Monstera make popular houseplants for many reasons, but mainly because of their good looks and low-maintenance care requirements. These beautiful plants are durable and not very susceptible to diseases or pests, which means they are perfect for beginner gardeners and green thumbs alike.
Even so, on rare occasions, a fleet of tiresome bugs may find their way to your Monstera, causing damage as their populations expand. Spider mites, scale, gnats, and my personal nightmare, thrips, are among the usual suspects.
And I’ll be honest: Thrips give me the creeps. These minuscule little pests are hard to spot and can wreak havoc on your Monstera’s leaves if not dealt with immediately and effectively. In this article, I’ll take you through identifying, getting rid of, and preventing the spread of thrips on your Monstera.
How do I know if my Monstera has thrips?
It can be difficult to spot a thrip infestation on a Monstera, as these microscopic pests are hard to see with the naked eye. Generally, signs that thrips are damaging a Monstera include discoloration, wilting or curling, black spots on the bottom of leaves, or visible, tiny moving specks.
In case you’re wondering, thrips are miniature, winged insects (read: demons) measuring only 1 to 3 millimeters in length. Usually white, brown, or yellow in color, they won’t hesitate to gnash their asymmetrical mouthparts into your Monstera’s delicate plant tissue at the first sign of opportunity. Indeed, they feed on and breed in Monstera sap.
Making things worse, they’re also prolific breeders. Females bore their way into leaves to lay their eggs, which hatch at a staggering speed of only a few days. While each thrip lives around 45 days, females can lay eggs up to 12 times in that period. And once the breeding cycle commences, it becomes more and more challenging to get rid of them.
Because distress caused by pests (and more specifically thrips) presents quite vaguely and in a number of ways, signs of thrips on Monstera aren’t always easy to identify. I always advise houseplant owners to regularly inspect plants to keep abreast of any signs of stress or ill health, but understandably, these sometimes go unnoticed.
Therefore, for ease of reference, I’ve compiled a few ways to identify if you’re dealing with a thrip onslaught. It goes without saying that many of these symptoms can be caused by other issues too, but when present in combination, you’ll usually find thrips are at the heart of the problem.
Here are signs of thrips on a Monstera:
- Yellowing or browning leaves – Monstera are renowned for their glossy green leaves, so any discoloration is concerning and indicates something is amiss. If discoloration cannot be attested to other deficiencies (water, nutrients), it may be time to inspect your plant for thrips. Browning or yellowing Monstera leaves occur when thrips start to damage plant tissue due to feeding on the sap embedded in Monstera’s leaves and burrowing for egg-laying.
- A silvery sheen – When Monstera are experiencing difficulty processing nutrients, they’ve been known to take on a silvery sheen. Nutrient intake can be blocked by thrips attacking healthy tissue, drying out leaves, and turning them papery.
- Brown or black spots on the bottom of leaves – Thrips are sometimes guilty of leaving behind evidence of their shenanigans in the form of excrement on leaves and stems. Close inspection of harder-to-see areas of your plant, like the underside of its leaves, can tell a story about what’s been going on. If you suspect a pest problem, gently and closely inspect your plant’s leaves and stems for black speckles or brown spots on your Monstera.
- Sticky residue on the surface of leaves – Because thrips feed on Monstera sap, they often trail leftovers across its leaves as they move about. This is especially noticeable if the infection is already quite severe.
- Wilting, curling, and drooping – Just like humans, plants take on a lackluster appearance when ill and your Monstera leaves curling is a strong sign of this. An attack of thrips can profoundly impact the turgidity of leaves, causing your Monstera to droop, wilt, and, as mentioned, curl up. As thrips begin to breed, these signs become more and more evident. The reason for this is that leaf cells and tissue are being eradicated and consumed by thrips and their young – also referred to as nymphs.
- Tiny holes on the surface of your leaves – Unfortunately, by the time you start to notice holes in your leaves caused by thrips, the infection may already be out of hand. Holes would indicate that entire sections of your Monstera leaf are being burrowed away by mother thrips looking to lay eggs and nymphs looking to feed.
