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The “unkillable” ZZ plant boasts many favorable traits for indoor places with its wide, attractive, deep green foliage and strong tolerance to neglect and varying conditions.
Brightening any space with its evergreen leaves, the ZZ plant slowly matures up to three feet tall and mostly resits pests and diseases, making it one of the most sought-after house plants. However, does the hardy ZZ plant get bugs?
Aphids, scale, spider mites, fungal gnats, and mealybugs are the most common bugs to raid your ZZ plant. You’ll want to avoid overwatering your ZZ plant and ensure it’s in a well-ventilated area to keep it healthy. More so, use neem oil, rubbing alcohol, or yellow sticky traps to get rid of bugs.
Although the ZZ plant isn’t prone to disease, it isn’t completely immune. So, what are common pests and bugs that infest your ZZ plant, and how can you get rid of them? Well, let’s find out!
Why Does My ZZ Plant Have Bugs?
Bugs that occur on indoor plants are hard to spot until they infest your plants entirely. It can also be tricky to identify or guess where these little critters came from and, most importantly, how to get rid of these bugs.
Although indoor plants are easy to tend to, they can attract stubborn pests in less than perfect conditions. Here are the typical growing conditions that attract bug infestations.
High Humidity Can Attract Pests
Humid, wet conditions are the biggest culprits that attract pests. Unfortunately, many of these bugs have a knack for flocking towards areas with high moisture levels to keep their petite bodies moist.
High humidity is usually due to the following:
- High humidity occurs in areas close to large bodies of water or a climate that naturally experiences high precipitation levels. These high moisture levels impact the humidity within your home too.
- Irrespective of your climate, overwatering your plants create soggy soil conditions that raise the humidity around the plant once the water starts evaporating from the ground’s surface.
- Like overwatering, poor-draining soil can also cause high humidity if the ground becomes saturated from improper drainage.
Lack Of Air Circulation Can Attract Pests
Sufficient air movement around your plants is essential to prevent excessive humidity and nasty bugs from creeping onto your plants.
Increased air ventilation will accelerate soil drying, decreasing fungal growth and the risk of pests.
A lack of air circulation might occur from the following reasons:
- While grouping plants is helpful to attain high humidity, limited space and tightly packed plants can decrease ventilation when the foliage touches each other.
- If your plants are placed in areas of your home far away from windows, doors, or low foot trafficking that provide a gentle air movement, it can attract bugs.
5 Common Bugs That Infest The ZZ Plant
Here’s the list of the five common bugs prone to attack the ZZ plant.
1. Aphids Can Attack The ZZ Plant
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied sucking insects that are primarily light green and pear-shaped, roughly 1/8 inch long; however, they can be pink, white, grey, or black.
How Do Aphids Damage ZZ Plants?
Aphid infestations seem to appear overnight – they are highly mobile and rapidly move from one plant to the next by flying or crawling.
Aphids can damage your ZZ plant by feeding off the plant and sucking the nutrient-rich sap of the plant’s new shoots, making the ZZ plant weaker and more prone to diseases.
Additionally, aphids use their beak-like mouths while injecting the foliage or stems with their saliva as they feed on your plant. The damage to your plant will be twofold: drinking the sap weakens your plant, and the injected saliva may spread diseases.
You’ll notice that these bugs generally cluster at the growth end, attaching themselves to the soft, green stems. As a result, the newly emerging leaves may appear crinkled or stunted, with clusters of aphids visible around the stem.
If the bug infestation is extensive, the plant’s leaves will begin to drop. More so, aphids excrete a “honeydew” syrup which can attract ants and foster the development of sooty mold or fungal growth.
You’ll want to deal with aphids as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading to your other plants.
How Do I Get Rid Of Aphids On My ZZ Plant?
The seven best control for aphids is taking a defensive route. Here are five practical ways to remove aphids on your ZZ plant.
- Topically remove aphids: Remove the aphids manually using your fingers or a cotton swab to remove light infestations.
- Use water: Dip the foliage part of the ZZ plant in water to dislodge the aphids.
- Insecticidal Soap: Use a diluted insecticidal soap or dish detergent to get rid of aphids; however, ensure that both are free of perfumes and additives. Spray the soap on the undersides of the ZZ plant’s foliage.
- Neem Oil: Neem oil is an organic substance that affects the aphids’ feeding, mottling, and mating abilities and acts as a repellent.
- Apply Rubbing Alcohol: Remove the aphids with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. However, be sure to avoid using a solution containing more than 70% isopropyl alcohol to prevent burning the plant.
