's talk about what they are and how to get rid of them. Fungus gnats are small little flies that infest soil, potting mix another container medium. In other sources of organic composition, their larvae, meaning their eggs primarily feed on fungi in organic matter, soil, but also to roots and can be a problem in greenhouses, nurseries, potted plants, and interior plants. Adult fungus gnats may emerge from house plants indoors and become a nuisance. Now the elimination of the larvae in the soil would I use when I know I have some fungus gnats and a particular plant that I see buzzing around there, he coming out of the soil. I first treat, there's two ways. I first treat the larvae with this product here called mosquito bits. And it's basically just some granules. And you can use them a couple of ways. You can spread them out onto the soil of your plant. And every time you water, that water will activate those little granules and that chemical, chemical, but the private coming out of those little granules will kill the larvae inside. In that takes a little bit of time, but that's the, one of the best ways to kill the larvae, the eggs that will come out later on, so you can put them on top of the soil. Another way is to make almost a T composition out of this. Put a handful of these inside a gallon of water, let it sit for a while, preferably hot water and let it steep for awhile. And then once it's cooled down, you can pour out the water, not using the granules, rapport the water onto the plants, make sure that it has cooled down. You don't want to pour hot water onto them. And that T composition of these granules will work the same way. So either way you can put the little granules on top or use the t composition on him too. Now, if you have little gnats that already flying around, you have probably seen these little yellow strips. You can put these inside the pot and they're sticky once you take off the little backing their sticky and they will the natural fly on to the bright yellow sticky and get attached to it and die there. So that's one way of catching the adult ones. And then the mosquito bits is the way to kill the larvae, the ones that will eventually hatch and become adults. You'd have to treat both. If you see adult gnats, you can be rest assured that there will be large in that pot. So that's how you treat both of those. Now we have It's really invested. You want to remove that plant and put it in more of a quarantined area. So it's away from the other plans and use these treatments on at once. You feel rest assured that there's no more gnats in that pot. You can put it back out with your house plant collection. Now if you have a plant that you feel is kinda susceptible to getting fungus gnats you've shifted at a couple of times in these seem to be coming back. You can continue to use the mosquito bits on top of the soil. Once you see that they've all dissolved away, you can't see them anymore. Then you can put some more on top there. It won't hurt the plant. A continuous treatment. Another thing that you can use is neem oil. Now they do sell it in a concentrated version or a version that is already mix. I have the version that is already mips. You'll notice throughout these lessons that I'll be talking a lot about neem oil because I use it quite a bit as a maintenance and preventative measure for my house plants, you can spray the top of the soil and the plant itself with this to treat fungus gnats and to maintain the plant from getting fungus gnats. Okay, so neem oil is another maintenance option for you on fungus gnats. So let's go on to the next lessons and talk about those white little fuzzy Neely bugs. 4. Mealy Bugs: Mealybugs, just the name of it. Sounds bad. But mealybugs or a sap sucking insect that can do a lot of damage to your house plants. Mealybugs on plants look like very small white bugs, and they appear as white fuzzy stuff on plant leaves and stems. A mealy bug infestation on a plant can show up as the foliage, the leaves of the plant looking very yellow and drained. The basically sucking the life out of your plant. And if you don't deal with the infestation, it will grow and kill the plant. They can't get into the little crevices of where the stem of the leaf meets the main stock, the main stem, that's mainly will you, where you will find them underneath leaves, That's where you find them. Those are places to look and they can't get down into the soil, into the root of the plant itself to, and if you have a really bad infestation of it, you need to treat the roots also. So let me show you how I treat my mealy bugs when I do get them and I haven't had any in a while knock on wood, so hopefully I won't get any. But if you have a small infestation, you only see a few of them. The best thing to do is to treat them individually. And that is with rubbing alcohol and a Q tip. Just dip the Q tip tip into the alcohol and wipe it right onto the area, taking off the mealy bug and putting it on new napkin and just keep doing that, removing the mealybugs that you see. Now, that is for if you see just a few of the white little guys, but if you see quite a few of them, then you'll need to go a little bit more and use an insecticidal soap and spray it onto the plant itself that will kill them. Mealybugs on contact and get rid of them. You can also have the plant is big enough, take it into the shower in and use your shower. One of those hosed showers and sprayed off and try and get as many as you can off and then use the treatment of the insecticidal soap. Now, if you have that much mealybugs, chances are that you will have some down below in the soil where they can get to the roots. For that, I use a mixture of one part hard to dream peroxide to five parts water and mix that up and put it into the soil. It, the hydrogen peroxide will not hurt the plant, but it will kill the mealybugs down in there and their larvae. Because