Pest Prevention 101

Pest Prevention 101

I want to start this by telling you that every plant parent experiences pests at some point, and that having to deal with pests does not make you a bad plant parent. There’s a lot we can do to prevent them, but there are also a lot of factors outside of our control that can lead to a pest infestation. So learn from your experiences and try not to be too hard on yourself. 

Tiny bugs like dust mites are really common and likely already in spaces you spend time in. Some types couldn’t care less about our plants, and some of them feed on and damage plants. Those harmful ones are the pests we’re trying to avoid, but unfortunately they’re just as common as the others.

That being said, by the end of this, you’ll have a list of actions you can take to improve your chances and help prevent an infestation from starting, or from getting too out of control to deal with. 

In order to prevent pests, we need to understand where they come from and how they get to our plants in the first place.

  1. They’re most likely to end up on your plants from already being in your home, blowing in windows from outdoors, tracking inside on any flowers you’ve ever gotten, or even produce from the grocery store (reminder to clean your produce!).

  2. They can be in the soil your plant came in when you bought it, or hiding somewhere on the foliage. Even the best kept greenhouses still deal with pest outbreaks, simply due to the number of options the pests have to feed off of and spread. 

  3. Pests can also transport to your plants through dust that circulates in your ventilation, ending up on their leaves - and pests loooove dusty leaves, particularly spider mites and thrips.

  4. If left unnoticed for too long, they can do some real damage to your plant and spread to any others nearby, making them a lot harder to get rid of for good.

  5. When the air is either too dry or too humid, pests can transport through it more easily and spread to other plants more quickly. 

  6. Fungus gnats and mealy bugs are attracted to high levels of moisture, and most pest eggs thrive best in soil that’s overly moist for too long (a side effect of over watering).

While the first couple of points are outside our scope of control, there are some actions we can take on the last four points to help our plants out.

  1. Pests love dusty leaves, so the simple solution here is to make an effort to keep our plants’ leaves clean. I use a mixture of organic neem oil, castille soap, and water. Neem oil and castille soap are both natural barriers to pests, and they’ll give the leaves a good shine as well. Here’s the exact neem oil and castille soap I use on my plants. 

    Clean leaves will also photosynthesize better, since a clean leaf surface absorbs light more easily. Your plant will be happier overall with polished, shiny leaves, and less likely to be a prime host for pests.
  1. If left unnoticed for too long, pests can spread like crazy and be WAY harder to get rid of. Look closely at your plants when you’re watering them, making sure to check out the undersides of leaves and in splits for anything that could be hiding. You don’t need to be paranoid and 100% inspect every plant all the time, but the sooner you catch a potential infestation, the better. Just be mindful and take a closer look as regularly as you can. Here are some photos of the most common pests to look for:

Spider Mites

Mealy Bugs


  1. Pests transport more easily through air that’s either excessively dry or humid, so knowing areas of your house where those ‘extremes’ (to our plants) might exist can really help prevent pests. Mites and thrips love dry air so they’re more likely to show up and spread during colder months near highly ventilated areas, but fungus gnats and mealybugs are attracted to high levels of moisture and heavy, stagnant air. You can combat dry air by increasing humidity, and fight excess humidity by increasing the air circulation. Here are some solid recommendations for a fan or a humidifier.
  1. Fungus and pest eggs thrive best in soil that’s overly moist for longer stretches of time. This can just be how the plant was when you bought it, or it could be a side effects of overwatering. Generally, it’s best to err on the dry side when it comes to watering your plants. If the soil stays moist for longer than it typically does, if leaves start to turn yellow and then brown, or if things start to smell funky or get mushy, those are signs you may have overwatered. 

    If you think you overwatered a plant, it’s repot time. Remove all the mushy, soggy soil, remove any roots that might be squishy or rotten, and replace the plant in fresh, dry, well draining soil mixture. It also wouldn’t hurt to move the plant to a brighter location for a bit as well, so that the extra light can help it absorb any excess moisture. Overwatering is usually done through frequency, not amount, so dial back how often you water in the future, too. You can grab my favorite pre-mixed potting soil here.

Remember that even when executed perfectly, these don't make plants pest proof, and again, pests don’t mean you’re a bad plant parent. However, doing your best to implement these will not only help prevent pest infestations from forming and spreading out of control, but your plants will be happier overall, too.

If you think you might have pests but aren’t sure, Slow Green Death is here to help! Reach out to us at and we’ll walk through what's wrong and find the best solution. You can also submit your questions here.

Thanks so much for reading, and may all your plants’ deaths be Slow and Green.

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