How to Get Rid of Gnats in a House Plant Soil?

Whether you have just gotten your first ever potted house plant or have multiple house plant species growing around your living space, you must know that caring for a house plant is not easy.

If you mistakenly generalize the same care routines for all your house plants, you might end up with a nasty gnat problem at hand.

Not only do gnats look hideous, but they can also cause your house plant to get sick and die. Hence, you must know how to avoid these pests in the first place and eliminate gnats from your house plant’s soil.

Continue reading to learn what exactly gnats are, what causes them to populate a house plant’s soil, and why it is crucial to get rid of gnats from its soil.

Moreover, this article highlights ways and practical tips to prevent and eliminate gnats from the house plants in no time.

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What Are Gnats?

A gnat is a generalized term for many winged species of small insects that tend to live in groups and fly in large numbers called clouds.

They are individually significantly small; however, a cloud of gnats can be an unpleasant sight for many. The tiny winged insects you can spot living in the soil of your potted house plant are called fungal gnats.

Although adult fungal gnats only have a lifespan of almost seven to eight days, they can lay nearly 250 to 350 eggs during their brief life.

They go through different growth cycle stages, from eggs to worm-like larva and finally, the winged gnat itself.

Hence, if the gnat population is not contained as it is growing, you might have an alarming situation to deal with in just three to four weeks.

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What Are the Signs of Fungus Gnats?

It is usually very easy to identify fungal gnats due to their long legs and transparent wings. When you spot small, winged insects flying around the leaves and soil of your potted house plants, you will know that your plants are the victim of a gnat infestation.

Moreover, the health and appearance of your potted house plant will also give you an idea of the situation.

If the gnat infestation has grown and spread into the soil of your potted house plant, your plant will no longer have the strength to remain upright, its leaves will begin to turn yellow-brown and curl up, and it will eventually die prematurely.

Furthermore, it is also possible to identify the ongoing infestation before the winged gnats begin buzzing around your house plants.

If gnats are growing in the soil of your house plants, you can check for the worm-like larvae by stirring up the soil with a small spoon.

It is usually easier to contain the infestation at this point before they grow into their adult stage and begin to fly.

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What Causes Gnats to Populate a Potted House Plant’s Soil?

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People who choose to spend a lot of time caring for their house plants are constantly found battling fungal gnat infestations.

Gnats are a huge pain to deal with. They are also one of the leading causes of premature plant death in the United States.

To eliminate the gnats, it is essential to know what caused them to lay eggs and breed in your plant’s soil in the first place.

Most potted house plant species, such as the snake plant, most species of cactus, etc., barely need any water and can survive on traces of water for a month.

Moreover, some house plant species only require to be watered once every week. The problem begins when the house plant owner is unaware of what species they have and that particular species’ watering requirements.

When a potted house plant that needs to be watered once or twice a week is watered every day, the excess amount of water that the plant cannot absorb and utilize accumulates in the house plant’s soil and pot.

The excessively moist soil and standing water create an ideal medium for fungal and algae growth, and gnats are attracted to such conditions.

This is because fungal gnats feed on the fungus that grows in a plant’s soil. Moreover, the damp conditions of the house plant’s soil make the ideal breeding grounds for the gnat population to escalate.

If you continue to overwater your potted house plants, the standing water over the soil will make it very difficult to identify and spot gnat eggs or larvae.

Furthermore, as the fungus begins to penetrate all around the potted house plant’s soil, it also grows on the surface of the roots.

When the roots can no longer perform their function by absorbing and pushing water up the plant’s stem, they begin to rot.

Moreover, the decaying and rotten root matter is an excellent form of plant nutrition for the gnat population, which means they grow more and in greater numbers.

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Continue reading to learn why getting rid of gnats from your potted house plant’s soil is so important.

Read How Often Should I Water a Houseplant?

Why is it Important to Get Rid of Gnats from Your Potted House Plant’s Soil?

If you are still reading this article, you probably are a dedicated plant parent who cares enough to want to save their plants from diseases and untimely death.

Some important reasons to get rid of the gnats living in your potted house plant’s soil include:

Health Concerns

Gnats not only look dirty, but they harbor fungal growth, which can release unhealthy and dangerous spores into the air of your living space.

While not everyone gets affected by the fungal spores, some guests or a relative of yours can have a severe allergic reaction to them.

Moreover, regularly breathing in airborne fungal spores can lead to severe medical conditions. This may include chronic fatigue syndrome, tremors, nausea, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, tremors, loss of memory, etc. 

Furthermore, airborne fungal spores can also lead to fungus growing in damp areas around your house, such as in the kitchen, inside the shoes, in the bathroom, etc. 

