Gardening in containers is a convenient and enjoyable way to grow plants and veggies, but it can also come with its own set of challenges, including pest and insect invasion that can damage or destroy your plants.
Bugs in your garden containers can be frustrating and harmful, but fortunately, there are several natural and effective ways to get rid of them.
In this guide, we will explore some of the most effective methods for getting rid of bugs in your garden container so that you can keep your plants healthy and thriving.
Bugs found in an outdoor potted plant soil
There are many different types of bugs that are found in outdoor potted plant soil. Some of them include:
- Fungus gnats
These tiny black or grey insects are often found hovering around the soil surface. They are attracted to moist soil and can be a sign of overwatering.
These white, cotton-looking bugs are found on the leaves and stems of plants, as well as in the soil. They feed on plant sap and can cause damage to the plant.
These small, soft-bodied insects are usually green, black, brown, or red in colour. They suck sap from the leaves and stems of plants resulting in damage to the plant.
- Spider mites
These tiny red or black insects are often found on the undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap and cause discoloration and damage to the leaves.
While not technically a bug, ants can be found in potted plant soil and can cause damage to the plant. They can also attract other insects like aphids, which they will farm for their sweet secretions.
These insects are small, oval-shaped, and often have a hard, protective shell. They feed on plant sap and cause yellowing, wilting, and leaf drop. They can be difficult to control because their protective shell makes them resistant to many insecticides.
These are microscopic worms that live in the soil. Some nematodes are beneficial and can help control pests like grubs and cutworms, but others can be harmful to plants. Plant-parasitic nematodes can cause stunted growth, yellowing, and wilting.
- White flies
These tiny, white insects resemble moths and are often found on the undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap and can cause yellowing, wilting, and leaf drop. They are also known to transmit plant viruses.
- Pill bugs
Also known as sow bugs, these crustaceans are often found in moist soil or compost. They feed on decaying organic matter and are generally not harmful to plants, but they can sometimes feed on the roots of young plants.
- Leaf miners
These insects are the larvae of certain flies, moths and beetles. They tunnel through the leaves of plants, leaving characteristic serpentine trails. They can cause significant damage to plants if left unchecked.
These tiny insects are often found in damp soil or compost. They feed on decaying organic matter and are generally not harmful to plants, but like pill bugs, they too can sometimes feed on the roots of young plants.
These slender, winged insects are often found on the undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap and can cause curling, discoloration, and distortion of leaves and flowers. They are also known to transmit plant viruses.
- Pot worms
These small, white worms are often found in moist soil or compost bins. They feed on decaying organic matter and are generally not harmful to plants, but like pill bugs and springtails, they too can at times feed on the roots of young plants.
What insecticide to use on container plants?
Natural insecticides are a great option for those who prefer to use environmentally friendly and safer methods to control pests on container plants.
However, it is important to follow the instructions on the labels carefully when using them. Use them in conjunction with other pest management practices.
Below are some insecticides you can use:
Neem oil is derived from the neem tree and is effective against a wide range of pests, including aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. It works by disrupting the insect’s hormonal balance.
Pyrethrum is derived from the chrysanthemum flower and is effective against aphids, thrips, and whiteflies. It works by disrupting the nervous system of insects.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
This pesticide is made of bacteria that is effective against certain caterpillars and other leaf-eating insects. It produces toxins that are lethal to these pests but are harmless to beneficial insects and other non-target organisms.
This is derived from soil bacteria. It is effective against thrips, caterpillars and spider mites. It works by disrupting the nervous system of insects.
How do I get rid of mites in my containers?
Here are some steps you can take to get rid of mites in your containers:
- Identify the type of mites you have – this can help you choose the most effective treatment. Spider mites and broad mites are common types that affect container plants.
- Isolate affected plants. Move the plants away from other plants to prevent the mites from spreading.
- Prune affected leaves and branches that are severely infested. Dispose them properly to keep them from spreading to other plants.
- Introduce natural predators or beneficial insects like certain spiders, ladybugs and predatory mites to your container plants to help control mites.
- Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap. These are natural remedies that can be effective against mites. Follow instructions on the label carefully, and repeat applications as needed.
- Use a miticide if natural remedies don’t work as it may be Choose a miticide labelled for use on your specific type of plant and carefully follow the instructions on the label.
- Prevent future infestations by implementing good plant hygiene. Keep your plants healthy, well-watered, and well-fertilized. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests, and isolate any infested plants immediately. Avoid over-fertilizing and over-watering, as this can make plants more susceptible to mite infestations.
Note: getting rid of mites in container plants can take time and persistence. Be patient and continue with treatments until the mites are completely gone.
What kills bugs in flower pots?
- Natural insecticides – Natural insecticides, such as neem oil, pyrethrum, or insecticidal soap, can be used to kill bugs in flower pots. They are generally considered to be safer and more environmentally friendly than synthetic insecticides.
- Beneficial insects – Introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs or predatory mites can help control the population of bugs in your flower pots. These insects feed on the bugs that are causing damage to your plants.
- Manual bug removal – Picking off or physically removing bugs by hand is an effective way of getting rid of them. This is best done when the population is still small.
- Soil replacement – If the infestation is severe, you may need to replace the soil in the flower pot. This can help get rid of the bugs and their eggs that are logged within the soil.
- Insecticidal sprays – Synthetic insecticides such as pyrethroids or organophosphates can also be used to kill bugs in flower pots. However, they are more toxic and can harm beneficial insects and other non-target organisms.