Potted plants are a common feature in homes, but discovering that they’re infested with cockroaches can lead to other problems. Because cockroaches bury themselves deep into the soil, it’s not always possible to know they’re there.
Potted plants don’t attract cockroaches, but roaches will live in them if you use leftover food as a fertilizer and the soil’s moist enough. Plants provide cockroaches with moisture, shelter, and warmth. These are also the ideal conditions for roaches to lay their eggs. It’s rare for cockroaches to eat healthy plants, but they’ll consider them food once they begin to rot or decay.
You can remove cockroaches from plants by sprinkling a light dusting of diatomaceous earth over them. A baking soda and sugar trap will also lure roaches from the plant and kill them.
Do Indoor Plants Attract Cockroaches?
Cockroaches can infest everything. However, they’re rarely attracted to the plants themselves but the moisture, warmth, and shelter they provide. In fact, roaches prefer soil to plants as it benefits them more.
Cockroaches enter homes that provide them with the conditions they need to survive. As long as they have access to food, water, and somewhere to hide, they’ll remain until these sources are depleted. If your home has potted houseplants, you’re more likely to experience roaches, as you’re providing them with what they need.
That’s not to say all plants have cockroaches, but plants that need more water and less sunlight to grow are most at risk of an infestation.
Do Cockroaches Eat Plants?
Cockroaches are a clade of detritivore-herbivore insects, which means they eat all kinds of garbage. They’re not as keen to eat plants when they’re healthy, but as soon as they start to rot and decay, cockroaches will eat them if there’s no other food source available.
Similarly, if you use leftover food as fertilizer, the cockroaches are more likely to eat the plants. That’s because homemade fertilizer is made up of the things cockroaches enjoy consuming, including:
- Grass clippings
- Kitchen scraps
- Coffee grounds
The smell will attract cockroaches, and they’ll bed into the soil to feed off it. Some houseplants require regular fertilization, which leaves them vulnerable to hungry cockroaches.
How To Get Rid Of Cockroaches in Plants
To remove cockroaches from your potted plants, you’ll need to use natural pest control methods to protect your plants. Using harsh chemicals and sprays will kill your plants, making your efforts redundant. Instead, using these methods to eliminate cockroaches:
In this situation, food-grade diatomaceous earth is the safest pest control method to use with your plants. It’s safe for people, pets, and plants, so it won’t cause them any harm. Diatomaceous earth is commonly used in gardens to protects crops and plants from all kinds of bugs, not just cockroaches.
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring powder made from diatoms, which are microscopic, fossilized algae and aquatic organism shells. It’s finer than sand and consists of 80-90% silica. The high concentration of silica means it scratches the exoskeleton and sticks to the cockroach’s legs and body. Once it reaches the main body, it starts to draw out the moisture, oils, and fats out of the roach, dehydrating it to death.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the soil, leaves, and anywhere else roaches are likely to hide. Once you’re sure the cockroaches are dead, you can wash or brush the diatomaceous earth off your potted plants.
Baking Soda Trap
Baking soda is touted as an effective cockroach killer. However, cockroaches must eat it for it to work. Since roaches dislike the flavor and smell, you’ll need to set a trap using sugar for them to take the bait. Baking soda kills cockroaches by making them explode. That’s because:
- Baking soda expands quickly.
- Cockroaches become trapped by their exoskeletons.
- Their organs and shells become crushed.
Even if the baking soda itself doesn’t kill the cockroach, it’ll become unable to move. As a result, it’ll die from starvation, predation, or a microorganism. To create your baking soda and sugar trap:
- Take two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of baking soda.
- Blend them in a bowl.
- Evenly distribute the mixture so that roaches don’t ignore the baking soda and eat the sugar.
Place the trap as close to the plant as you can to lure the cockroach out of the plant, killing it for good.
Sticky traps work well alongside your baking soda and sugar trap to ensure you eliminate all roaches. A sticky trap is a strip of material with heavy glue on it. The cockroach steps on it and gets stuck. Eventually, it will starve or dehydrate to death – whatever comes first.
However, bear in mind that sticky traps aren’t the best method if you have many cockroaches. They’re fine for taking care of the odd cockroach or two that have rooted themselves into your potted plants, however.
Also, be careful where you use a sticky trap. If there’s any risk of mice or birds coming into contact with one, don’t use it. Getting trapped is a slow, painful way for animals to die.
