Will Leaves Chewed by Pests Grow Back?

It’s every plant parent’s nightmare: waking up to a garden full of holes. Pests are the bane of any gardener’s existence because they wreak havoc without any regard for all the hard work, time, and patience you’ve invested in growing your plants. Is there something that could be done about all the damage they have caused?

Leaves chewed by pests won’t grow back. Unfortunately, plants cannot repair the damages inflicted on them by pests. The most they can do is form a scab-like, brown coating on the edges of the damaged parts. Eventually, most of the damaged leaves are bound to wilt and die.

We will talk about why damaged leaves cannot repair themselves and what you can do when you find your plants in such a condition. We will also discuss the different kinds of pests you should be on the lookout for and how best to protect your plants from them. Let’s begin!

Can Leaves That Have Been Chewed Repair Themselves?

Chewed and otherwise damaged leaves cannot repair themselves. Some plants terminate these leaves to conserve energy and focus on producing new ones. Meanwhile, other plants choose to live with the damaged leaves, but this sadly means you’ll have to live with the damage too.  

The easiest and fastest way to get rid of unsightly damaged leaves is to cut them off. Use sanitized scissors or garden shears so you don’t put the plant at risk for infection. If the plant is healthy, it will continue to produce new leaves. It would be best never to cut off more than ⅓ of a plant’s leaves. Too few leaves will hinder photosynthesis. 

Why You Should Cut Off Damaged Leaves

Going anywhere near your plants armed with your trusty garden shears may seem daunting at first. However, it is actually something you should be doing regularly. There are significant benefits in pruning your plants, and cutting off the leaves that have been chewed on will do more good than harm for your plant. 

Remember only to cut off leaves that are more than halfway damaged. You should also always use gardening shears to avoid harming your plant unnecessarily. Cut as close to the stem as you can and immediately remove the cut leaf. Don’t leave it anywhere near the plant and the soil where it might attract bacteria and pests. 

Below are some more reasons why you should cut off damaged leaves.

Cutting Off Damaged Leaves Prevents Spread of Diseases and Pests

Getting rid of leaves that pests have chewed will significantly lower the risk of the entire plant getting affected. 

Pests can multiply and spread surprisingly fast, so acting quickly is vital to your plant’s well-being. Cut off these damaged leaves at once and apply treatment if necessary to further reduce the risk of pest infestation. 

Cutting Off Damaged Leaves Encourages New Growth

When you get rid of damaged leaves, your plant no longer needs to exert effort to maintain these unproductive, purposeless leaves. It can focus more on producing healthy new leaves that can contribute to photosynthesis. Too many damaged leaves put the plant at risk of wasting much-needed energy to thrive. 

A leaf’s primary function is to manufacture food for the entire plant via photosynthesis. For plants to photosynthesize, they need sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. Sunlight is absorbed by the chlorophyll found in leaves. Carbon dioxide is absorbed from the air through the leaves’ stomata (pores). The plant’s roots absorb water from the soil, which then travels up the stem and into the leaves. 

Since leaves play a vital role in photosynthesis, producing healthy and useful ones will benefit the plant. Getting rid of those that are no longer functional will create more room for new growth. New growth means more food for the plant.

Cutting Off Damaged Leaves Makes Your Plant Look Nicer

Everyone is bound to agree that damaged leaves can be eyesores. They can make a completely healthy plant look ill and unappealing. Remember never to cut off more than a third of these damaged leaves. These leaves may look unattractive, but remember that they are still alive and can contribute to photosynthesis. Getting rid of too many leaves will be detrimental to the plant’s health

Why Your Plants’ Leaves Are Getting Eaten

Most insects survive by getting their food from plants. For instance, bees and butterflies gather nectar and pollen from the flowers of plants. There are also certain bugs, like thrips and mealybugs, that suck the sap from plants’ leaves, roots, and stems. Then, of course, there are the leaf-eaters.

Leaf eaters are the most annoying of all pests because they are the most destructive. They chew on your plants’ leaves for survival and sustenance. Some leave gaping holes, while some can practically chew through a whole leaf. They’re fast, too, and you may wake up one day to find that the leaves of one of your most treasured plants have all been eaten.

You may even notice that some of the pests have preferences. You may find certain types of caterpillars frequently returning to a particular plant. You may also often find hordes of snails in the same area in your garden, no matter how hard you try to get rid of them. 

Kinds of Invasive Plant Pests

There are many kinds of pests that can threaten to invade your garden, whether your plants are indoors or outdoors. Some of these pests may be visible to the naked eye, while others can go completely unnoticed until they have wreaked total havoc on your plants.

