Pest tips: how to prevent pests on your plants

Pest tips: how to prevent pests on your plants

Jan 29 , 2020

Plant pest prevention. Try saying that three times fast. Numero 4 in my pest treatment series will address what you can do to decrease your chances of getting pests & mitigate how fast they spread.

First, let’s recap a two important things about pests as we know understanding how they do what they do helps:

  • Most pests enter your collection via one main route - hitching a ride on another plant, on its leaves, stem, in its soil. The plant is placed in proximity to another, the pest bounces across to find a new home, makes babies, and boom. Thanks to their amazing baby making abilities, they’ve colonised some of your plants.
  • Pests all move around differently to one another- gnats fly in the air or live as babies in soil, spider mites can hitch a ride on humans pretty easy, and mealybugs sloooowly crawl around trying to find little nooks they can get cosy in.
So how do we keep our plant fam safe from invaders? The simple answer would be to never bring home any new plants or soil but there’s no fun in that. So the answers are: quarantine, diligent checking & proactive treatment!


Every time I bring a new plant home, I put it in isolation for about one to two weeks. This is enough time for most pest reproductive cycles to be completed, so if they have a few hitchhikers, you can spot them and treat them. I recommend you do this religiously. I know it’s hard when you’re super excited to display a new plant but trust me, it will pay off!

Inspect new plants

Knowing how to spot pests is a big help too and getting into the habit of inspecting plants before you buy them can save future heartbreak too. The trick is to get real close. Eyeball off the soil, both sides of the leaves, the stems, and look in any crevasses. If it’s an Alocasia, look closely for signs of dust like matter as they’re very prone to spider mites. If it’s a mealy bug magnet like an Indian Rope Hoya, look deep inside any possible hidey holes.

Regular collection checks

Checking your plants can be the difference between finding pests at low levels vs infestation levels. Getting into the habit of ogling your plants often, say when you water them, is a fab idea.

Proactive pest treatment

Regular neem oil spray downs of your plant fam will help your green buddies be resistant to a lot of pests. Neem oil is systemic meaning it’s absorbed into the plant tissues, and works from the inside when bugs chomp or suck on leaves, and it then enters their system. Spraying this once every 2 to 6 weeks is a great preventative method. Just make sure you don’t apply it to a stressed plant (eg one that is suffering from heat or frost) and test it on any new plant before liberally using it just to be safe. And always follow the packet instructions to dilute it. Personally I use Bug Boss King Hit as my preventative spray (as it’s super effective for my mite issue), but other all purpose plant pest treatments like pyrethrum are also useful alternatives to neem.

Links to other pest tips can be found below:

Tips on understanding pests

Tips on fungus gnats

Tips on spider mites

Tips on mealybugs

Tips on aphids

Plus more to come