Let’s just jump right in. Thrips are the most persistent and annoying houseplant pest I’ve dealt with in my many years of plant parenthood. Yes, even more annoying then those damn fungus gnats that fly right into your face.
I’ll think they’re gone for good, pat myself on the back for a job well done and then, a month later, notice another leaf showing that tell tale sign of thrip damage. Here’s a few pics that illustrate these signs to help you identify.
See the tiny white bugs? Those are thrips in their larval stage. Dang it. Houseplant Care Kit to the rescue!
Example of leaf damage on my monstera.
STEP 1: IDENTIFICATION AND ISOLATION
First step is to identify the pest. Thrips come in many shapes and colors, over 6,000 actually, but they all have similar life cycles. They not only damage plants, but they can introduce diseases too. The trail of destruction is quite impressive considering how tiny they can be! But the trail they leave behind is quite unmistakable. Look closely for yellow and brown discoloration on the leaves. Sometimes you’ll even see the tiny larva walking around that damage and occasionally you will see the adults. Some adults have wings which make them even more destructive as they can travel. I’ve noticed they prefer to set up homes in my monstera and alocasia more than any other houseplant.
Here is a visual of the one type (there are thousands) of thrip and it’s life cycle. Hope this helps you imagine the pest you’re up against. (Image curtesy of HortiNews)
STEP 2: BATH TIME
Get cleaning! If your plant is mobile enough to transport to the shower or outside with a hose, do it. Bring along some liquid castile soap or gentle dishwashing soap and add a few drops to a small bowl of water. No need to be super precise with measurements, just add enough to create a small lather. Gently rinse the leaves and dip your hands into the bowl and gently give your leaves a little scrub and bath. Be sure to support the leaves with the other hand while you gently scrub each side. Rinse and repeat until each leaf is clean and rinsed.
If you have a large houseplant and cannot move it to the shower or to a hose, here’s the next best thing and what I tend to do if I’m feeling lazy. Place a towel or newspaper under the plant to soak up the mess we’re about to create. Grab a spray bottle and fill with warm water and a few drops of Leaf tonic. Spray each side of every leaf and gently scrub, be sure to support the leaves while you scrub to avoid tearing. When every leaf is soaped up, then replace the soapy water inside the spray bottle with clean water. Repeat the process to rinse away the soap. Allow the mixture to run down the leaves to cover the topsoil too-more on that next!
STEP 3: NEEM
Grab that spray bottle again, this time, add warm water, 1/4 ounce sacred leaf tonic and a 1 ounce sacred soil tonic. Here’s the perfect duo for you! Give it a good shake until combined. It’ll appear a bit greasy, that’s fine.
Use our neem mixture (be sure to follow instructions as this is a highly concentrated tonic) to cover the entire houseplant, top to bottom, both sides of the leaves, the stems AND the topsoil as thrips spend some of their life in the soil too. I also add a small amount (1 part diluted mix according to instructions to 4 parts water) of our Sacred Duo to the water for my plants while treating them. You can also feed your plant every few weeks during treatment to boost the overall health of your plant. We recommend our Sacred Soil Tonic to stimulate growth and regeneration.
STEP 4: VIGILANCE
Every week, repeat step 3 and spray the entire plant again. After a month or two, you should be thrip free! However, I cannot stress this enough, you must be vigilant! Every time you water, weekly-ish, check the leaves. Even a few months later. It’s good plant parent practice to check the leaves of all your plant friends to make sure everyone is healthy and pest free. SHOP OUR EXCLUSIVE HOUSEPLANT CARE KIT
Hope that encourages you!
Karina & the Sacred Elements Team
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