I found some termites in my potted plants and freaked out on what to do. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to do some research and find out some good ways to get rid of them from my plants.
The best way to get rid of termites in potted plants is using organic methods like a cardboard trap, using diatomaceous earth, burning them with sunlight, attracting beneficial animals or insects that eat termites, and using beneficial nematodes.
I’ve written a lot more details on how to use these methods in your own potted plants. I’ve also given details on how to keep termites out of your plants once you got rid of them. So keep reading.
How to get rid of termites in potted plants?
You will find a lot of ways to get rid of termites in potted plants but I suggest picking the organic ones first. Only if you have a large infestation you should consider using a chemical pesticide.
Sometimes the termites can be beneficial to your plants if they are not woody. The termites dig up the soil which helps increase aeration.
But if your plants are woody or the termites don’t get any wood to eat, they will attack the plant and its roots. And this will eventually damage the plant or end up killing it. The termites will also eat up your pots if they are made from wood.
Here are 8 effective ways that you can use to get rid of termites in your potted plants.
Catch them with a trap
You have the option of attracting the termites to a trap and dispose them far away from the potted plants.
If you have corrugated boxes lying around, you can use those to trap the termites. These boxes are made from cellulose that termites like to eat.
You need to wet the cardboard box and place it near the potted plant that is infested with termites. They will be attracted to the wet cellulose and start eating it.
You can dispose of the cardboard box in the trash or you can burn it to kill the termites.
Attract beneficial animals and insects
There are many birds, animals, reptiles, and insects that like to eat termites. So it’s good to attract them to your garden to get rid of the termites.
You do need to have your potted plants outdoors for this method to be effective.
Amphibians like frogs and toads like to feast on termites. Lizards will also eat them up. Insects like ants, beetles, spiders, and wasps are also beneficial in eliminating termites.
Birds like sparrows, swallows, starlings, weavers, doves, and chicken will also be attracted to your potted plants as they enjoy a meal of termites.
You can grow plants that attract beneficial insects to your potted plants. These include plants like geraniums, catnip, marigold, daisies, and sunflowers.
These plants help attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, praying mantises, lacewings, and spiders.
Use home ingredients to kill termites
You can use cayenne pepper powder or spray to get rid of the termites. The capsaicin that is present in cayenne pepper damages the nervous system of termites and kills them.
You can spray the powder directly on the termites or you can create a spray using a mixture of vegetable oil, water, and pepper powder. It’s best to spray this every week to get all the termites in the plant and soil.
Another option is to use white vinegar mixed with lemon juice to kill the termites. You need to add one cup of the vinegar with the juice of 2 lemons.
Spray this mixture on the potted plants every day till you get rid of the termites.
You can use insecticidal soap that forms a layer on the termites and affects their respiratory system to kill them.
You can mix the soap with water in a spray bottle and spray the mixture every few days till you have killed all the termites.
Use diatomaceous earth to kill termites
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized material of microscopic organisms known as diatoms. You can find this material near river beds, lakes, streams, and the ocean.
The powdered form of this material is suitable to get rid of arthropods. These are insects that have a segmented body with an exoskeleton.
The diatomaceous earth is effective against insects like aphids, mealybugs, Japanese beetles, mites, and even termites. Make sure to buy food-grade diatomaceous earth from a garden center or at an online store.
The way this works is the fine diatomaceous powder has sharp microscopic edges that get stuck in the joints of the termites. This material cuts up the outer shell of the termites and dehydrates them so they eventually die.
You need to spray the diatomaceous earth on the potting soil and plant leaves every few days. The termites will come in contact with them and die. This does take some time as it’s a natural process so the powder affects the termites.
I like diatomaceous earth because it does a good job of killing termites but is harmless to humans and pets. You do need to use a mask when spraying the dry powder as it can get into your lungs and irritate them.
I prefer the option to mix the diatomaceous earth powder with water and then spray it on the potted plants. The powder is not effective when it’s wet but as soon as it dries up it starts killing the termites.
Since the powder is mixed with water and sprayed, it does not fly around and get into our nose, eyes, or mouth.
An alternative to using diatomaceous earth is boric acid. You should be able to get this from a laundry aisle at the shopping center.
The boric acid also helps get rid of termites similar to diatomaceous earth. It cuts up the termites and also acts as a poison against them. This makes it even more effective than using diatomaceous earth.
I would suggest using boric acid only if you don’t have children and pets moving around near your potted plants. And if you’re growing vegetables, make sure to wash them well to get rid of such powder before consumption.
Use nematodes to kill the termites
An effective way to get rid of termites and other pests in the potted plants is by using nematodes. These are microscopic worms that you can buy at a garden center or an online store.
The nematodes get eaten by the termites or reach inside their bodies and release a bacteria that is toxic to the pests.
You need to mix them up with water in a container and spray the mixture on the affected plants and potting soil. The nematodes start taking effect within 24 to 48 hours.
This is an inexpensive method of getting rid of termites and lasts for several weeks. You can spray the mixture every month to keep your potted plants free from pests.
The good thing about using nematodes is that it’s completely natural. It’s harmless to humans, pets, and wildlife. And you can use it even on your vegetable plants without any problems.
Use essential oils as a natural pesticide
Some essential oils can be used to kill the termites in potted plants. These include clove bud oil, garlic oil, tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, neem oil, and orange oil.
