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. There, I've said it. Yes, even more annoying than those pesky fungus gnats that fly right into your face.
I would think they were gone for good, pat myself on the back for a plant mama job well done and then, a month later, notice another leaf showing the tell tale sign of thrip damage. Here are a few pics that illustrate these signs to help you identify these little, highly destructive bugs:
See the tiny white bugs? Those are thrips in their larval stage. Dang it.
Example of past leaf damage on my monstera.
STEP 1: IDENTIFICATION AND ISOLATION
Sometimes you’ll even see the tiny larva walking around that damaged area 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, avocado, philodendron, 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)
Ok, now that you've confirmed your plant has thrips, take a deep breath. It's ok, it happens to us all. You're going to need a fair amount of patience too, because this is not an overnight fix. It can take a few months to fully rid your plants of thrips, but it is possible. So let's get into it!
Ok, your very first step is to cut off all super damaged leaves and throw them away (do not compost). Then, quarantine all plants with thrips and be sure to check all other plants for signs of thrips before beginning treatment so you don't have to do it all over!
STEP 2: BATH TIME
Get cleaning! If your plant is mobile enough to transport to the shower or outside with a hose, do it, it makes these first few applications easier. 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 old sheet, cardboard or newspaper under the plant to soak up any mess.
Next, grab a freshly mixed up batch of our Sacred Leaf Tonic (remember to shake up your concentrated bottle first then add a 1/4 teaspoon to spray bottle of 16 ounces water) and get spraying!
Completely coat the front and back of the leaves, stem, crevices and topsoil. The first time is best to apply heavily, then let the tonic soak in for at least an hour, then, just this first time we want to give your plants a rinse. If a hose or shower option isn't possible, grab a clean towel/paper towel/old t-shirt, soak with water and then gently wipe the leaves clean. Be sure to get both sides!
*Be sure your plant is out of any direct sunlight after these treatments. The natural oils in Neem and Jojoba act a bit like sun tan oil on our skin and can invite unwanted sunburn!
Next, mix up a batch of our Sacred Soil Tonic (1/4 teaspoon to 16 ounces of water) and give your plant a health soil drench. We have steps for creating your very own Sacred Soil Bath too! Make this experience less stressful and more rewarding. Here's how to whip up a batch Plant FAQs
STEP 3: REPEAT
Repeat this process again in a few days. Then you can move on to spraying and drenching once a week for a few months. Yes, I know, it's a lot, but well worth it, I promise! To date I've brought all kinds of plants back from the brink! Our tonics work their magic over time not only by battling the actual insects, but by boosting your plant's own natural immune system. Our tonics offer nourishment to the entire plant system, from soil microbes on up!
For more on that, head to our 'What's Saponin' blog post here
Step 4: BE VIGILANT
Remember to coat all the surfaces of your plant including the topsoil as some thrips spend can spend of their life there too. After a month (or two depending on the infestation), you will be thrip free for good! However, I cannot stress this enough, you must be vigilant! Every time you water your plant, check the leaves and the stems! Even a few months later. It’s good plant parent practice to check the leaves of all your plant friends often after an infestation to make sure everyone remains healthy and pest free.
You got this!! We're always here to encourage or help you too! You can send us an email anytime and we'll do our best to respond quickly.
Karina & the Sacred Elements Team