Finding pests feeding on and destroying your beloved garden plants can be any gardener’s worst nightmare. Many plant collectors and enthusiasts have resorted to using neem oil, which is a natural pesticide proven to be effective against many common pests. However, using the product isn’t without its risks.
To use neem oil, check whether the product you have is a ready to use spray or pure neem oil that needs to be diluted. If it needs to be diluted, mix 1 tsp of neem with .5 tsp of dish soap and 1 quart of water. Once mixed, spray liberally onto all surfaces of your plant to kill most plant pests.
Neem oil application can be beneficial to keeping your plant happy and free from pests and infections. However, misuse of the product can cause more harm than good. Check the details below to learn more about using neem oil on houseplants.
Check the Condition of Your Plant
Neem oil is an organic pesticide, making it a popular choice among houseplant owners. However, a report states that the oil can burn the leaves of some plants. Therefore, you must carefully observe the condition of your plant before deciding to use the product.
Newly transplanted or sick plants may not be well enough to resist or overcome the adverse effects of neem oil and may even die in the process. If the infestation is severe, with many visible pests in various life stages, using a pesticide may be too late.
Meanwhile, if the plant looks healthy with very few visible signs of damage from pests or fungi, it is often safe to use neem oil products.
Identify the Insects or Microorganisms Affecting Your Plant
Various species of insects and fungi may infect houseplants, and not all of them can be killed by neem oil. Most ready-to-use products available in the market indicate the type of pests they are effective against because there are several formulations with different levels of effectiveness.
Before buying a product, be sure to identify the insect species or type of fungi present on the soil, leaves, and stems. Pay attention to the stage of development as well because some formulations may be effective against eggs and larvae but not on adults.
Neem oil typically controls the following pests:
- Spider Mites
- Fungus Gnats
- (And Other Soft Bodied Insects)
It will also treat some fungal infections such as black spot or powdery mildew.
Mixing the Neem Oil (If Using Pure Neem Oil)
Numerous neem oil products are available in the market. Some are pure or concentrated and need to be diluted before use, while others are already diluted and ready to use. For optimum results, follow the instructions indicated on the label.
Note that regardless of the main ingredient being neem oil, some products may indicate specific types of plants and pests on which it can work. Displaying such details means that the product was tested and proven effective only on them. Pay attention to this information and avoid products that don’t indicate the type of plants and pests you have.
When using pure neem oil, it is best to dilute it a little more than recommended. For instance, if the instruction says two tablespoons of concentrate for every liter of water, you may use one and a half tablespoons instead. It can help reduce the risk of damaging your plant’s foliage but still have visible benefits.
Keep in mind that neem oil does not dissolve in water, so you must add a surfactant, such as liquid dishwashing soap. The mixture will lose its effectiveness within the day, so be sure to mix only the amount you need and use it immediately.
This video shows how to prepare a neem oil solution:
However, you may stick to the instructions about the frequency of application. Some products may indicate a range, such as one to two weeks. If the infestation is severe, you may apply the pesticide weekly. Otherwise, you should use it once every two weeks.
If you want a ready-to-use product, you can check out the Bonide Ready to Use Neem Oil (available on Amazon.com). It works against numerous common pests and fungi that infect houseplants.
If you prefer a pure or concentrated product, you may try Pure PetraTools Neem Oil (available on Amazon.com). The product has good reviews and is easy to use.
Spraying the Neem Oil on Your Plants
Once your neem oil is mixed up (when using pure neem oil) or you have your bottle of ready to use neem oil spray, it’s time to spray down your plant.
Neem oil is – in my experience – generally safe for plants and works well on soft bodied insects, but you have to spray everywhere they could be for it to be effective.
You’ll want to spray down all of the leaves, top and bottom as well as the stems of the plant liberally to make sure you hit all of the bugs that are hiding anywhere on your plant.
It’s really as simple as that.
Do keep in mind, however, that some pests – such as spider mites and young fungus gnats – hide in the soil around your plant. Because of this, you may need to treat your plant’s soil with an insecticide drench.
Neem Oil Drench Recipe
- 1 tsp Neem Oil
- .5 tsp Liquid Dish Soap (such as the blue dawn soap)
- 1 Quart Water (Distilled/RO is best to avoid mineral stains on your leaves)
Mix these three ingredients together, and use this to soak your plant’s potting soil. This should kill any pests hiding in the soil around your plant. If this doesn’t work, you can try with up to 1 tbsp of neem oil next time your plant needs watering.
Keep Kids and Pets Away From Plants Treated With Neem Oil
Neem oil has been used as a pesticide by many gardeners for hundreds of years and has been proven effective, although with some adverse reactions to plants. In addition, a source states that it may be harmful to pets, such as cats, which may suffer from convulsions, excessive salivation, or even death.
Exposure to small amounts or diluted neem oil may not pose much risk. However, avoid direct skin contact when dealing with pure neem oil as it can cause skin irritation. You may use gloves as protection when preparing your pesticide solution. Keep treated houseplants out of reach from children and pets at least until they dry.
Using neem oil to get rid of garden pests can be effective, but be sure to keep your kids and pets away from the recently treated plants. Additionally, always follow the instructions on your particular product and test small patches of your plants before going all in with the neem oil.
To ensure that you reduce the risks to your plants, be sure to follow the proper ways to use neem oil:
- Check the condition of your plant.
- Identify the insects or microorganisms affecting your plant.
- Read the instructions on the label of neem oil products.
- Test the oil on a small area & observe for signs of damage.
- Keep kids and pets away from plants treated with neem oil.
- University of New Hampshire: What Should Neem Be Used for on Plants?
- National Pesticide Information Center: Neem Oil
- Easy Simple Gardening: How to Make a Natural Neem Oil Insecticide
- Youtube: How to Make a Natural Neem Oil Insecticide