How to Keep Bugs Away From Plants

Written and Presented by Adam Woolcott

The Best Way to Keep Bugs Away From Plants

As we move into the second month of summer our gardens as well as our fruit and veg plots have burst into maturity, the buds and shoots of spring have now matured into flowers, fruit and vegetables and nature has rewarded us for all of our hard work, we have created something special, rewarding and productive.

Having achieved the above is wonderful but like anything else in life if you create something incredible then someone else will want it and when it comes to your garden that someone else is a host of pests that will want to chew, nibble and eat their way through your garden!

There are dozens if not hundreds of pests that can blight your garden, far too many to discuss in this blog but there are what I call the ‘Feisty Five’ and they are slugs, snails, aphids, lily beetles and vine weevils between them these determined pests can damage or even kill plants by attacking them from their roots to the top of their shoots.

The Top 5 Bugs You’re Likely to See in Your Garden

  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Aphids
  • Lily Beetles
  • Vine Weevils

All these critters leave their own calling card, with slugs and snails you can see their silvery, slimy trails as they make their way through your garden and there are the holes in the plant’s leaves, tops completely eaten away on new shoots and very young or small plants reduced overnight to ground level!

How to Spot and Deal With Slugs and Snails

Keeping slugs and snails away from plants

Slugs and snails are notorious for attacking Hostas but can also play havoc with marigolds, lettuce, strawberries and many other soft and juicy plants.

There are various ways to deal with slugs and snails, they can be physically removed after dark by hunting them down using a torch, beer traps will lead them to a boozy end, garlic sprays deter them – as do crushed eggshells, grit, mineralised straw and copper bands.

How to Spot and Deal With Aphids

How to keep bugs away from plants - aphids

Aphids collect in large numbers on stems, buds and the underside of leaves, you’ll see large colonies of black, red or green insects and often the affected plant will have distorted leaves or growing points, or they may be covered in a sticky substance called honeydew that they secrete from their rear end.

Aphids will attack a vast range of plants but favourites of theirs are honeysuckle, roses, nasturtiums, lupins and broad beans.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with aphids from physically blasting them off your plants with a hose, using homemade or ready-made soap sprays, biological controls if they’re a problem indoors or your greenhouse for example, crushing them with your fingers or using something called Neem oil. All of these are excellent and effective ways of keeping these bugs away from plants.

How to Spot and Deal With Lily Beetles

Keeping lily beetles away from plants

Lily beetles are small but bright red in colour and both the young and the adults eat away the foliage on lilies and other plants, the larvae cover themselves in their own excrement as they develop often looking like a bird dropping on the leaves of the affected plants. Eventually, the affected plant can become defoliated entirely looking very sad and unattractive.

Luckily lily beetles never attack one plant in vast numbers unlike aphids, so they’re easy to control by removing the very conspicuous adults as well as the developing young on the underside of the leaves by hand.

How to Spot and Deal with Vine Weevils

Keeping vine weevils away from plants

Vine weevils are generally nocturnal insects with hard black shells, the adults feed on the foliage of many plants leaving semi-circular notches on the edges of the leaves but the developing grubs live underground particularly enjoying pots and they munch away on plant roots, often causing the plants to eventually wilt and die.

Plants affected by vine weevils and their grubs include heucheras, euonymus, rhododendrons and viburnums.

Vine weevils are a bit trickier to deal with but there are products on the market that can be applied to the soil to kill the developing young or destroy the adults themselves.

Top Takeaway

At the end of the day don’t overly worry about these pests, as it’s relatively easy to keep general bugs away from plants, and just remember nature always strives to keep a balance, so if we look after her she’ll look after us.

Happy Gardening,


Adam has over 30 years of experience as a professional gardener and has many accolades, but is probably best known for his four Gold Medals at The Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show and his three BBC/RHS People’s Choice Awards at the show (of which he is particularly proud) which he won as one half of Woolcott & Smith.

2 thoughts on “How to Keep Bugs Away From Plants

  1. Miriam Quin says:

    My lilies have the red beetle attacking the foliage but after removing the adults and babies I spray them with my home made garlic solution as recommended by the RHS which has kept them under control somewhat. I have not had any luck growing my lupins as snails have been eating them. Will garlic spray help me?

    • Nathan Dukes says:

      Garlic spray will not really deter lily beetle but removing the adults and the young from under the leaves will definitely help. The larvae cover themselves in their own excrement and look like bird droppings!
      A spray called Provanto ultimate bug killer is also very effective but not an organic solution.
      Garlic spray does deter slugs and snails but must be reapplied after every time it rains.
      A product called Strulch is also really good, as are copper bands and coffee grounds, you can also use environmentally friendly slug pellets

      Happy Gardening

      Adam Woolcott

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