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How to Control Gnats in Your Houseplants

urban jungle journal art terrarium blog

There’s nothing worse than stopping to water your beloved houseplant only to be met with a flurry of insects. Even if you’re the world’s most devoted plant parent, your leafy roommates can sometimes develop unwanted guests. 

Of all the potential household pests your plants might attract, fungus gnats are some of the most common. These tiny bugs are attracted to the damp soil of your plants and can be a persistent problem when they lay eggs. 

To help combat the stress and frustration of dealing with annoying gnats, we’ve put together a helpful guide so you can not only identify and control these common houseplant pests but also prevent their return in the future. 

art terrarium blog gnat control

How to Tell if You Have Gnats

If you touch or water one of your houseplants and notice a flurry of small black bugs, chances are you probably have fungus gnats. While they appear similar, these common pests are not the same as fruit flies. While both are small and black with clear wings, fungus gnats will have no interest in fresh fruit, your garbage disposal or trash can. 

Fungus gnats live and breed in the soil of your houseplants. Ultimately they look for someplace damp to lay their eggs. When those eggs hatch the larvae look like tiny worms and can barely be seen with the naked eye. These future fungus gnats snack on roots and other organic material in the soil of your plant. 

While gnats can be a nuisance, the good news is that they’re typically not lethal to your houseplants. However, their larvae can cause lasting root damage to your plants if left unchecked. 

Getting Rid of Gnats

Luckily for you, adult fungus gnats only live a few days so once their larvae are gone, your plants will be gnat-free. In order to make sure the larvae don’t spawn new gnats, you’ll want to do a few things.

The first is to separate the affected pot from the rest of your houseplants. This will help stop the gnats from spreading and laying eggs in all of the potted plants around your home. 

After you’ve isolated the problem plant, start taking steps to control its soil moisture. Fungus gnats before damp environments so the easiest way to get rid of them is to let your plant’s soil dry out completely. 

If your houseplant is particularly persnickety and cannot tolerate totally dry soil, consider watering it from the bottom. Gnat larvae only live in the first inch of a plant’s soil so watering from the bottom can help eradicate them without risking the health of your plant. 

You can also consider hanging sticky paper or place sticky traps nearby the affected plant to capture any gnats that may be flying in the vicinity (we carry these in the shop!). If more natural methods don’t work to get rid of gnats, organic pest control products or neem oil can help kill off gnats after a few applications. 

Preventing Gnat Infestation

Even if you don’t currently have a gnat problem in your urban jungle, there are a number of precautions you can take to dissuade them from taking up residence in your houseplants. 

The most important factor in preventing gnat infestations is the quality of your houseplants’ soil. When repotting plants, be sure to use fresh, sterile soil to ensure optimal health. While it may be tempting, never reuse potting soil from other plants. 

Similarly, be sure to keep excess potting soil in a sealed, air-tight container to prevent any contamination and moisture-related problems.