- Use yellow sticky traps: Add sheets of yellow sticky traps around your ZZ plant to trap aphids. These sticky traps are available at garden centers and online retailers.
- Homemade Garlic Oil Spray: Combine three to four finely chopped garlic cloves with two teaspoons of mineral oil. Once the mixture has rested for 24 hours, remove the cloves and add the mixture to about two cups of water and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Before using the spray on your entire ZZ plant, test it on an inconspicuous part to ensure there aren’t any signs of yellowing or leaf damage after two days.
2. Scale Can Attack The ZZ Plant
Scale bugs are tiny sap-sucking insects with a shell-like bump appearance, ranging from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. They greatly vary in size, shape, and color – ranging from white to orange or black.
How Do Scale Damage ZZ Plants?
These pests form clusters that adhere to the stems, branches, and occasionally the leaves of plants to feed on the sap.
Unlike other insects, scale bugs are immobile once they pierce the plant and lock themselves into place to feed on sap.
If you notice tiny shell-like clusters on the stems or leaves of your ZZ plant, there is a pretty good chance you’re looking at scale insects. More so, the appearance of blackish sooty mold is another visible indicator of a scale infestation.
Scale insects can be divided into two primary groups:
- Soft scale: Soft scale has a protective waxy covering and is easier to kill than armored scale.
- Hard or armored scale: Armored scale has a hard shell covering its body to protect predators, making it quite challenging to get rid of them using a common pesticide.
It can be tricky to exterminate scale bugs because the adult scale firmly attaches itself to the host plant. Sometimes, we find throwing out the infested plants easier instead of eradicating the scale.
How Do I Get Rid Of Scale On My ZZ Plant?
Scale tends to spread faster indoors as there aren’t any natural predators indoors. So, you’ll need to be diligent about controlling and removing from your infested ZZ plants.
- Prune the plant: You can prune and immediately discard the infested stems if it’s early stages of scale.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Remove the existing scale with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. However, ensure you first test the alcohol solution on a small area to determine the sensitivity. More so, avoid using a solution that contains more than 70% isopropyl alcohol to prevent burning the plant.
3. Spider Mites Can Attack The ZZ Plant
Spider mites are a group of pests closely related to ticks and spiders. However, these eight-legged arachnids are only 1/25 inches in size! In addition, these tiny pests range in translucent, red, yellow, green, or brown colors.
You can recognize spider mites by fine silky webbing spun on plants and the general damage of plant foliage.
More so, spider mites mostly form clusters on the undersides of the ZZ plant’s leaves damage the foliage by sucking on the tissues. Once they multiply, they can quickly take over your ZZ plant.
How Do Spider Mites Damage ZZ Plants?
Spider mites often leave the foliage of a ZZ plant looking stippled, yellow, and dry. More so, the leaves might be covered with pale yellow or white blotches from sucking the chlorophyll out of the leaves.
Spider mites are too small for us to see with the naked eye. However, if you see discoloring and distorting leaves with delicate white webbing on the foliage, you’re likely dealing with spider mites. Additional symptoms of spider mites include a wilting plant and curling foliage.
You can also test for spider mites by holding a white sheet of paper below one of the affected leaves. Then, tap on the leaf with a pencil to cause the mites to drop – when using a magnifying glass, you’ll see the tiny spider mites crawling on the paper.
How Do I Get Rid Of Spider Mites On My ZZ Plant?
Here are four practical ways to eliminate the spider mites on your ZZ plant.
- Spray with water: Spider mites thrive in dry, warm weather, making moisture an effective control. You’ll want to regularly spray the ZZ plant with the faucet sprayer, aiming at the undersides of leaves to prevent the spider mites from regaining a foothold on the ZZ plants.
- Insecticidal Soap or Oil: Insecticidal soaps formulated to kill insects are pretty effective against spider mites. However, you’ll want to ensure that you repeat the treatment frequently to prevent a reoccurrence of mites. In addition, horticultural oil is also highly effective in smothering spider mites.
- Neem Oil: Neem oil is a natural oil safe for humans and pets that repels insects, pests, and mites by affecting the insects’ feeding, mottling, and mating abilities and acts as a repellent.
- Chemical Pesticide: Various commercial chemical pesticides may help to kill spider mite infestations. However, reserve these toxic chemicals for severe infestations and only once other methods have failed.
4. Gnats Can Attack The ZZ Plant
If you find yourself annoyed by tiny flying insects every time you water your ZZ plant, you’re probably dealing with fungus gnats. They have narrow legs, clear or light gray wings, segmented antennae, and are usually between 1/16 to 1/8 inch long.
