Viral Houseplant Problems: Viruses That Affect Houseplants

5357110 SMPT 1
5357110 SMPT 1
(Image credit: William M. Brown Jr.,

It is important to understand houseplant viruses and deal with them accordingly. There is no cure for viral diseases of houseplants and viruses can easily spread among your plant collection. Being able to recognize symptoms and having good preventative practices are key to stopping viral houseplant problems before they start. 

Houseplant Infected with Virus

Houseplant viruses, like any virus, work by infecting the plant’s system, manipulating the plant’s cells, and then spreading to infect more cells. 

How do you know if your houseplant has a virus? Some symptoms include necrotic spots on the leaves, stunted growth, yellow rings on the foliage, and even deformed color or form in flowers. Other symptoms include mosaic or mottling patterns in the leaves, distortion of the stems, and wilting. 

Typically, most houseplant viruses are named after the plant that they affect, plus having “mosaic” in the name. There are, unfortunately, quite a few viruses that affect houseplants. If you have viral diseases of houseplants, there is regrettably no cure, so you’ll have to destroy your plant. It is best to destroy your plant by burning it if possible.

Preventing Viral Diseases of Houseplants

There are many things that you can do to prevent the spread of houseplant viruses. Remember, you cannot cure a houseplant virus, even with a chemical spray. You must follow these best practices to prevent spread:

  • Don’t take cuttings from plants that are showing any potential symptoms of viruses. Only use healthy cuttings whenever you propagate.
  • Keep up with pests. Pests, like aphids, are sap-sucking and can spread to nearby plants and infect them too. 
  • Always keep pots and equipment clean. Wash your pots in hot, soapy water and rinse them off well before reusing. Keep any tools such as scissors or pruners sterilized.
  • Always use sterilized and packaged potting compost and never soil from your garden. 
  • Never dispose of your plant in a compost pile. The virus will likely remain there and spread to other plants when you use the compost. 
  • Don’t attempt to simply prune off leaves or stems that seem to be affected by a virus and then leave the rest of the plant to grow. Chances are that the entire plant is affected. You should dispose of your plant by burning it.