Banish Common Houseplant Pests With This One Neem Spray Recipe

homemade plant pest spray

Pests happen. It’s just a part of houseplant parenthood. Luckily, when found early, you can rid common bugs (and even certain diseases) quickly while keeping future issues at bay. The most common indoor plant pests include: mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies, scale, and fungus gnats. While none of these insects present terrible issues in early stages, they can become a problem for your plant as the colony progresses.

The go-to, cure-all, insecticidal, and fungicidal spray is one that you can make at home using a measured blend of neem oil, castile soap, and water. It is simple, natural, eco-friendly, and multi-use so you’ll feel safe using it indoors and your plants will be safe from unwanted visitors and harm.

mealybug on ficus tineke

Neem Oil & Its Effect on Houseplant Pests:

Neem oil has been used as a natural pesticide in certain agricultural environments for years. It is extracted (in oil form) from seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica), native to India. For centuries, neem oil has actually been used within Ayurvedic practices-- traditionally, it’s applied topically as a means to heal certain ailments and support healthy lifestyles. These uses have purported the oil’s safe use amongst humans. Although, we always recommend wearing gloves when handling plants and plant sprays (yes, even natural ones). 

Neem oil combats all of the above noted common pests by coating the soft-bodied insects and killing most upon contact. But because neem oil may not be effective to immediately exterminate the pests' eggs, you will likely need multiple applications (over the course of a couple of weeks) to dispel the entire colony.

However, perhaps more importantly, neem also works by interfering with the adult insects system, preventing them from maturing or reproducing. As a pesticide, it works via active ingredients called limonoids— the most effective being Azadirachtin. This ingredient is responsible for repelling certain bugs while also disrupting their lifecycle growth and reproductive abilities. In addition, neem oil can be used as an antifungal that helps dispel white powdery mildew and sooty mold. 

Bonus: Neem oil has shown to possess fertilizer components, contributing to healthy soil and the growth of plants. 

While neem oil is the active ingredient in this pest solution, the castile soap also works to mitigate bugs. In spray form, the sudsy mixture coats the insects making it difficult for them to move. This greatly helps you out in the process of cleaning the plant of visible pests. As bugs are almost paralyzed, you can easily rid them from the plant. Castile soap is also more gentle and eco-friendly than other common liquid soaps (like dish soap). 

Natural Remedy Recipe for Plant Pests

DIY Houseplant Pest Spray Recipe: 

First things first, make sure you have your ingredients. That includes: quality cold-pressed neem oil (100% pure grade); quality liquid castile soap, and water (use distilled if your plants are sensitive to your tap).

Feel free to use a spray bottle (recommended) or just dip into the solution out of a bowl. 

  • 1 teaspoon of neem oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of castile soap
  • 1 quart of lukewarm water

Mix the ingredients together and it’s ready for use! Make sure to shake the spray bottle or mix up the ingredients each time as the natural ingredients will separate.

mealybug treatment

How to Use Houseplant Pest Spray:

Neem oil and castile soap in high concentrations can be harmful to plant foliage. It’s recommended to test a leaf or two before use. Just apply the solution and wait about 12-24 hours to make sure no leaf damage has occurred. Once you’re all clear, you’re ready for treatment!

When treating an infected plant, apply the mixture to each leaf (top and bottom sides). Make sure that you’re coating any visible pests. Keep in mind that pests like mealybugs like to hide in the area where the stem and vine fuse. So check there and treat there too. Use a soft cloth, cotton ball, or Q-Tip to gently wipe away and immediately dispose of bugs. 

Once you have visible pests taken care of, it’s time to tackle the rest of the plant where tiny bugs or eggs may be laying in wait. Go ahead and use a cloth or paper towel to wipe down each leaf you doused. And then apply the mixture to the entire plant (including stems) and wipe. Do make sure that you use a different cloth each time you move on to a new plant. This helps cut down the spread of pests or disease between plants. As a last step, give the soil a mist as well in case there’s anything lurking there.

As far as timing, neem oil has a residual effect, so it’s advisable to wait at least a week or two before applying again. But if you’re able to see pests, you can always go ahead and directly spray them.

healthy golden pothos houseplant

Utilizing Pest Spray as a Preventative:

It’s good practice to use houseplant pest spray on healthy plants too. This method ensures that your plants are staying bug-free as the solution combats any microscopic insects that are not yet visible. Rest assured that specific spray is formulated to kill the bad stuff while remaining harmless to the positive life that may inhabit your plant. As far as timing, we suggest cleaning your healthy plants with pest spray about once every two months. Again, always make sure to spot test on a few leaves first. 

In addition, it's a highly recommended and wise idea to “clean” any incoming plants. That’s all new indoor plants whether they’re bought online, in a store, or coming inside (like over winter). Anything that’s being introduced to your home environment will benefit from a spray down. This control method helps protect your other indoor plants and will prevent potential spread of insects or disease between plants.

Bonus: Neem oil won’t kill off any beneficial life that supports the health of your plant and its soil. And it’s safe for use inside, being non-toxic to humans and pets. 

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