Common Plant Problems: Thrips

dimitri • April 04, 2022 • 2 min read

These little pests can deal a major blow to your houseplants.

Thrips, also known as thunderflies or Thysanoptera, are so small you’ll need a magnifying glass to see them. Unfortunately, the damage they can do to a plant is, well, much more sizeable. They pierce the surface of leaves and flowers and drink the fluids inside, causing permanent damage to the foliage.

What You’ll Notice

If you spy these changes to your plant, it could be under attack:

  • Leaves with brown or silvery streaking
  • Stunted growth
  • Black specks on the leaves (which are bug droppings)
  • Very tiny yellow, brown or black insects with wings

Treat Your Plant

Just like other problematic pests, thrips are treatable with a few simple steps. Be sure to recheck your plant and treat it again in case a few of the thrips survive the first round.

  • Shake your plant over the bathtub. This will send some of the thrips flying and make it easy to wash them away.
  • Mix a solution to rinse off the thrips, combining two tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of water. Spray onto the plant and allow to soak for 30 minutes before rinsing completely (this is easiest to do outdoors or in the shower).
  • Spray or wipe neem oil onto the leaves and stems to suffocate any remaining thrips.

Practice Prevention

By adding a few easy steps into your plant care routine, you’ll be able to spot thrips infestations sooner and stop them before they take over.

  • Inspect your plants regularly so you can catch any signs of thrips, or other pests, early.
  • When you buy a new plant, keep it in quarantine away from your other plants for a few weeks until you’re sure it’s pest-free.
  • If your plant is prone to thrips, keep sticky traps near it to catch them and alert you when they’re back.
  • For indoor plants that prefer or tolerate moisture, place a humidifier nearby. Thrips are less likely to dine on damp leaves.

Finding your favorite houseplant swarming with thrips can be a big disappointment, especially if you have to prune some leaves in the process. But not to worry — after some TLC and a trim, it’ll be back to its former glory in no time.

Caring for Your Plant

Caring for your plant will keep it happy and strong. Find out how to avoid the most common issues.

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