How Do Gnats Damage ZZ Plants?
Fungus gnats are generally attracted to the moist soil of potted houseplants. This is because these flying bugs need damp soil to lay their eggs, while the nutrients and organic matter in the ground feed their larvae.
Besides annoying you, the feeding behavior of fungus gnats can damage your ZZ plant. While the adults do not cause too much harm, the larvae munch on the ZZ plant’s feeder roots, limiting its ability to absorb essential nutrients and stunting its growth.
If you notice fungus gnats flitting about and your ZZ plants start wilting for no reason, the feeding of gnat larvae may be the culprit.
How Do I Get Rid Of Gnats On My ZZ Plant?
You’ll want to quarantine the infected ZZ plant to prevent the gnats from spreading onto your other loved houseplants. Then, consider these two methods to get rid of fungus gnats on your ZZ plant finally.
- Allow the soil to dry: Allowing the soil to dry for several days before watering it again will cause the moisture-dependent larvae and eggs to die.
- Trap the gnats: You can use pieces of raw potato to trap the existing fungus gnats. First, place the potato slices face down on the soil to remove feeding larvae. More so, ensure to replace the potato every couple of days. Then, for the adults, use yellow sticky traps (found in the pesticide section of garden centers) as a nontoxic way to eliminate fungus gnats.
5. Mealybugs Can Attack The ZZ Plant
Mealybugs are tiny, oval, sap-sucking insects, usually around 1/10 to 1/4 inch long. You can also identify them by their soft, hairy, white, and sticky appearance.
Mealybugs also secrete a white, powdery wax substance with a cottony appearance as a protective coating. This coating makes it easy to identify mealybugs when they raid the stems and leaves of your ZZ plants.
Once they get into the ZZ plant’s crevices, they cause much damage if left untreated.
Note that mealybugs are generally warm-weather insects, posing severe problems in northern climates with houseplants and greenhouses.
How Do Mealybugs Damage ZZ Plants?
These pests cause damage to your ZZ plant by sucking the juice and nutrients from your plant’s stems and foliage, especially the new growth.
Over time, the damage from a mealybug infestation can cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop from the plant. In a serious infestation, their waxy excretions or honeydew encourages sooty mold fungus to develop.
How Do I Get Rid Of Mealybugs On My ZZ Plant?
Here are the five best ways to get mealybugs on your ZZ plant.
- Wash the mealybugs away: Use a steady stream of water to dislodge the mealybugs from your ZZ plant for light infestations. Repeat the treatment as necessary.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: First, soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol. Then, wipe the mealybugs off the ZZ plant to kill and remove them. However, ensure you use a solution with no more than 70% isopropyl alcohol to prevent burning the plant.
- Neem Oil is a natural insecticide or fungicide containing a toxic component that repels bugs and pests by affecting the insects’ feeding abilities and acting as a repellent.
- Insecticidal Soap: Mix the insecticidal soap in a weak water concentration of 1 teaspoon per gallon and spray the soapy solution on your ZZ plant to kill the mealybugs.
- Synthetic Chemical Pesticide: While we prefer using organic methods to kill mealybugs, numerous chemical pesticides are more potent and approved against mealybugs. However, we urge you to be careful when using chemicals indoors due to their toxicity.
We will answer a few more related and often-asked questions regarding bugs on ZZ plants.
Can I Spray Gnats To Get Rid Of Them?
While an insecticide spray like pyrethrins or bifenthrin effectively kills fungus gnats, it isn’t a long-term solution and is seldom necessary. More so, these sprays tend to harm beneficial insects, so use yellow sticky traps instead.
Are ZZ Plants Immune To Bugs?
No plants are utterly immune to all bug varieties, but in general, ZZ plants have thick and rigid leaf structures, making them less likely to contract harmful bugs that sustain severe damage. However, with improper care requirements. Even the ZZ plant can fall victim to these pests.
Can You Shower Your ZZ Plant To Remove Bugs?
You can shower, dip, or wipe down the foliage of your ZZ plant to keep it healthy and clean. Showering with a sprayer can also help remove bugs. However, ensure that the pot provides ample drainage and allow the ZZ plant to drip dry thoroughly before watering it again.
Lastly, ensure you use room temperature water as ZZ plants are sensitive to hot or cold water.
While ensuring your plants are healthy and vigorously growing is the best approach to prevent attracting these little critters.
Fortunately, we have access to various non-chemical methods to discourage or combat aphid infestations. Now that we know which common bugs can infest our ZZ plant and how to get rid of them, we can peacefully go about taking care of our indoor jungle.