You do need to spray these essential oils directly on the termites for them to be most effective. If the termites are hidden in the soil, you may need to try them along with the other methods.
Be careful that you use the therapeutic grade oils and use them in the right concentration. I would suggest using 4-5 drops of the essential oil per gallon of water.
Use this mixture in a spray and apply it to your potted plants once every week to get the best results of killing the termites.
If you’re growing vegetables, make sure to wash them well before consumption. If you have pets in the house, I would not recommend using essential oils as some of them are toxic to them.
Burn the termites with sunlight
Termites like to stay in dark, damp places either in the potting soil or hidden on the plants. One of the easiest ways to get rid of them is to expose them to the intense sunlight that burns them up.
You will need to move the infested potted plant into the sunlight for this to help. You also need to separate out the foliage and soil so the sunlight can reach the termites.
Get rid of the potting soil and plant
Sometimes, the infestation of termites will be overwhelming and your plant will be dying as a result. One of the choices you have is to get rid of the complete plant and potting soil.
If the termites are limited to the potting soil, you may be able to transplant to a fresh batch of potting soil. But I recommend just getting rid of the plant as well because even if a few termites remain on the plant, the infestation will come back.
You can tap the pot to loosen the root ball. Then hold the base of the plant and turn the pot on its side so the root ball will slide out.
You need to dispose of the plant and potting soil far away from your other plants. You can reuse the pot once you’ve soaked it in a mix of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for at least an hour.
Make sure to wash the pot well with water and dry it out before you can reuse it.
How to keep termites out of your potted plants?
It’s good to get rid of termites from your plant but the next task is to keep them out of your potted plants for good. Let’s look at some of the options you have.
Spray essential oils
We have seen that essential oils can be used to kill the termites in your potted plants. But they are also beneficial in keeping the termites out of your garden.
Some of the essential oils effective against termites include clove bud oil, garlic oil, tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, and orange oil, cinnamon oil, neem oil, and vetiver oil.
These essential oils have a strong smell that helps avoid the termites from reaching your potted plants.
When using an essential oil, you should not directly spray it on the plant as it’s concentrated and will burn the plant.
You need to create a diluted mixture of 4-5 drops of essential oil with water. Spray a little bit on the plant and leave it for 24 hours. If there is no harmful reaction you can then spray it all over the plant.
Spray the mixture on the potting soil as well as the leaves of the plant to deter the termites. It’s best to spray this mixture at least once a month to keep the pests away. If it rains, the essential oil will wash away and you need to spray it again.
The essential oils do have a strong smell so don’t spray it near a location that is often visited by humans and pets. Some of them can also be toxic to pets so don’t use them if you have cats and dogs in your house.
If you’re growing potted vegetables and spray such essential oil, make sure to wash the vegetables well after harvesting them.
Keep your yard and potted plants clean
Termites are attracted to your potted plants and garden because of the moist, dark environment that may be created. They don’t like dry places and areas where there is good sunlight.
So if there’s plenty of mess near your potted plants, it’s best to clean them up so the termites avoid getting into them.
You may need to add dried leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips as mulch in your potted plants. I would suggest keeping this as minimal as possible because termites prefer to stay in it.
Always keep your potted plants as well as the yard clean and free from any kind of clutter that creates an environment suitable for termites. Avoid keeping wooden materials in the area near your potted plants.
If you use a wooden container and it’s damp, termites will be attracted to it. Try using a plastic, terracotta, or ceramic pot to avoid this problem.
The most common way termites reach your potted plants is from the soil on the ground. A way to avoid this is by using hanging baskets. Or you can place the pots on a concrete surface. You could also place a layer of sand between the ground and the pots to discourage the termites.
Be cautious when watering your plants
If you spray water all over your potted plants or overwater the soil, you will create a damp environment that attracts pests like termites.
The best way to know when to water the plants is to stick your finger 1-2 inches in the potting soil. If the tip of your finger does not feel moisture, it’s time to water the plant.
You want to use a watering can, self-watering container, or a drip irrigation system to water the plant. Don’t use a hose or sprinkler that will wet the foliage.
It’s best to water your potted plants in the morning. This helps the potting soil get the required moisture before the sun rises.
The heat from the sun will evaporate any excess moisture from the soil surface as well as the leaves. This discourages the termites from making a home in the potted plant.
If you can only water the potted plants in the evening, make sure to just water the potting soil. Avoid splashing water on the foliage and if you do so clean it up so it does not stay on the plant overnight.
You can spray wood ash on your potting soil as it helps to absorb the excess moisture from the surface.
Give your plants plenty of sunlight
Termites don’t like sunlight. If they stay too long in the heat, they burn up and die. That’s a good reason to keep your potted plants in direct sunlight at least for some time.
If your potted plants are warm-season plants, they can thrive in the heat without any problems. If they are cool-season plants, you may need to keep them in the sunlight for a while and then move them away.
Make sure to prune the leaves and branches so the sunlight can reach all portions of the plant and potting soil.
Pruning will also help the air circulation in the plant which prevents creating a moist environment that attracts the termites.
Grow plants that repel termites
There are certain plants that can act as a companion to your potted plants and help repel some insects including termites. Some of these plants are garlic, chili peppers, catnip, marigold, and mint.
You can either grow them in a pot close to the other potted plants. Or you can grow them as a companion in the same pot with your other plants.
Make sure the pot is large enough to hold both the plants as you don’t want them to compete for nutrients and moisture.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.