Below are some of the most common pests to keep an eye out for:


Mealybugs are those tiny, white, cottony bugs you might find hiding in your plants. They tend to reside in the following areas:

  • At the backs of your plants’ leaves
  • Inside leaf sheaths
  • At the joints of petioles and stems
  • Inside leaves that have yet to unfurl

Upon closer inspection, mealybugs might look a bit cute with their furry little bodies and legs. However, they are pretty tricky to get rid of because they can really attach themselves to your plants. Mealybugs feed by sucking the sap out of plants, making them wilt and eventually die. 


Aphids are tiny, light green, and pear-shaped, with long antennae on their heads. They have two tubes protruding from their abdomen, which they use to suck on plants’ stems and leaves. They will rob your plants of vital nutrients, causing them to droop, become vulnerable to diseases, and eventually die. 

Spider Mites

These destructive pests can be found on the underside of leaves. They look like tiny red dots, and they munch on your plants’ leaves, leaving little holes in their wake. If left unaddressed, spider mites will make your leaves turn yellow, wilt, and eventually die. 


There are different kinds of beetles, most of them preferring to dine on flowers, vegetables, and fruits. You’ll know that they’ve paid you a visit because they leave behind a trail of plant damage. If you have leaves reduced to mere skeletons, mysteriously disappearing flowers, or a healthy plant suddenly stripped of its foliage, you’ll know that you’ve had some pesky beetles as guests. 


A caterpillar’s sole purpose is to eat as much as possible before it can morph into a moth, a butterfly, or some other insect. Unfortunately, caterpillars find gardens perfect spots to feast in. They aren’t picky at all, so they can chew away at your leaves, flowers, vegetables, and fruits. 

If you wonder whether you should kill caterpillars in your garden, this article is for you: Should You Kill Caterpillars in Your Garden? 4 Facts

Slugs and Snails

These pests usually leave a large gaping hole right at the center of a leaf. You’ll also find traces of slime and goo in their wake. Slugs and snails prefer to eat at night; if you don’t catch them in time, you’ll wake up to a nasty surprise waiting for you in your garden.

How To Get Rid of Pests in Plants

Your first line of defense is keeping consistent watch over your plants. Make it a habit to regularly visit your plants to be familiar with how they look, the colors of their leaves and stems, and how fast (or slow) they’re growing. This way, you can quickly identify any changes you see. 

Discolorations, wilting, and unsightly leaf spots are usually the first signs of danger. The key is to act fast before your plants completely fall prey to pests. 

Here are some tips on how to get rid of pests:

Regular Inspection

Frequently check your plants’ leaves for any changes in color and texture. Don’t forget to check the undersides, too, because this is where some pests choose to hide. Keep an eye out for specks or white fluff that may seem like harmless dirt but are actually harmful pests. 

Check the whole length of the stems, too. There are little nooks and crannies where the stems meet the petioles and leaf sheaths that make ideal hiding spots for small bugs. You may use a clean cotton bud to gently coax open these little hiding places.

Don’t forget about the soil. Aerate it once in a while with a rake to give the roots some breathing room. This is also a great way to check if any bugs are setting up camp down there.

Clean Your Leaves

Make it a habit to regularly clean your plants’ leaves. Wipe the front and back of the leaves using a soft piece of cloth. Dampen the cloth with water or spray the leaves with a specially formulated leaf cleaner before wiping. 

Regularly cleaning leaves will help get rid of dust that may have accumulated. Too much dust may hinder photosynthesis. The cleaning also helps eliminate any pests and eggs that may have already claimed the leaves as their new home. 

Regular Pest Maintenance

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” This is true even with plants; it is much easier to prevent a pest infestation than to get rid of them. 

Here is where a good bug spray can come to your rescue, whether you already have a pest infestation or are just keen on preventing one. There are a lot of insecticidal sprays available on the market, or you can also try making your own with simple ingredients.

Here are some of the more effective homemade bug sprays you can use:

  • Neem oil solution. Fill your spray bottle with water and add a few drops of neem oil until the liquid turns pale brown. This solution works for most pests.
  • Rubbing alcohol solution. Mix 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of dish soap,1 quart of water, and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. This spray is best for aphids, mealybugs, and most insects.
  • Chili spray. Grind 3 ½ ounces of dried chilies, then throw it into a ½ gallon of boiling water. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, then add ½ gallon of cold water and a few drops of dish soap. Spray this directly on bugs, particularly caterpillars, whenever you see them. 
  • Vinegar spray. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 3 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of dishwashing soap. This spray works effectively on most bugs.

Final Thoughts

It is best to accept that pests are a normal part of gardening. This way, you will be better equipped to identify them sooner and prevent them from further damaging your plants.

It is vital to act fast and always have your plants’ best interest at heart if you want to keep them healthy and thriving.

If you’d like to learn more on what’s eating holes in your leaves, you could check this article out: What’s Eating Holes in Your Lettuce? Identification Guide

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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