Natural Remedies for Pest-Free Plants

Bringing plants into the home should be about adding a spot of green, filtering the air, and impressing your friends with your green thumb. Not chasing after tiny black fungus gnats.The minuscule black bugs look an awful lot like fruit flies and they’re just as harmless, but no less of a nuisance. When Gardenista editor Erin started to notice the tiny flies buzzing around the top of her rabbit foot fern last week, she decided it was time to take action. She tested five home remedies; here are the results: 

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

1. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Fungus gnats breed in the rich, dark soil of houseplants, and they’re especially happy if that soil has been zealously over-watered. Take a step or two back from the watering can and make sure you’re not creating exactly the kind of moist environment these little bugs love.

how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants | gardenista

2. Be ruthless—and repot infected plants. If you discover that one of your plants is very badly infected, it might be worth sacrificing that plant for the sake of your collection. Fungus gnats can spread from one plant to another fairly quickly, so take caution. If the infestation isn’t so bad, consider repotting the plant. Remove the plant from its pot and use your fingers or a small brush to gently remove as much soil as possible from around its roots. Give the roots a quick rinse and repot in a clean pot with fresh, uninfected potting soil.

how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants | gardenista

3. Bury a garlic clove in the infected soil. File this one under “What Can’t Garlic Do?” and give it a shot. According to the new edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, burying a clove of garlic in the soil of an infected houseplant will eradicate pests. What happens when the garlic begins to grow? Give it a trim.

how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants | gardenista

4. Make your own sticky traps. Cover a yellow (or other brightly colored) card with a thin layer of honey.  Attach the card to a toothpick and place in the surface of the plant soil. After the card begins to host tiny black insects, dispose of it and start fresh.

how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants | gardenista

5. Make an apple cider vinegar trap. Pour fresh apple cider vinegar into a jar or bowl with a wide rim. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and poke a series of small holes in the top of the plastic wrap. The gnats will be attracted to the sweet smell of the vinegar and will find a way into the bowl—but won’t be able to find their way out.

More questions about houseplants and potting soil? We’ve pondered them. See Hide Potting Soil in Plain Sight and Is It OK To Reuse Potting Soil?

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth1 years ago

kind of disappointed that this article was just about gnats and didnt talk about any of the pests I have issues with. Maybe it should of had a different heading?

Maria Cristina A.

Good options for pests, TY

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris2 years ago

Good information. Thanks!

Azaima A.
Azaima A.2 years ago

great ideas

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


Lola S.
Lola S.2 years ago

Strange how the first thing is about gnats. We had a major issue at work over a gnats and a plant...................God works in mysterious ways.......Thank you for article

Leslye Joseph
Leslye Joseph2 years ago

Being Buddhist I don't want to kill the gnats, but I will sure give the garlic a try. Thanks

Nils Anders Lunde


Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

No. 5; sounds like a plan to me.

Janet Bradley
Janet Bradley2 years ago

Oh great! I was getting those little white mites in the office plants and it was driving me nuts!