How to Spot Infestations on Store Plants

With the weather warming up you may have noticed that the garden section at your local home goods store is much more colorful right now. The spring season is when homeowners and gardeners start transitioning their yards from the dead of winter to the lively summer.

Nurseries and garden centers are stocking up on a variety of seasonal plants, but you could get something else you didn’t intend to buy. Even if the employees attend to the plants daily, insect infestations are still possible. Buying an unhealthy plant isn’t ideal, but matters could get worse if the bugs are transported to your property.

If you’re shopping for plants this spring season be on the look out for signs of an infestation before you buy.


One of the most obvious signs that an insect has attacked a plant is discoloration. When the leaves are yellow, mottled or turning brown it’s an indicator that a pest like mealybugs are around. Even if pests aren’t a problem, disease can also cause discoloration. You’re best off bypassing plants with discolored leaves and flowers.

Holes in the Leaves

If leaves don’t have discoloration but you do notice holes and chew marks, steer clear of that plant. Holes in leaves are a clear sign that bugs have been feasting on the cellulose. The damage could be much more extensive if slugs and snails are around.

Droopy Leaves and Stems

When plants are being sucked dry by bugs the outward signs will begin to show. They’ll look dehydrated and wilted, especially the leaves and stems. The plant could just need better watering, but it’s also a sign that insects are depleting the moisture.

Leaf Loss

When pest damage becomes severe plants will begin to shed their leaves. One or two may not be a cause for concern, but if a plant has next to no leaves there’s a good chance insects are to blame.

Stunted, Distorted Growth

Aphids are among the worst household plant pests. These little buggers suck the life right out of plants, literally. They cluster together on young plants and suck out sap, which impedes the growth of a plant. Affected plants will look stunted and distorted compared to healthy plants. Distortion can include both shape and texture so be on the lookout for both.

Sticky Webbing

There’s a particular pest that can cause a lot of problems because they’re extremely difficult to get rid of. We’re talking about red spider mites. It may take a while for them to extensively damage a plant, but red spider mites are so resilient they could be an ongoing problem. Luckily, it’s easy to spot a plant that’s infested since red spider mites spin sticky webs all over the plant.

Sticky Brown Spots

What may appear to be tiny specks of discoloration could actually be scale insects. They latch onto a plant like barnacles leaving a sticky residue (honeydew) behind.

Flies Nearby and in the Soil

To say that flies are a nuisance is an understatement. Sciarid flies, also known as fungus gnats, are annoying pests that bury their eggs in houseplants. If you see small black flies buzzing around a plant, check the soil. There’s a good chance you’ll find more sciarid flies scurrying across the soil as well as worm-like larvae.

If you accidentally brought infested plants home from a garden center Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can help. We’ve offered custom pest control treatments in Central Alabama for 50 years. Our technicians know exactly what to look for, how to identify insects, and what’s needed to create a treatment plan that gets pests under control quickly.

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