Submerge in Water
If these methods fail, you can draw cockroaches out by submerging your plant in water. There’s a possibility that this will drown the roaches, but they have spiracles that allow them to breathe. As soon as they’re submerged in water, they shut, allowing them to survive the dunking.
What submerging the plant in water does do is causes the cockroaches to evacuate. However, if they’ve laid eggs in your soil, you’ll need to do this a few times to catch the nymphs. At the same time, replace the soil and repot the plant to get rid of stragglers.
How To Avoid Cockroaches in Plants
It’s a good idea to try to take the steps required to minimize the chance of a cockroach invasion instead of dealing with it after it’s happened. Here’s how:
Tidy Your Home
While cockroaches invade clean homes, unclean, cluttered houses provide better conditions for them to thrive. Roaches prefer decaying and rotting food above all else, so the following things encourage cockroaches to move in permanently:
- Don’t empty your trash can regularly
- Leave dirty plates in the dishwasher or sink
- Fail to sweet up crumbs and food debris
- Have grease and oil down the backs of cupboards
By frequently tidying your home and washing up old dishes straight away, there’s less chance the roaches will move in. Subsequently, they’ll leave your potted plants alone.
Avoid Certain Plants
Indoor trees and tropical plants are among a cockroach’s favorites—roaches like digging into the soil of potted trees and hide out of harm’s way. There’s plenty of humidity for roaches to feed off, too.
Tropical plants have high humidity requirements. They need lots of water but don’t do too well in direct sunlight, providing a dark, moisture-rich environment cockroaches love. These types of plants are more likely to attract roaches, so opt for potted plants that don’t need very much water, such as succulents or orchids.
Don’t Use Outdoor Soil
Even if you have a clean home and have done everything you can to maintain roach-proof conditions, using soil from the outdoors increases the likelihood of cockroaches getting into your home. That’s because they lay eggs in outdoor soil and plants, which get transferred inside the house.
To avoid this, use potting mix instead of soil from outside. Similarly, don’t pot outdoor plants inside. If you have to, remove as much soil as possible before moving them inside.
Another way to create a suitable home for cockroaches is to overwater your plants. This doesn’t just create an abundance of water, but it causes the leaves, stems, and roots to rot. Cockroaches feed off decaying matter, providing them with the food they need to multiply.
Avoid Leftover Food as Compost
Leftover food can be used as compost. The problem is, roaches feast on decaying matter, including rotting fruit, eggshells, kitchen scraps, and manure. According to Chulalongkorn University, researchers found that cockroaches favor bananas over most other foods. If you have roaches in your potted plants, use liquid store-bought fertilizer instead, which cockroaches aren’t interested in.
What Kind of Plants Do Roaches Hate?
If you’re having trouble with cockroaches getting into your plants, it’s time to choose one they don’t like. Cockroaches won’t go near these plants, keeping your other plants safe and your home free from roach infestations. The following are plants that keep cockroaches away:
Catnip is a good cockroach repellent, as long as you don’t have cats. According to Science Daily, placing catnip plants around the home repels German cockroaches, which are the most common household roach pest. Catnip is also 100 times more effective at repelling roaches than DEET, an active ingredient found in insect repellents.
If you can’t get hold of a catnip plant, put a handful into sachets or muslin bags around your plants, or scatter loose catnip all over them. This will keep cockroaches away from the plants you already have.
The Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases describes how rosemary oil is highly toxic against brown-banded cockroaches. A concentration of 2.5-30% rosemary delivered a 100% mortality rate. This means that rosemary plants will keep cockroaches away from your home.
Rosemary is straightforward to grow. It needs a lot of sunlight and is resistant to droughts, managing to survive with only a small amount of water. This means the soil is too dry for cockroaches to live in, as there’s no moisture for them to consume.
Even though cockroaches don’t hate mint as much as catnip or rosemary, they’re still repelled by it. It’s easy to grow mint indoors – you only need to water it once a day and keep it on a sunny windowsill, and it will thrive. If growing a mint plant from scratch is too much hassle, you can buy one already grown from a grocery or garden store.
Not only does mint repel cockroaches, but it smells lovely, making it a good addition to any home. You can also use it for cooking, so it serves multiple purposes.
Having cockroaches in your plants is unpleasant, but it’s not impossible to get rid of them. As long as you act fast and use preventative measures to stop them from coming back, you should keep them out of your home for good. If you’re worried about an infestation reoccurring, place a few plants that roaches hate around your house.