Houseplants often suffer from infestations of bugs and
insects in the potting compost. All houseplants can suffer but cacti,
succulents, geraniums and fuchsias are particularly liable to be
Treatments differ depending on the particular bug which
is in the soil. However, almost all soil borne bugs thrive in particular
conditions. Change the soil conditions and many of the bugs will simply
disappear. We identify the key soil bugs and advise you on how to treat
General Treatment for Soil Pests
Most soil pests prefer damp conditions in the soil. Some pests prefer
drier conditions, but these pests live near the surface of the soil.
With these factors in mind, gently ease off the top 1¼cm (½in) of soil /
compost and throw it away. Replace it with half the amount of new
compost and cover that with grit to the previous level of the soil. That
may well get rid of many of the soil pests and the grit on top will put
them off further. Keep the plants slightly under-watered.
Move the plant to a new position because some airborne soil pests may
well still be flying around just waiting for you to return the pot to
its previous position. Also, keep affected plants away from healthy
More drastic general treatment is to remove all soil from around the
plant roots and stem then re-pot it brand new compost. This should get
rid of most soil bugs but the shock may well kill a plant weakened by
them. A more gentle way of removing some soil pests is to take the plant
and compost out of the pot (when the compost is on the dry side) and
inspect the outside of the compost. If you see any bugs, gently remove a
small amount of the outer soil, with any visible bugs and dispose of it.
Re-pot with a small amount of compost replacing any which has been been
Soil Mealy Bugs (Rhizoecus of various types)
Adult soil mealy bugs are around 2mm (eigth of an inch) long,
normally white and a long oval in shape. They look like a small grain
of rice. They are covered in a powdery white wax. Their movements are
If the general treatment above does not work then you will need to
resort to insecticides to get rid of soil mealy bugs. Two proven
products are Bayer Provado Vine Weevil Killer and Scotts Bug Clear
Ultra Vine Weevil Killer. Both are systemic and both will provide
protection from other bugs and insects. They are widely available in the
UK online and in most garden centres.
The springtail is easily identified. It is white / grey,
slightly smaller and thinner than the soil mealy bug and they
jump around when the soil / compost is disturbed.
visible pest, the do little harm to houseplants.
See general treatment above if you want to get rid of springtails.
The adult vine weevil is often apparent on the top of the soil but not
underneath. They eat leaves and damage is easy to see as notches eaten
into the leaves. Far more damaging are the small (10mm) white plump
larvae which can be found in the soil / compost. These will eat the
roots and eventually kill the plant. Both adult and larvae will be
present at the same time.
Nematodes are available online and in garden centres to kill vine
weevils. Chemical controls are Bayer Provado Vine Weevil Killer and Scotts
Bug Clear Ultra Vine Weevil Killer which are readily available in the