Indoor plants are usually less prone to pest infestations than their outdoor counterparts. Potted plants can be moved inside and outside and, in the process, may bring insects and bugs into our house. Outside soil can carry eggs and pests inside as well.
Common pest hitchhikers are adult fleas and flea eggs, as well as fungus gnats, white flies, aphids, and springtails. They grab onto the leaves of plants and lay eggs in damp soil that gets carried into the house. But do fleas just use houseplants to get them closer to a food source, or can they actually live on indoor plants? Let’s find out!
Can Fleas Live In Potted Plants?
Potted plants, especially indoors, are good hiding places for female fleas to lay eggs and for flea larvae to grow. Adult fleas will need to find a blood meal and need a host, so potting plants will only be a temporary hiding place and not where fleas can sustain successive generations.
Flea infestations on potted plants are unlikely to get out of hand, although flea dirt can become vectors of disease indoors. Fleas are the cause of cat-scratch disease, so if you have cats and potted plants with fleas, you could be in hot water. Make sure to treat both animals and plants for fleas regularly.
Over time fleas in potted indoor plants will slip between the cracks of hardwood floors, where they will be able to find long-term hosts. Water and soil are not preferred habitats for fleas but carpets and warm bodies are always near indoor plants.
Why Are Fleas in Houseplants?
Leaves in gardens help fleas survive outdoor conditions, but indoors it’s not as important as temperatures are much more stable. Fleas will temporarily stay in houseplants, lay eggs there and hide when conditions warrant it. Soil and water can help fleas survive while waiting for a suitable host to attach to and breed on.
Houseplants are likely to be located near windows or placed outside for sun or when watering. These are likely entry points for fleas and other pests, so they may hide on your houseplants and take refuge inside. Pet owners should be especially cautious of this and treat houseplants as well as pets for fleas regularly.
Places in our homes with houseplants are also often spared insecticide treatments meaning fleas hiding under leaves and in the soil can survive when other indoor pests like ants and roaches will not.
Gardening soil and leaves used as mulch can also bring in fleas if placed with houseplants. Try to use only indoor plant leaves for mulch to avoid bringing unwanted pests of any life cycle stage indoors.
Places Where Fleas Like to Hide?
Once fleas are inside, they will often leave houseplants as soon as they can. If fleas need to wait to find a host, they will seek better places than potted plants to survive. Here are some places fleas like to hide:
- Couches – The cracks, crevices, and gaps are ideal places for fleas to lay eggs. Plenty of flea dirt and other detritus accumulates under the cushions and can sustain multiple generations of fleas. Pets and humans often use couches giving female fleas the needed blood to lay eggs.
- Carpets – Pets frequently lay on carpets, and the dense fibers and similar to the structure of hair follicles. Fleas are comfortable in carpets and can lay eggs out of reach of casual vacuum passes. Thorough carpet cleaning with hot soapy water may be needed to kill all fleas at every life stage.
- Furniture – The dry, warm space inside of furniture and against walls is a great place for fleas to hide and lay eggs. Most of these areas are rarely disturbed, and when they are, the fleas can simply leave and come back later.
- Gardening cloths – Most of us have a favorite flannel or pull-over we use to keep us clean when gardening. Fleas and other pests can jump on when you are outside and live on the fabric until you get around to cleaning it.
- Mattress and Bedding – Flea infestations on our primary mattress would be quickly discovered due to frequent flea bites. However, a guest mattress or bedding in storage could be a hot spot for fleas to hide.
- Curtains – These hang near windows, a common entry point for fleas. Curtains are a safe retreat to get hungry fleas away from open spaces and predators and safely into a warm and dry hiding place.
- Cracks and Gaps –Whether on the floors or walls or any space in between, fleas can slip in and hide. These cracks can also be gateways to places where rodents and other flea food sources live. Treating these areas can prevent fleas-related disease.
The only solution for flea control is an effective flea treatment program that regularly monitors the indoor population of fleas. Common household fleas will not last long without a host, but the eggs can linger for many months.
Common Houseplant Pests That Look Like Fleas
Even though fleas may not stay long on houseplants, indoor fleas aren’t the only pests to worry about. The smell of soggy soil and sugars in plants can attract a variety of pests into your home and cause long-term problems. Check and treat your houseplants to avoid these common houseplant pests.
|Pest||Resemblance to Fleas||How to Treat|
|White Flies||Larvae look similar and are indoor plant pests||Spray with a natural insecticide like Green Cleaner|
|Aphids||Egg sacks could be mistaken for flea eggs||Use an alcohol solution or citric acid to destroy soft-bodied insects. Oil and dish soap can kill eggs on contact.|
|Fungus Gnats||Hop around in short flight bursts that resemble fleas jumping||Add hydrogen peroxide and water solution when you water|
|Springtails||Fly around and look like fleas jumping.||Use a knockdown spray solution to kill winged adults and treat for eggs and larvae on the undersides of leaves and in the soil|
These white insects are not actually flying but do hover around your leaves and lay copious amounts of eggs. A white fly-infested house plant will quickly become covered in white eggs and larvae, and your leaves will be drained of all juices.
These insects eat the sap inside of plants and suck them dry. They create wounds and entry points for disease and fungus to thrive and can quickly kill large portions of foliage. Treating the adults and eggs is crucial to stopping an aphid infestation and preventing pests from spreading to other nearby plants.
These pests burrow deep into the potting mix and house plant soil; they are attracted to the smell of decay and love soggy soil. The larvae of fungus gnats feed extensively on a plant’s root system, causing root rot and irreversible plant damage. Killing the adults and treating the soil is the only way to stop an infestation.
Not insects but hexapods due to their internal mouthpiece; these pests hop around and are very easily mistaken for fleas. They will live quite comfortably in soil and on plant matter in potted plants. They do not feed directly on the plants like other pests. Instead, these pests farm the soil microbes and use a process of fermentation to attract the microbes they feed on, conditions that often kill houseplants.