- Deformed growth – Plants suffering from pest problems often present with disfigured development of new Monstera leaves. This is due to an imbalance in nutrient intake and an overall decline in well-being. Thrips damage on Monstera can have a prolonged impact, even once the infection is dealt with.
- Visible thrips – As mentioned, thrips can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, but it’s not impossible. If you notice microscopic moving specks in brown, white, or yellow, you may be looking at thrips. Failing this, inspect your Monstera’s leaves with a magnifying glass. Personally, my favorite trick is to hold a sheet of paper under a leaf and give it a gentle shimmy. If tiny, moving “dust particles” land on the paper, I pretty much accept I’ve got thrips.
How do you get rid of thrips on Monstera?
Getting rid of thrips can be a simple process, albeit one that requires some patience. Natural remedies like lint removers and sticky traps work wonders, as do organic insecticidal solutions. For lasting defense, you may want to consider introducing helpful insects like ladybugs.
I’m always devastated when any of my plants fall ill and like to act as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. Fortunately, treating thrips on Monstera is simple and usually very effective. Equally important, in this regard, is preventing the spread of thrips to other plants.
As a starting point, and per the previous section, a good point of departure is establishing the severity of your thrip infestation. Minor cases may require less drastic treatment, whereas severe infections will require you to go so far as to prune your Monstera.
Let’s take a look at the different processes for getting rid of thrips and which solutions suit your particular problem best. Often, a combination of the below will do the job as well.
1. Removing thrips by hand with a lint roller
I was a little suspect when someone recommended this solution to me, but in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Once you locate the presence and position of your Monstera’s thrips, gently roll a lint remover over the surface area of its leaves (you can grab this lint roller if you don’t already have one at home).
These pesky little mites will be stuck to the roller and can be disposed of before they have a chance to cause further damage.
That being said, this solution works better for less severe thrip infections. Once they start burrowing and breeding, it’s hard to eradicate the full scale of the problem as they’ll continue to reproduce, and you’ll have to lint roll on the regular.
2. Setting sticky traps
At the risk of mixing insect metaphors, thrips are to sticky traps like moths are to flames. They’re attracted to color, so a well-positioned, colorful index card with a sticky residue can do wonders for easing your infestation.
This sticky trap absolutely does the job you need it to do. Alternatively, you can fashion a homemade sticky trap by using a piece of paper and covering its surface with a substance like honey, syrup, or glue.
Then, simply pop the card or page into your planter, and wait for your thrips to march on over. Replace your traps often, as they can become overrun.
3. Treat thrips with insecticidal soaps
Organic insecticidal soap is a safe and easy way to treat pest problems. You should also be able to purchase it quite easily from nurseries or online suppliers (this insecticidal soap is my top pick).
You can also make your own at home with ingredients you likely already have. To make a DIY version, use an ordinary home soap, like dishwashing liquid, in combination with water in a spray bottle. One tablespoon per quart will suffice.
Spray your Monstera leaves every five to seven days until the pests are gone, taking care not to overdo it. A light spray is the way to go – not a drenching.
4. Call in the ladybug cavalry
Undoubtedly the cutest solution on our list, ladybugs can be incredibly valuable in keeping Monstera safe and happy. This is also an eco-friendly method that poses no risk to your plant. You can actually buy ladybugs for this exact purpose at that link – and it’s completely cruelty-free.
Ladybugs feed on thrips in general and can manage your population by feasting on eggs and larvae before they reach maturity. This will control thrip reproduction and prevent the further spread of thrips.
5. Long-term treatment
If your Monstera has suffered visible damage from its thrip attack, you may need to take some remedial steps to help it on its way to recovery. This usually includes pruning away damaged leaves to get rid of thrips for good.
Leaves that have started to decay will not recover, so it’s recommended to prune your Monstera to remove any dying leaves rather than waste your plants’ energy. If the damage is severe, propagate the remaining healthy parts of your Monstera and destroy the leaves and stems that are infected.
The most important thing you can do when pruning is use clean tools. Thrips spread like wildfire, so make sure to thoroughly sterilize your shears and work area between plants.