sometimes you just don't want to take the plant out, which you can take the plant out and take all the soil off the roots and rinse them off and spray them with the insecticidal soap and put them in fresh soil. You can try the hydrogen peroxide first. If that doesn't work, then I would recommend taking the plant out of the pot, throwing away that soil, cleaning the pot row good, treating the roots with the insecticidal soap, getting fresh soil and reporting it, okay, that will kill the mealybugs. Now for a preventative measure, you got it MIMO oil. Once a week. I would spray it with neem oil, spray the plant with neem oil underneath the leaves on the crevices of the stems. And that will help prevent the mealybugs from coming back. I would probably do about three treatments once a week and then stop and see how your plant is doing. But this will prevent them from coming back in case you miss a few of those mealybugs after your treatment and they decide to come back, this will take care of them. Okay, so mealybugs, very common little guy, very common little bug that can really suck the life out of your plants. But those are ways to treat and maintain your plant from dying to mealy bug infestation. Okay, So let's go on to the next lesson, which is spider mites. 5. Spider Mites: Spider mites. These are tiny little pests that actually do look like little tiny spiders that can infest your plant and cause some real damage to them. Now the first sign of the spider mites is they're tiny little webs on the plant, typically in the little crevices and little corners of where the stem meets the main stem. Other signs a spider mite damage include black or brown spots on the plant leaves. Now wait to treat the spider mites if you have a pretty good infestation of them, would be to cut the plant where they, it is infected. If the leaves are very damage, if there's lots of webbing, if you can see them crawling around, cut that area back to the area where there are no spider mites and let the plant re-grow. That's one way of doing it. If it's completely infested with spider mites, you can try the shower method where you put it underneath the shower and hose that off in, try and get them off as much as you possibly can. And then treating it with the insecticidal soap also. But sometimes you can't get them off and you have to eliminate them completely by cutting the plant or even discarding the plant if the infestation is just too much. But insecticidal soap will treat the plant after it has been up back or the past have been eliminated altogether from the plant. Again, monthly treatment after you have eliminated them all together will be the neem oil once a week for three to four weeks to make sure that you've gotten them all. Now you do want to educate yourself that some plants are just more susceptible to some of these bugs, like for instance, spider mites, the Salafi of family or miranda family are more susceptible. I have lost three or four polytheists to spider mite infestation that they just invested the plant. I was not able to treat them with the methods I just mentioned cutting them back, sprain them, putting them in new soil. It had just suck the life out of the plants so much to the point where I was not able to save it in my ad to get rid of them. But collate the family is known to be more susceptible to spider mites. Then other plants allocations is another family of foliage plants that's the subdural that, so try to educate yourself on this as what plants are more susceptible. Some succulents, for instance, the edge of various succulents are more susceptible to mealy bugs. So that's something you need to know. Now, we're going to talk about the next one that I'm treating right now, one of my foliage plants. And we're going to talk about thrips. 6. Thrips: Now thrips are tiny winged insects that do tremendous damage to plants. These common past feed on the sap and juices of houseplants. In garden plants. They particularly love new leaves on plants, so that may be where you find them and they're dark little tiny insects that you can see. That's how I found mine on my monstera Delhi seal so that I'm currently treating. And the way that I treated at the very first time with with a spray, the infestation was not big enough that I needed to take it into the shower to hose it down. But I could see the little guys on the underneath the underside of the leaves. And I could tell some other leaves were having areas that returning a brown or bronze the color and some dark brown spot. Those are some ways that you can tell if you see that happening to your leaves, look closely, get a light, get even a little, you know, magnifying glass. You see tiny little insects that are moving or you can move it with your finger. Those are thrips and you want to get rid of them? What I used initial spray was the insecticidal soap. I gave it a good spring, mean a good dowsing of insecticidal soap. And I got a paper towel, make sure that I spread it all over the leaf top, bottom, all the way down the stems, all the way down to the base of the plant. I even sprayed it on top of the soil. Now, these little bugs, the thrips, do lay their eggs more on the plant itself as opposed to the soil. So, you know, you don't need to worry about necessarily replacing the soil. But I did treat the top of the soil just in case. So the initial treatment of the insecticidal soap is what I did. And then every week I still, I'm in the process of treating it with neem oil. Because even though I did that first really hard treatment of the insecticidal soap. Just the other day, I found a couple more on there, so I put some neem oil on it. And, you know, to get rid of those last few so far the plant is doing okay. I have not seen any more leaves turning colors and bronze zing. I'm actually seeing a new leaf coming out. So that's good. I did cut off one leaf. That was a new growth that was opening up that was very damaged by the thrips because they love new leaves. So I did cut that one off, got rid of it. But I'm going to continue the treatment until I am assured that those groups are gone and there are no more of them. So those are some preventative measures you can take to avoid having thrips. Now I'm going to talk about the last one that I've had to deal with. It just scales. And I'm going to show you a plant. It's actually a succulent of euphoria that I had to treat for scales recently. So let's go over there. 