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Caring for houseplants often means dealing with pests, diseases, or cultural issues at some point. Having a houseplant first aid kit prepared allows you to quickly treat problems and nurse your plants back to health. In this episode, our favorite horticulturist Leslie Halleck shares must-have items to include in your DIY houseplant first aid kit so you can effectively treat plant problems as soon as they pop up!

Check out the amazon storefront list of all items discussed in todays episode!

In this episode, we learn:

  • [00:17] What is a Houseplant First Aid Kit?
  • [09:46] What is horticultural oil, when is it used, and how does it differ from neem oil?
  • [12:57] Neem vs neem oil
  • [15:03] How to brighten up your home and keep your houseplants happy all year with high-quality grow lights
  • [17:28] DIY houseplant first aid kit essentials: Fungus Gnats Death Drop and neem oil!
  • [19:44] Is neem oil safe as a leaf shine for plants, or does it potentially harm them by clogging stomata or pores?
  • [22:58] Why should you include fungicide/bio-insecticide in your first aid kit for houseplants?
  • [25:52] Does fungicide reverse leaf damage?
  • [27:46] Sanitizing vs sterilizing (plus products you should use while pruning)
  • [28:48] What is insecticidal soap?
  • [30:18] What are systemics, why do they work, and when should they be used? (heavier chemical)
  • [32:18] Where can you find the best houseplants with scientific care guides and color-coded collections?
  • [34:15] Where can you find high-quality organic fertilizers and potting mixes?
  • [40:50] How do hydrogen peroxide and BT work in dealing with houseplant pests?
  • [41:43] What is a “drench” in systemic pesticide application?
  • [44:16] Why should you have rooting hormone in your first aid kit?
  • [45:19] Best tools/gears for your first aid kid!
  • [45:20] What are sticky traps? (monitoring tool)
  • [47:07] Rubber gloves Leslie recommends!
  • [50:15] Why should you use separate snippers/tweezers/pruners for gardening tasks?
  • [51:57] Folding potting mat!
  • [53:58] Hygrometers/glass domes
  • [57:31] Grow lights
  • [01:00:19] PAR Meter (for professionals)
  • [01:03:36] Maria’s favorite—magnifying glass!
  • [01:16:17] Moisture meter
  • [01:08:49] Check out Leslie’s books!


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Products to Add to Your Houseplant First Aid Kit

We have links to all the products discussed in todays episode in this Amazon storefront!

Horticultural Oils

Horticultural oils work by “smothering” soft-bodied insects and preventing fungal diseases from spreading on leaf surfaces. That means you take away their ability to breathe! They can be made from various plant-based extracts like neem, peppermint, or thyme oil. Some also contain petroleum.

Note: Mineral oil-based horticultural oils can potentially cause leaf burn. Stick to plant-derived oils like neem.


Neem Oil vs Azadirachtin

Neem oil itself does not contain insecticidal compounds. To get neem oil with insecticide properties, look for “azadirachtin” on the label. Azadirachtin is an organic compound in neem that acts as a growth regulator for insects.

Leslie mentioned that neem oil can be used as a leaf polish, but you should rinse it off after 1-2 hours before hot sunlight hits to prevent leaf scorch.



Copper-based fungicides prevent fungal spores from reproducing and spreading. Apply these to treat existing infections and prevent them from infecting healthy plant tissue. Newer biofungicides work by making leaves less hospitable environments for fungal growth.


Insecticidal Soaps

Insecticidal soaps work by dissolving the waxy cuticle layer that protects soft-bodied insects like aphids, mealybugs, and scales. Use these as a gentle treatment before moving to stronger chemicals.


Hydrogen Peroxide

A mild hydrogen peroxide solution has multiple uses:

  • Can be mixed with water and used as a soil drench to kill fungus gnat larvae in the root zone.
  • Helps sterilize tools like pruners.
  • Can be misted on leaves to increase oxygen and restrict fungal spore growth.
  • Oxygenates root zones and encourages new root growth.


Systemic Pesticides

For difficult pests like scale, mealybugs, or spider mites, a systemic insecticide may be needed. Systemics are absorbed into plant tissue, distributing the pesticide within the plant. In simpler terms, the effect takes place when these pests digest the plant they are munching on and die as a result.

Note: Avoid use on edibles. These chemicals are harmful to the human body.


Rooting Hormone

Rooting hormone contains compounds that stimulate root formation in cuttings and stressed plants. Use it when propagating plants or repotting a plant with root damage to encourage new root growth.


Gear and Tools to Add to Your Houseplant First Aid Kit

Grab them here!

Sticky Traps

Yellow and blue sticky traps catch adult fungus gnats and also monitor for other flying insect pests on your plants. Use regularly as a monitoring tool even when you don't see pests because, remember, early detection allows quicker action.



