Getting Rid of Houseplant Pests the Easy Way

The weather's getting downright cold (if not frigid) for some of us around the country, which means many of us are housebound and looking at our indoor plants with winter longing.  If your ginger (rosemary or basil) plant looks nibbled, dew speckled or slightly web infested, there may be a solution that doesn't involve spraying insecticide all over your indoor spaces.

A Fast Way to Treat Housplants for Insect

Wash the plant thoroughly in warm water to which you've added a couple of drops of dishwashing detergent. (Don't forget to treat the undersides of the leaves, too.)  This is basic plant pest maintenance 101.  If you think more than one plant is involved, move them all to the bathtub for convenient spraying and rinsing.

After the plant has had a chance to dry thoroughly, place it away from your other houseplants, and put a new pet flea collar on the shelf around the base of the plant.  The insecticide in the collar is localized so it won't create many odor problems, but bugs typically loathe the smell.  Even if the collar doesn't kill the critters, they'll evacuate the plant or at least lose their perky attitude.  After a few days (four or five), remove the collar and wash the plant again.  Hopefully, that will take care of the problem until things heat up in spring and you can give your plants a good blast of your favorite pest treatment.  Avoid harvesting the edible leaves from your affected herbs the duration.

This isn't a perfect fix. Ideally, you should research the infestation and treat each plant thoroughly based on your assessment.  In the real world, though, this is a quickie that may work and save you time, effort and pesticide fumes.

A couple of notes:

You can use one of my herbal insect treatments (there are recipes listed in sidebar), but some of them call for fresh herbs you may not have on hand (and the dried alternatives may not be as effective).

If the dog collar idea works pretty well for you during the first bug fighting round, you can repeat the process every couple of weeks.

I've used this method for years, and although it won't kill every pest, it kills quite a few and discourages many of the rest from multiplying like crazy and doing as much harm as they would otherwise.

If you're treating small plants like African violets, you can snip the collars into three inch pieces and treat multiple plants simultaneously. If you have leftover snippets, store them in the original bag (staple the top shut).

Oh, one last thing:  Pet flea collars can get expensive, but major variety stores like Walmart sell generic alternatives that work just fine.  When they're on sale, you can get them for as little as a dollar apiece, so stock up when you can.

Stay warm.

Photo Attribution:  WhiteFlyWikiCommons.jpg by Sanja565658 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Thank you for this innovative treatment for the pests I've brought into my space. I have an infestation of scale on 3 yr old proliferate English ivys. I've washed them in the tub and sprayed with Safer soap to no avail. Dog collars here we go.

  2. Hi Linda,

    A large or long ivy may need more than one collar strung along its length. Experiment and let us know how it goes.


  3. very useful article. keep on sharing. :)

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