6. Preventing reinfection
Keeping your Monstera safe from a thrip resurgence may mean a little time spent rehabilitating it. Isolating the endangered plant is advisable, as is keeping it clean and treating it with a long-term solution like Neem Oil.
Separating your ailing plant stops the spread of thrips to your other houseplant babies. Regularly wiping down the leaves ideally catches any leftover crusaders before they have a chance to burrow.
And if you’re really paranoid like me, spraying your leaves lightly with a Neem oil solution can also go a long way to reducing the chance of reinfection. Just make sure to keep your Monstera out of the sun until the solution has had a chance to dry.
Do thrips like Monstera?
Thrips are fond of Monstera for their sticky sap, but they don’t prefer them over other houseplants, and infections are usually just an unfortunate stroke of bad luck. Thrips are opportunistic and will infect plant species that can provide them with food and a place to lay eggs.
As mentioned, half the reason we love Monstera so much is that they are not prone to pests. Thrips are not fussy and enjoy invading all tropical plants, including Monstera, making them a convenient, if not always intentional, target.
There are, of course, many benefits of Monstera for thrips once they get their hooks in, including a generous leaf surface area and the delicious sap that forms their sustenance. But do they mainly target Monstera? Probably not – but they’re not saying no either.
Furthermore, given the opportunity and the lush living conditions, thrips will quickly spread throughout entire Monstera plants, reproducing at a rate of knots. This is why they need to be dealt with urgently.
What causes thrips on Monstera?
Any plant, including a Monstera, that is mildly unhealthy, dirty, or surrounded by other infected plants or weeds is more susceptible to thrips. Any of these factors bring its defenses down, making it easier for these pesky bugs to find an inroad.
While it is impossible to say where thrips come from, research and experience have proven that bugs are more likely to attack plants that are a little neglected or ill. To prevent thrips, try to always keep your Monstera as healthy and clean as possible.
In addition to this, make sure to isolate other ill plants in your Monstera’s vicinity and use clean gardening tools and trowels at all times.
Are thrips hard to get rid of?
How hard it is to get rid of thrips depends on the severity of the infection. In the beginning stages of a thrip problem, wiping down or treating your plant with insecticidal soap should suffice. But for severe infestations, you may need to resort to more extreme measures.
No one wants to have to deal with creepy crawlies, but in your houseplant journey, it’s almost inevitable. That’s why I always recommend weekly plant inspections so that potential problems can be nipped in the bud before they have a chance to get out of hand. A little bit of time every few days prevents weeks of trying to get rid of thrips.
Indeed, it’s also possible to put preventative measures in place before nary a sign of a thrip has shown up. Plants that are healthy and well-cared for are always less susceptible to infections than those in distress. Mind you, that means very little if there is an existing thrip problem in your household.
As we know, things happen, and pests are more often than not out of our control. The good news is that, yes, indeed, thrips can be simple to get rid of, but this depends largely on how long they’re left unattended.
A mild infection can be easily rectified by following any of the steps listed above. Long-term remedial treatment will ensure your thrips don’t come back to haunt you. More severe colonies are harder to get rid of and might require you to “start over” by cleaning and propagating the remaining healthy sections of your plant and destroying the rest to keep thrips from spreading.
Do thrips spread to other plants?
Thrips are very prone to spreading and can travel between plants quickly and efficiently. For this reason, you should conduct a thorough inspection of all the plants in your Monstera’s vicinity if you notice a thrip infection to assess the extent of the problem at hand.
Thrips are horrific enough already without the added bonus of the fact that they can fly, albeit very weakly. What makes them so unbelievably inconvenient is the rate at which they spread and redistribute themselves, especially once they start reproducing.
Unfortunately, if you have houseplants close to one another, the chances are your thrip problem could spread before you’ve even had time to notice it. A thorough inspection of all your plants is necessary, followed by an isolation phase until such a time that you have your thrips under control.
And bear in mind thrips don’t discriminate. They won’t stick to bugging out only your Monstera, so make sure all your leafy beauties are addressed and accounted for.