Why Do Plant Leaves Have Holes in Them? Garden Tips 2024

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Plants have plenty of ways of telling us something isn’t right, as long as we know what to look for. When plant leaves have holes in them, this is a clear sign that something is wrong and we have a chance to fix it.

Why do plant leaves have holes in them: Some plants have leaves as part of their natural characteristics. Other times, holes are a result of a fungus that slowly progresses through parts of the leaves, leaving dead parts behind. Insects such as snails, caterpillars, and fly larvae are the most common reasons for holes in leaves.

What causes plant leaves to have holes in them

Whether you have indoor or outdoor plants, there is no shortage of reasons why your plant leaves can develop holes. Here are the top reasons for the damage.

Natural Holes

Interestingly, some plants will just naturally have holes in them. This is usually if there are multiple layers to the plant as the leaves will create holes so light can be filtered through them.

An example of this is the monstera plant, also known as the Swiss cheese plant because of its naturally occurring holes. If the holes in a plant are uniform and the plant looks healthy, the holes are not something to be worried about.


There are many insects that go through a larvae phase that feed off of plant leaves. While more common in outdoor plants, even indoor plants are susceptible to insect larvae as they can get in through open windows and contaminated soil.

Sawfly larvae are common pests in this stage. They start by eating the edges of the leaves and if they are left unchecked, will consume all but the inner veins of the leaves.


Unfortunately, many plants are at risk from fungal diseases. These attack the plant and can spread slowly or quickly from the affected area.

To diagnose this issue, look for multiple discolored areas on the plant that are not near each other. These patches will have dead tissue and the holes will start to form, eventually becoming larger if the fungus remains.

You may often see white or light brown areas on green leaves and there may be a fuzzy texture to the area.

Slugs and Snails

Whether they have their house on top of them or not, both slugs and snails love to do damage to plant leaves. They stay low to the ground, so outdoor plants that have low foliage, such as lettuce, are especially susceptible to slugs and snails.

These pests mainly come out at night so the only evidence you may find is a slick trail that is left along the leaves. Other signs are if the holes are irregular shapes but have smooth edges to them.

It’s best if you can get an early start in your garden and spot snugs and snails when they are still out. Then, you can simply pluck them off the leaves and dispose of them away from your garden.

How to treat holes in plant leaves

The earlier you catch plant damage, the better chance you have of treating it and saving your plant. If you can, always get in the habit of regularly inspecting your plants, both inside and outside, paying special attention to their color and texture.

If you see any insects currently on your plants, spray them with either soapy water or diluted neem oil. Larger pests, such as aphids, may come off with bursts of water, and snails can simply be plucked off.

Transfer your plant, if it is indoors, to somewhere more protected, or place a mesh cover over it, as long as all the insects are off it, to allow it to grow uninterrupted.

If the cause of the holes is due to a fungus, repot your plant to provide it with clean soil. You may also want to alter your watering habit to ensure the soil is neither too dry nor too wet.

How to prevent holes in plant leaves

Pest traps

To prevent holes from pests, there are a few traps you can set, although most of them are specific to the type of pests you want to prevent from doing damage.

For example, you can set out beer traps for slugs and snails. Fill a small container or jar with beer and then dig a hole near your garden for the container. The slugs and snails will be attracted to the smell but will drown in the liquid.

Neem oil

A common method to get rid of pests is by using neem oil. This is a natural substance although it can burn plants, so you will want to dilute it before you use it.

Spray your mixture of neem oil and water on your plants in the morning, preferably before the sun comes out. Once it comes in contact with larvae and insect eggs, it will kill them so they can’t eat their way through the leaves.

Soapy water

Another natural way to prevent bugs from consuming your plant leaves is by spraying soapy water. This will deter insects from moving over the leaves and will kill any insects already on the plants.

Be sure to spray the underside of the leaves where insects like to hide. You will need to spray every day as the solution won’t last long.

Clean your tools

Whenever you are using a trowel or scissors, you want to clean it first. Leftover dirt may have fungus or other types of bacteria on it, which will spread from plant to plant.

The same goes for old soil. If it has been in your shed or garage for a while, it is no longer sterile and you don’t want to use it with new plants.


While some plants will naturally have holes in their leaves, this attribute is usually caused by pests or diseases. Work to remove the pests and then either repot your plant or add a mesh cover to prevent pests from doing more damage.

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