Leslie recommends these types of gloves when gardening:

  • Nitrile gloves – protect hands and allow you to physically remove pests by squishing or rubbing them off of leaves.
  • Cotton gloves – a softer option for gently cleaning leaves and polishing plants.
  • Rubber/latex gloves – offer hand protection when working with oils and chemicals.


Pruners and Snips

Dedicate a good pair of plant pruners and snips for your houseplants. Sterilize them in bleach or other disinfectants after each cut to prevent disease transmission. Keep extra sharp snips or scissors specifically for plants—avoid using kitchen cutting tools!


Potting Mat

A foldable potting mat or tray contains soil mess on any surface when urgently repotting or treating a plant. Clean-up is also easy – just shake it off outdoors.


Humidity Dome

Slip a plastic bag or humidity dome over plants that need a humidity boost. You can also get bell jars or cloches. This raises the humidity around the plant to help it recover from stress.



Monitor humidity levels with a small digital hygrometer. This helps diagnose problems and determine if you need to increase humidity for certain plants.


Grow Lights

Compact LED grow lights like Soltech provide therapeutic light when nursing plants back to health. Look for clip-on or low-wattage options that are easy to maneuver.


PAR Meter

If you’re willing to invest a lot more money, this specialized light meter measures photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) — the intensity of light useful for photosynthesis. It provides precise data on proper light levels for houseplants and indoor gardens.


Magnifying Glass

Being my favorite tool, a simple magnifying glass lets you inspect plants closely for small pests like spider mites, thrips, and more that can hide in plain sight. It also helps identify the onset of fungal spores or bacterial blotches, webbing, honeydew, or eggs.


Moisture Meter

A moisture meter can help newer plant parents determine when to water. Consider adding one to your kit if you struggle with:

  • Understanding when plants need water
  • Watering too frequently or infrequently
  • Identifying dry vs. wet areas of the root ball


Reference Books

A couple of go-to books like Leslie Halleck's Plant Parenting, Gardening Under Lights, and Tiny Plants provide diagnostics and treatment recommendations when you need quick guidance.


Assembling Your Own Houseplant First Aid Kit

Hopefully, this gives you a helpful overview of products and tools to include in a well-stocked houseplant first aid kit. Keep everything you need to treat your plants in one place so it's readily accessible for any horticultural emergency.

I recommend gathering small quantities and sizes of key items and organizing them in a storage bin or tackle box for easy transport. 

Once you've assembled your kit, I'd love to see it! Share a photo on Instagram and be sure to tag me so I can share your DIY houseplant first aid kit with our community.


Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Soltech Solutions

Ensure your plants are getting enough light indoors! Soltech Solutions makes the grow lights you’ve heard me talk about for years: whether you are looking for a pendant light, track lighting, or a simple bulb to screw into any standard light fixture, Soltech has got you covered. They offer quality products with great customer service, free shipping, and a 5-year warranty. Keep the sun shining and the plants green inside your home with Soltech Solutions.

Check them out at and get 15% off with code “bloom15”.

Fungus Gnats Death Drops by Happy Happy Houseplant

Can't seem to get rid of fungus gnats? Happy Happy Houseplant knows how annoying it is to see fungus gnats take over your plants, so they created Fungus Gnat Death Drops! Backed by science, tested by their founder Mandi, and loved by their customers. Keep fungus gnats at bay with this microbial insecticide with the active ingredient BTI or  Bacillus thuringiensis which kills fungus gnat larvae. Another product to love is Happy Happy Houseplant's Neem Oil kit which comes with a stylish glass bottle, and pre-emulsified Neem concentrate, so you don’t have to mess around with mixing it yourself. No separating or added ingredients!

Grab the Fungus Gnat Death Drops and/or neem oil at and get 10% off with code GROWINGJOY at checkout!

Proven Winners

If you want to have success with houseplants, you’ve got to have two things: the knowledge to care for them successfully and healthy plants. Meet my new favorite houseplant grower: Proven Winner’s leafjoy™. With only the best plant genetics grown in a state-of-the-art, European greenhouse, you will not be disappointed in the variety and quality of your favorite plants from Proven Winner’s leafjoy™. This company has taken the guesswork out of plant shopping with plant tags that include scientific names and care guides, as well as color-coded collections for the different areas of your home that you want plants in!

Find plant joy in leafjoy™. Head to to find your local leafjoy™ dealer and let me know which plant you take home on socials!

Espoma Organic

Make sure your plants are all set for the new season! Espoma Organic is dedicated to making safe indoor and outdoor gardening products for people, pets, and the planet. They have an amazing variety of high-quality, organic potting mixes, garden soil, fertilizers, and pest control products that are organic and eco-friendly. To top it all off, they have a huge sustainability commitment with a 100% solar powered plant, zero waste manufacturing and eco-friendly packaging.

Visit to find your local Espoma dealer or check my Amazon storefront.



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