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Bring Plants In, Leave Pests Out

October 17th, 2017

Many people (ourselves included) like to garden. There's something calming and satisfying about seeing each plant flourish under your care, making the outside of your home beautiful, and reaping the benefits of vegetable- or fruit-bearing plants.

When the weather cools off, you might want to bring some of your plants indoors—for example, any potted plants sitting on your porch or hanging on your deck. This will keep your annuals and tropicals surviving until spring, rather than dying in the autumn frost.

Before you bring them in, however, make sure that you aren't bringing pests with them! 

pests in potted plants

Insects are like plants: they don't survive well in the winter, which means they'll appreciate the warmth of your home. On top of that, there aren't many natural predators of garden insects living indoors—meaning that a pest population can explode in your home.

Here are a few tips to help keep your plants beautiful and your home pest-free this winter.

Don't Try to Save Dying Plants

If a plant isn't currently doing well outdoors, bringing it inside won't improve its condition. Light and humidity levels vary greatly between the indoors and outdoors: indoor humidity and light is typically lower, making it harder on plants.

If your plant is unlikely to survive the winter anyway, it's not a good idea to risk bringing any pests on it indoors. Instead, try to start cuttings. You can also "overwinter" some plants—like lavender or rosemary—in the garage if the temperature won't go below 40 degrees. The plants will then go dormant instead of freezing.

Look Out for These Pests

There are certain pests that like to make your plants their home.

Some pests, like the ones below, will be found on the leaves of your plants. When checking for these pests, carefully examine the leaves (including the underside of the leaves) and the stems.

  • Aphids. These are small green, brown, black, or pink insects that eat the sap of plants. Aphids can reproduce extremely quickly. Aphids are also an attractive meal for ladybugs, ants, and other pests—meaning that having aphids in your home can attract other pests.
  • Spider mites. These are a tiny (1mm) red-brown insect that reproduce quickly.
  • Mealy bugs. These are white, "cottony-looking" insects that feed on plant juices.
  • Spiders. You're surely already familiar with these eight-legged insects. While they can be helpful, you definitely don't want them in your home in large numbers!
  • Gnats. These are small, flying black insects that feed on plants, fruit, and rotting food.
  • Lacewings. These are green, winged insects that feed on aphids and other insects.

Other pests prefer the soil of a potted plant to its leaves. You can check for these bugs by taking the plant container out of the pot and inspecting the soil near the drainage holes.

  • Slugs. These mollusks feed at night on plants, so they can be hard to spot at first.
  • Sow bugs. These flat, oval-shaped insects look like pill bugs. They love moisture, so they can be found in the damp areas of houses.
  • Earwigs. These odd-looking insects with pincers on the back of their abdomen eat plants and insects. They move indoors in the winter, attracted to the light and warmth.
  • Fungus gnats. These are flying black insects that deposit their eggs into the soil of plants, causing various plant diseases.
  • Ants. These small brown or black insects can move from your plants to your home and get into your food.

Remove Pests from Plants—Every Time!

Better Homes and Gardens and other gardening experts recommend acclimating your plants before fully moving them indoors. This means moving them into the home gradually, for shorter periods of time. You can acclimate plants by doing the following:

  • Bring the plants indoors only at night for several days or weeks.
  • Bring the plants indoors while the windows are still open.

If you want to make sure that hitchhiking pests don't make it into your home, you should inspect your plants for pests regularly and remove any pests every time you bring the plant into your home.

It won't help to remove pests only once if you are going to acclimate your plants. The next time you bring them outside, pests have a chance to jump back on!

You can remove pests from plants in several ways:

  • Hose down the plant. Make sure the stream of water is set to a gentle setting. This method will dislodge pests from the plant without tearing the leaves from the stem.
  • After removing the plant container from the pot, remove any visible pests in the soil by hand or with a stick.
  • Remove dead leaves, flowers, and other debris sitting on top of the soil. Then, dunk the plant in a 5-gallon bucket of water for around 15 minutes. This will get rid of pests residing in the soil of your plant.

Concerned you might have an infestation on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We've been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Authored By: Eric Scherzinger

Quality ProNational Pest Management AssociationOPMABetter Business BureauAngies List Super Service Award

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