Houseplants: Avoid using ‘home-made compost’ indoors to prevent common pests

Monstera: Houseplant expert details how to remove pests

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Houseplant pests can not only damage the indoor plant, but it can also kill it. When it comes to removing pests, experts recommend using natural pest control methods. This is because some chemicals can be toxic to human health and indoor plants can become immune to them over time.

Gardening gurus at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine have explained how it’s common to have pests surrounding indoor plants.

They said: “Do you have small black flies living in your houseplant compost? Or hovering around your houseplants? These are fungus gnats, also known as house plant flies and sciarid flies. 

“They’re mostly harmless – adult gnats cause little or no harm to plants, but they can become a nuisance in the home.”

Their tiny worm-like larvae live in the top five to eight centimetres of compost, where they feed on algae, fungi and plant roots. 

Healthy houseplants usually tolerate this minor root damage, but the larvae can harm seedlings or weak plants.

Fungus gnats are small black flies that fly around houseplants and live in house plant compost. 

Plant owners may mistake them for fruit flies – but if they’re in and around houseplants, they’re likely to be sciarid flies.

The gardening experts explained how getting rid of fungus gnats is “easier” than plant owners may think.

They said: “Simply by watering less often and using a gravel mulch you can break the fungus gnat lifecycle and stop them breeding in your house plant compost.”

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The gardening pros have created a step-by-step guide on ways to get rid of fungus gnats.

Water less often 

Fungus gnat larvae need damp compost to live, as this is where algae and fungi thrive, on which the larvae feed. 

Simply by allowing the compost to dry out between waterings, it’ll greatly reduce the fungus gnat population.

Without moist soil plant owners are taking away fungus gnats’ food source – fungi in the soil.

Use a gravel mulch

Most commercially available composts have been sterilised, so they don’t contain fungus gnat larvae. 

The experts said: “If you cover the surface of the compost with a one centimetre-thick mulch of gravel, grit or ornamental glass pebbles, this will stop house plant flies from being able to lay their eggs. 

“Avoid using home-made garden compost indoors.” 

Home-made garden compost can be a source of fungus gnats.

Use sticky tape

Yellow sticky traps work by trapping the adult fungus gnats and breaking their lifecycle. 

Plant owners simply need to hang up a trap near affected plants, or attach it to a bamboo cane inserted into the compost. 

It’s important to keep the trap near soil level, as gnats rarely fly far from the compost. 

Houseplant owners should also avoid hanging the traps outside as they’ll also trap butterflies and hoverflies.

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