7. Scales: Scale insects, so destructive house plant pests that look like small bumps on plant stems and leaves. Now scales can do a lot of damage to house plants and now door plants. The pesky skill bugs bite into the plants to feed on the sap, resulting in discolored leaves, leaf drop in stunted plant growth. Now the plant I had to treat this year and that's the only one that I've found had scales on it this year is my U4 be at that I had outside my euphoria rubra and I was going to take a picture of it and then I notice a discoloration on the arms of it. And I look closer and I see these tiny little bumps on it, these little flat bumps. And I'm thinking what is that knife scrape at it with my fingernail and it pops off. And I realize that scales, I had never dealt with scales before, but I knew it when I scratched it off with my finger. Now with scales, they can not only affects the Foley jury of the stem areas, branch area of this U4 BIA. But in my case, they got down into the root section, down to the base of the plant, really got to it and was killing the root of the plant. So what I had to do was a little bit extensive, but it was the only way I could save the plant was cut off some of the arms that were not affected or the ones that I could treat and save and replant those and throw away the base of the plant that had been to infected too far gone, throwaway that soil and throw away those roots and read pot or propagate the stems that I was able to cut off with the plant. So the way that I treated the infected area of that plant was some alcohol, rubbing alcohol in a Q-tip to kill the little scales and rub them off. Because the areas, the branches that I took only had a few of them. They weren't the infested really bad. So I took the rubbing alcohol and just took those off. After that, I sprayed the rest of the branches with some insecticidal soap. Since I had cut them and I wanted to propagate them, I needed for that tip where I had cut to callus over or to dry off before I reported it in some fresh soil. So I waited about a week for that area to callus over. And then I repeated that U4 BIA into some fresh soil. And now it's in my living room going wonderfully. It's growing new branches and has recovered completely from the scale infestation. And that is a little bit extensive way of treating a plant. But for, in my case, was the only way that I could save the plant from completely dying. And I was thankful that I had some branches to cut off and I was able to propagate in save the plant itself. You may not have that extensive of an infestation in just treating it with alcohol, rubbing alcohol will be just enough. And then afterwards on a weekly basis treating with neem oil to make sure that they don't come back. But know that you can cut pieces of the plant, propagate it, and save it if it is an extensive infestation. 8. Final Tips : So let me give you some last few tips on how to make sure that your plants are taken well care of when you do find an infestation on your plants, quarantine the plant. I have an area where it's kind of my ICU area and I put plants that are under treatment in that area if they're very badly and fest that if it's not too bad, I'll just kind of move them aside from the area where the were, not necessarily removing them altogether. Makes sure that you maintain your plants without debris. Makes sure that you remove debris from your plant. That's on top of the soil, dead leaves, dried up leaves, dead leaves hanging off the plant because little bugs love debris to crawl in there and live in there and lay eggs in there. And, you know, just wreak havoc in there and that's how they start. So if you have clean plants free of debris, they don't have that atmosphere to breed and get into your plants. Make sure that you don't have standing water left when you water your plants. If you have a catch tray underneath your a pot and water goes all the way through. Make sure you remove that water because that's standing water will bring fungus gnats especially and other bugs. So make sure that you remove any standing water. And finally, makes sure that you have some neem oil on hand. This is probably the one thing that will work on just about every path, not only to kill it, but also especially to maintain your plant healthy. There are other ways to kill the pest that work more efficiently. But as far as maintenance goes, you wanna make sure you have a spray bottle of NIM or whether it's the concentrated and you mix with water or like I have that's already mixed and I just grab it and spray it when I need to. Okay. Well, I hope that you enjoyed these lessons to my friend and that it makes you feel a little bit more confident in taking care of your plans and dealing with some insects and pests. Now don't feel bad if you're not able to save the planet. I have lost plants to insects also. Sometimes you can't catch it in time when you notice the infestation and the plan is too far gone and you have to get rid of it. That's okay. That's part of being a plant parent. But you have the knowledge now and the tools hopefully to maintain your plans, to keep an eye on them and to make sure that you don't have a setting word, pest can come in and harbor pests. So take care of your plants and they will give you the joy back that you want from them. Thanks so much friends. I'll see you in my next class.