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whiteflies on indoor plants

How to Control Whitefly Problem on Houseplants

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Whiteflies are nothing if not prolific. These tiny, heart-shaped flies rest in large numbers on the undersides of leaves, and when the plant is disturbed or brushed up against, the flies will fly out in a great, sudden cloud.  

Whiteflies are a common problem in greenhouses, warm climates, and indoors. They cannot tolerate cold weather, but an indoor whitefly infestation can quickly spiral out of control. It’s best to treat whiteflies at the first sign of infection.

Whitefly Problems

These annoying insects aren’t only a nasty surprise for plant owners, but problematic to the health of the plant, too. The nymphs and various larval stages attach to the plant’s soft tissues and feed on the plant and secrete honeydew, which raises the risk of fungal diseases and attracting other pests.

Whiteflies hatch from tiny, cone-shaped eggs into small scale-like insects that can travel along the plant’s stems. The scales molt into nymphs, which then go through several more growth stages before going into a brief resting stage then emerging as adult flies. During almost every step of their development, they continue to feed on the plant.

The whole lifecycle takes about 30 days, but this varies depending on the temperature. In warmer weather, they reproduce more quickly, and in colder weather, their growth cycle is slowed.  

How to Get Rid of Whiteflies

Like most pests, the best control for whiteflies is defensive. Healthy, vigorous plants are less susceptible to infestation than weak, underpotted, and stressed plants. As a general rule, make sure your plants are healthy, and you’re less likely to attract these annoying critters in the first place.

If you see whiteflies on your indoor plants, there are several control options:

Identify and control Whitefly infestations, a common and annoying problem for indoor and greenhouse plants.

Whitefly Indoors: Controlling Whiteflies In The Greenhouse Or On Houseplants

Whiteflies are the bane of nearly all indoor gardeners. There is a wide range of plants fed on by whiteflies; ornamental plants, vegetables, and houseplants are all affected by them. Their secretions can cause foliage to yellow and die. Controlling whiteflies is difficult but not impossible.

Controlling Whiteflies in the Greenhouse and Indoors

Effectively controlling whiteflies begins with familiarity of their life cycles, including various species. They deposit their eggs on the undersides of leaves, often in a circular or crescent-shaped pattern. Once hatched, they begin feeding on the plants until the adults emerge, whereupon they fly to nearby plants, lay eggs and repeat the cycle all over again. They can produce hundreds of eggs within a month or so. Since whiteflies are small in the early developmental stages, they are oftentimes difficult to detect.

However, adults, such as Silver-leaf whiteflies, are generally yellowish with white-colored wings. Their life cycle is completed in about 39 days or less. Adult greenhouse whiteflies are pale green or yellow. Their life cycle can last just 32 days. Banded-wing whiteflies can be distinguished from dark bands on the wings. Depending on temperature, their life cycle completes within 16 to 35 days.

Whiteflies develop quickly in warmer conditions. Once inside a warm environment, whiteflies can wreak havoc on plants.

Whitefly Prevention

Prevention is also the key to controlling whiteflies. Close or screen all entry points to prevent whiteflies from entering. Clean and dispose of all weeds and other plant debris. Prior to bringing new plants inside, carefully inspect them for whiteflies beginning at the top and working down, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves where they feed and reproduce. Discard any affected plants.

Before repotting plants, allow containers to air out for at least a week. Apply insecticide (like neem oil or insecticidal soap) to remaining plants and those nearby; however, keep in mind that this may only reduce populations, not eliminate them. Insecticides have limited success on whiteflies in the greenhouse or indoors. Both the egg and pupa are tolerant of most insecticides.

When using pesticides for controlling whiteflies, read and follow the directions carefully. Be sure to cover all parts of the plant, especially the undersides of leaves. Continue to monitor plants frequently.

Use a Sticky Whitefly Trap

Whether you have whiteflies in the greenhouse, indoors or in your garden, yellow sticky traps can be used to monitor or reduce whitefly numbers. Whiteflies are attracted to the color and will stick to the adhesive surface. Monitor your whitefly trap frequently and replace as needed.

In addition to a whitefly trap, aluminum foil or reflective mulches can also be used to repel whiteflies from ornamental plants. Vigilant removal of infested leaves and hosing down with soapy water is helpful too. Using a small, handheld vacuum cleaner can be effective for removing the adult whitefly as well, especially during morning hours when they are sluggish. Place the vacuum bags in plastic, freezing overnight and disposing in the morning.

When it comes to whiteflies, ornamental plants, vegetables and your houseplants can be protected with a few simple steps.

Whiteflies are the bane of nearly all indoor gardeners. Effectively controlling whiteflies begins with familiarity of their life cycles, including various species. The following article can help with that.