How to Get Rid of Thrips on Houseplants

Thrips are small black insects that can infest plants. They will suck the sap out of the plant, which weakens them. There is also the risk that these insects can transfer diseases, which end up killing the plants. 

Because of the damage that thrips can do, it’s recommended that you take measures to get rid of them as soon as you notice the problem. Keep reading to learn the best ways of doing this. 

Identifying Thrips

Thirp inside a flower

The first thing to do is make sure that you are dealing with thrips. Their size makes this a challenge. Because they are so small, identifying them with the naked eye can be difficult. 

The best option is often to remove a leaf from the plant. Shake it onto a piece of white paper. Then, you can use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the animals. There are some things that you should be looking for

  • Slim bodies, you can expect them to be the same size as a grain of rice
  • Two pairs of wings
  • Six feet
  • Larvae will be white, and won’t have any wings
  • Most Thrips will be either red or black

You can also look at your houseplants and the type of damage they have sustained. You might notice small discolored spots on the leaves. Sometimes, they might cause the leaves to appear silver. They might also scar fruits, as they saw their way through the skin to get to the juice. 

Thrips are most active during the spring months. They take just 10 days to go from larvae to adult. Because of this, you should inspect your plants carefully before you bring them into your house. If there are any Thrips present, they can spread rapidly throughout your garden infecting all your other plants. 

Stop Thrips Spreading

If your plant is infested with thrips, you’ll need to be careful. You don’t want the infestation to spread. Put the infected pot plant into a separate room. Don’t put any leaves into the compost.  

You should also inspect the plant. It’s common for thrips to attach the leaves. They also like to go inside the blooms of the flowers. If this is the case, it’s best to cut off the blooms. Put them into a Ziplock bag and throw them into the trash. You can repeat this process for any leaves. If done early enough, this can mitigate the worst of the damage to the plant. 

Use Insecticide Soap

Once you know that you have thrips infecting your plants, it’s time to think about how you are going to get rid of them. If you have caught the problem early, before the Thrips can establish themselves, you might be able to use an insecticide soap.

This is the preferred option. It won’t contain as many harsh chemicals, so you won’t be risking any damage to your plants. You’ll need to mix this with water. Then, you can spray it onto your plants. 

You should be able to find the insecticide soap at most hardware stores. But if you prefer you can make your own variety

  1. Get one cup of oil. Any type of oil will do. 
  2. Combine the oil with a cup of dishwashing liquid
  3. Mix with two teaspoons of water
  4. Spray onto your garden

There is a way that you can add a little extra potency to your insecticide soap. You can add a few drops of neem oil to the mixture. You might need to spray your houseplants a few times before you can completely remove the insects. 

Shaking the Leaves

If you want one of the easiest ways to get rid of Thrips, you can place a piece of paper underneath them. Then, shake the branches. This should be enough to dislodge the insects. This is a simple way of getting them off your plants and might be an effective solution if there are only a few insects. 

Try a More Powerful Type of Insecticide

If the Thrips have already gotten a hold of your plants, it’s best to skip the soap and move straight to insecticide. The type of insecticide you use will depend on the type of plants you are growing. For example, it’s best to stick to an organic option if you plan on eating the food. If you have fruit trees, you might want to try using dormant oil. 

When you are spraying, you’ll need to do it at first light. This will give the liquid some time to evaporate. If the moisture stays on the leaves during the night, there is a risk that it will cause mold to develop. 

Sticky Traps

Once you’ve used the insecticide, there might still be a small population that survived. The best way to get rid of these remainders is by using a sticky trap. You will be able to purchase these at a hardware store. From there, you just need to put them around the base of the houseplant. Any remaining Thrips will get climb onto the strip and get stuck.

Use Beneficial Insects

lady bug on a stem

Another way to protect your plants and kill off any remaining larvae is by introducing beneficial insects. These will eat the larvae of the Thrips, helping to control their population. There are a few types of insects that you can use, including: 

  • Ladybugs
  • Lacewings
  • Spider mites
  • Minute pirate bug

It’s best to do a little more research, to see which one of these will be best suited to your climate conditions. These can also form a good preventative method. You can get a small population of beneficial insects established, to protect your plants from predatory insects. 

Remove Weeds

While these tips will help you kill Thrips, the best option is to make sure that your plants don’t get infected in the first place. There are a few simple preventative steps you can take to make sure that this doesn’t happen. 

One of the easiest preventative steps is to weed your plants regularly. These insects like laying their eggs in the stems of the weeds. If you have your plants near a window, you might want to trim down the grass. Sometimes, they will start outside in the long grass, before flying inside and nestling in your pot plants. 

You should also get rid of any dirt or debris that is clogging up your greenhouse. This can provide ideal cover for them to get into the house. It might also be a great place for them to lay their eggs. 

Use Diatomaceous Earth

It can be a good idea to use some diatomaceous soil. This is made from fossilized organisms and will appear as a fine white powder. All you need to do is sprinkle some of this over your soil. You should be able to find this type of soil at your local garden center. You won’t need a lot, one bag should be more than enough for all your plants. 

To an insect like Thrips, this type of soil will be uncomfortable to walk on. It sticks to their waxy skin and creates small cuts. It also stops them from absorbing moisture. By they aren’t the only pest species that will avoid soils that have been treated with this type of soil. Other species include

  • Ants
  • Cockroaches
  • Bed bugs
  • Beetles

There is an alternative to diatomaceous soil. You can apply some kaolin clay to the leaves. This has a similar effect, stopping the insects from getting a stronghold on your plants. 

Final Thoughts

Thrips are a common issue facing gardeners across the country. If you have detected them, it’s best to start treatment with an insecticide.  This will kill these insects. You can also try adding bugs that will eat these insects. The best options, though, are to take some steps to prevent infection. 

Kate Inskeep

Kate Inskeep is a mom of three from Illinois who loves growing things. She fell in love with houseplants after a friend gifted her some succulents. Before long, her windowsills were full of plants, and she was hooked.

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