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THRIPS: Establishing a plant saving routine

I should’ve known that just as I started feeling confident about fungus gnat treatments, another pest would come my way. But this time, it’s much worse. About two weeks ago I discovered very small white and black bugs on my philodendron and my monstera. I’d noticed some damage on the leaves, so I was keeping my eyes on these two large plants. Eventually I noticed that if I looked at the leaves long enough, the specs that I thought were dust started moving. Some quick research helped me identify that they’re thrips. I was initially devastated, until I convinced myself that this is all a part of being a plant parent. If I’ve learned anything in my plant journey, it’s that perfection doesn’t exist, bumps in the road are inevitable, and it’s how you handle the challenges that really matters. So, after a good amount of time spent researching thrips and how to handle them, I’ve established a care routine that will last me the next couple of months. I wanted to share some of the things I’m trying, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how effective this routine is. 

My criteria for establishing an anti-thrips plant care routine was simple:

  • The routine must be safe for kids and pets (no chemicals that will be harmful to my loved ones!).
  • The materials must be available in Canada (many insecticides are difficult or impossible to acquire north of the border).
  • The steps need to be easy to execute, and bring me the same joy as regular plant care. This hobby is a labour of love, but if it becomes stressful I’ll need to reevaluate if the plant is worth saving.

Step 1: 

The first step was to isolate the affected plants, drag them outside and hose them down. The two plants that I’ve found the thrips on are my largest plants. Truth be told, I think I’ll hose down my other plants too, just to be safe (I’ll likely do them in the bathtub). Hosing the plants off will knock off the mature bugs and larvae quickly and easily, so doing this as a first step helps you get a good head start on eliminating the thrips. Be sure to hose down the fronts and backs of the leaves, as those little suckers like to hang out on the undersides of leaves as well!

Step 2:

Next, I sprayed the leaves with a mixture of dish soap and water. I put about a tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle of water (an old household cleaner bottle that I’ve rinsed and reused). According to my research, you can use dish soap instead of purchasing insecticidal soap. I’ve read some conflicting articles about whether soap and water is enough to do the job on its own, so I’m considering adding a bit of vegetable oil to the mix if I don’t start to see the results I’m hoping for. After spraying the leaves (front and back) and letting the mixture sit for a while, I wipe as much of the plant as I can with a soft cloth. 

Step 3:

The next step involves polishing the leaves with my own blend of leaf shine spray. This is a spray that I use regularly to dust the leaves (which aids in photosynthesis), and I like to think that it gives my plants a little TLC after their thrips treatment. The recipe I use in a spray bottle is:

30 drops neem oil

15 drops rosemary

3 drops peppermint oil

I fill the rest of the small spray bottle with water, and shake the bottle well every few sprays. I use a soft cloth to polish the leaves after spraying.

Step 4:

The final step is to use a sticky trap in the plants. These will capture any mature thrips that are flying around. I’ve put these traps in some of my other plants as well, in order to monitor them!

I plan on sticking to this routine throughout the summer. I’m not sure at what point I will bring the affected plants back near the rest of my collection. Safe to say I’ll need to be really confident that they’re free of thrips before reintroducing them into the general population. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it!! Add a comment below, or visit us on social media. I am more than willing to try the things that have worked for you, as I’d really love to save these plants if it’s possible!

Comments (3)

  • Leslie H on Aug 18, 2022

    You could also try beneficial mites such as Switski Ulti/ Mite and Thripex once you have hosed down the plants. The beneficial mites will deal with the adults and any larva and eggs but if you use them, you must not be using the oils or soaps at the same time.

  • Anonymous on Aug 05, 2022

    Hi Liz! Definitely, repetition tends to be key when dealing with pests. We are also big fans of neem oil because of the magic it seems to work with pest protection.

  • Liz B on Jul 07, 2022

    I had a bad thrips infestation about a year ago and I found that repetition was key in getting rid of them. I followed a similar routine to yours twice a week every week for two months and only then did I notice the infestation beginning to clear up. Neem oil is another big factor, it’s helped me with thrips and spider mites alike!

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