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Loss of Investment

Some potted house plant species can be extremely expensive. For instance, a bonsai tree in the United States can cost anywhere between 10,000 USD and 100,000 USD – or more.

Hence, if your pricey potted house plant species are under a gnat infestation, its death may result in a significant financial loss, which can cause mental stress.

Their Protection is Your Responsibility

Many modern people go as far as to call potted house plants the new pets of our era. Although some may disagree with the statement, it does not mean they should let a plant die from neglect and ignorance.

Like a cat or a dog, a house plant is also a living being you choose to bring to your home. Hence, it is your responsibility to ensure that your plants remain gnat-free and live a healthy life.

Gnats Can Be Unpleasant

Even if you are not as invested in caring for your potted house plants, you still do not want a nasty cloud of gnats buzzing around your plants and living space.

Hence, due to all these reasons, it is essential that you get rid of the gnats from the house plant’s soil in a timely fashion.

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How to Get Rid of Gnats from Your Potted House Plant’s Soil

Now that you know what gnats are, what causes them to target your potted house plant, and why that can be problematic for you, let’s now get to how you can get rid of them.

Some important tips for getting rid of the gnats populating your house plant’s soil are as follows:

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Do Some Research on Your Specific House Plant Species

The first and most important thing you need to do the day you get a potted house plant is to do your research. Common generalized assumptions about all potted house plant species can cause the plant to die from a gnat infestation.

Hence, ideally, before or right after purchasing a house plant, figure out which species it is and how much water it needs to grow and thrive.

Use the information to only water the house plant when needed, and refrain from overwatering your plant. Usually, this trick helps prevent gnats from making a home in your house plant’s soil and laying eggs.

Invest in an Indoor Solar Lamp for the Potted House Plant

Although most house plant species do not require a lot of sunlight, keeping them in complete darkness for extended periods can cause their soil to remain moist, leading to a fungal gnat infestation.

Since direct sunlight can be too strong for a house plant, invest in a solar lamp and leave the plant under it after it has been watered.

The heat from the lamp will cause the excess water to evaporate, which means the soil won’t remain damp. This stops the soil from being an attractive home for gnats..

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Create Small Hole in the House Plant’s Pot to Drain Excess Water

If you are unsure how much water your potted house plant needs, make small holes in the bottom of the pot.

Doing so will drain excess water, gnat eggs, and larvae out of the plant’s soil. Eventually, this will stop any further fungal growth, and the gnat situation will thus be contained.

Let the Top Layer of the Soil Completely Dry Out

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If you have already noticed winged gnats and larvae living in the soil of your house plants, stop watering your plant, as it’s probably already overwatered by this point.

Allow the top layer of the soil to dry out completely before you go back to your regular watering schedule.

Letting the soil dry out often kills the fungus layer, eventually leading to the gnat population dying out.

Aerate the Soil of Your Potted House Plant

To allow excess water to evaporate from your house plant’s soil, take a small stick and punch holes in the soil to aerate it.

You can do this a few hours after you have watered the house plant. The water evaporating means there’ll be less water for fungus to grow. This will keep the gnats away from the soil in the long run.

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Replace the Soil of Your Potted House Plant

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If you think that the gnat population has escalated beyond the controllable point and has spread all over the plant’s soil, you need to do the following:

  • Carefully dig out the entire plant from the pot, along with its roots.
  • Trim the roots that have already decayed.
  • Take a new pot and fill it with fresh, mildly damp soil.
  • Put the plant in the soil.

Moreover, make sure to throw away the gnat-infested soil, and do not leave it around as the gnats will simply move over to another house plant.

If this happens, you’ll have to deal with the infestation all over again.

Cover the Top Surface of the Soil with Gravel or Pebbles

Gnats usually lay eggs on the top layer of a house plant’s soil. If you cover the top layer with gravel or pebbles, not only will the gnat eggs and larvae get crushed, but the gnats will not be able to find a place to lay their eggs.

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Try the Vinegar and Dish Washing Soap Hack

A common trick to killing your gnats is creating a vinegar and dishwashing soap solution. Pour the solution into a bowl and place it next to the infested house plant.

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Gnats are attracted to the vinegar and soap solution and eventually die and fall into the bowl once they have consumed it.

Sprinkle Cinnamon on the Potted House Plant’s Soil

Lastly, sprinkle some powdered cinnamon on top of your potted house plant’s soil, and let this natural fungicide work its magic.

Of course, this should only be done when you notice the growth of fungus on your plant’s soil.

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Final Thoughts on Getting Rid of Gnats

If you want your potted house plants to live a long and healthy life, you need to pay attention to each plant species’ watering needs to prevent fungal gnats from laying eggs.

However, if you have already discovered winged gnats and larvae in your house plants, you can proceed to kill them by using fungicides, replacing or covering the soil, and draining excessive water.

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