The Q&A Archives: Houseplant Flies

Question: How do I get rid of small flies in my house plants?

Answer: There are two different flies that cause problems in houseplant soil at this time of year. Fungus gnats live in moist places and feed on decaying organic matter. They can be a problem all year around, especially if you have many houseplants. Fruit flies seem to gravitate to houseplant soils when there's nothing else of interest in the house. Fruit flies are a nuisance in late summer and early fall because they hover around overripe fruit (especially on kitchen counters) and can live in drain traps and garbage disposals when the fruit is removed. Try scraping the top half-inch of soil out of the pot and replacing it with fresh potting soil. This should eliminate any eggs that the flies have laid. If this doesn't do the trick, try putting decorative stones on top of the soil in the pot. This will provide a barrier to the moist soil. If neither of these treatments works, make a sticky trap to mount just above soil level. Take an index card, paint it bright yellow, smear it with petroleum jelly, and place it on or in the pot. The yellow color will attract the flies and they'll get stuck when they land on the card. Replace the trap as necessary.

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