It’s such a joy to see your houseplants, vegetable garden, flowers—or whatever greenery you have, no matter how small—thrive and bloom. But occasionally, you discover a nasty little surprise: What the heck is that weird bug? And what is it doing to my plant? Before you panic, take stock of what’s going on. Sometimes you see the damage first, sometimes the bug. To accurately ID the problem, look for other clues such as webs, sticky sap-like substances and holes in the leaves. For houseplants, it’s also smart to isolate the affected plant from others before they all get infected.
Of course, outdoors, you’ll encounter bugs on your plants regularly. But the most common way a houseplant gets infected is when you bring a new plant home from the nursery, or if you let them spend the summer outdoors. Either way, inspect the plant before bringing it into your home, give it a once-over with an insecticidal soap before taking it indoors for the winter, and keep it away from your other plants for a few weeks once it’s inside.
Finally, be real about your plant’s health. Sometimes you try everything and a plant still is a little sad-looking. If you’ve made several attempts to get rid of the bugs and haven’t succeeded, give yourself permission to toss it! Sometimes you have to exercise a little tough love to protect your other plants.