Dealing with pests is one of the only drawbacks to gardening. It’s what makes working with succulents even more appealing since they rarely have any problems with pests in the first place.
But that “rarely” doesn’t mean “ever,” and there are still some instances where having a spectacular pest control routine comes in handy.
One of the best ways to combat pesky insects on your succulents is by introducing neem oil to the equation. Even centuries ago, humans used neem oil as a pesticide, and with good reason.
Neem oil derives from neem tree seeds and is one of the best organic methods to repel most insects. Not only does it smother the bugs on the plant, but it also interferes with their ability to produce even more eggs.
Plus, it’s safe to use around birds, mammals, plants, and even helpful pollinators like bees.
Can you use neem oil on succulents?
Absolutely! Neem oil is a great pest control product for most plants. Since it’s organic, this means using it has little effect on the surrounding environment. The fact that it slows down the production of eggs also contains beneficial uses.
Namely, it generates a fast and efficient recovery versus exposing the plant to numerous chemical treatments from other pesticides.
It also handles common problematic pests homeowners encounter in the garden, including Japanese beetles, snails, caterpillars, and even mosquitos.
How to apply neem oil on succulents?
Applying neem oil to succulents is the same as adding any other type of pesticide. You simply spray the leaves with the treatment and follow up within a week or two.
The only difference is that this pesticide is not ready-made for you. You must dilute it with a little water and soap first using this recipe.
Neem Oil DIY Pest Recipe
- 1 tsp neem oil
- ½ tsp liquid dish soap
- 1 quart of water
- 1 spray bottle
Add the ingredients to a large spray bottle and make sure to shake well. Spray both the tops and undersides of the leaves to ensure you’ve covered all the areas on which those pesky little insects love to munch.
Be careful not to spray any flowerheads or plant roots directly, just the leaves. The pests eat the affected parts of the plant, which then kills them. Since pollinators like bees and butterflies only eat from the flowers, this keeps them safe and sound.
Best Tips for Using Neem Oil on Succulents
No two pesticides are ever the same, and neem oil is no different. To make it work at optimal performance levels for you and your plants, here are a few crucial tips to remember when treating your succulents with this ingredient.
Don’t Use Neem Oil in High Amounts
While neem oil is an impressive organic pesticide, it should not be used by itself on a plant.
High concentrations actually harm the specimen, so dilute it with water to prevent giving it too powerful a dose.
Don’t Mix It with Harmful Ingredients
Since rubbing alcohol is a typical solution for getting rid of pests, some forums suggest using mixtures that include other types of alcohol, like gin and heavy spirits. Doing this is a huge no!
Gin and other liquors often make the perfect ingredients for weed and vegetation killers, damaging the plant down to the roots over time.
Unless you have a full-proof recipe that properly dilutes the alcohol levels, simply avoid them and save yourself the headache.
Use a Surfactant to Break the Surface Tension
Diluting the neem oil is not enough. Using a surfactant like soap that breaks up the water tension on the surface of the plant.
What generally happens without the soap is, when you spray the plant, the moisture just sits there. Rather than soaking into the plant where it does the most good, the water does not break past the surface tension on the vegetation exterior.
This step is where the soap comes in. The soap allows it to adhere to the surface of the plant and seep into it.
For a purely organic pest control experience, you can even swap out the dish soap with Castile soap, which consists of plant-based materials made of different oils.
Use Neem Oil as an Antifungal Spray
Beyond its ability to work wonders at pest control, neem oil has several other amazing qualities.
Among these is its ability to get rid of powdery mildew and fungus. It keeps fungus away for good.
There are additional ingredients that go into the mixture, including a blend of essential oils that smell pretty fantastic on their own. Follow the recipe instructions below for the best results.
DIY Neem Oil Fungicide
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 tsp rosemary oil
- 1 tsp peppermint oil
- 2 tbsp neem oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil or almond oil
Start by removing any leaves already affected by the fungus. If they look damaged, eaten away, or have traces of white fungus on them, tear them off and leave room for new foliage to grow.
If the fungus is all over, or if you’re worried about causing too much damage to the plant, start by spraying the affected leaves instead. Apply the mixture again after seven days and continue to do so until the problem is firmly under control.
Also, use this formula as a fabulous preventative measure and spray the leaves every two to four weeks as maintenance.
Why do succulents attract bugs?
The moisture in the soil is what attracts the bugs to succulents, not the plants themselves. In fact, if you properly maintain your succulent, there is little potential for pests to arise at all.
Overwatering the plants is where the problem starts since most growers are used to giving their plants a little more water than succulents need.
This overwatering leads to soggy soil and an excess of moisture bugs love.
What bugs do succulents attract?
Any garden pest attracted to moisture eventually finds its way to an overwatered succulent. These harmful insects include mealybugs, scales, aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and ants.
If the constant sogginess breeds fungus, it will also attract creatures like fungus gnats that use this microbe as a main source of food.
A succulent’s habitat is naturally dry and arid, with long periods of drought in between watering. So they are used to going without water every now and then.
If you are worried about over or underwatering the plants, it’s better to err on the dry side of caution rather than attract harmful bugs.
The plant more easily recovers from missing a drink or two than it does from pest control issues.
If you’re worried about whether the plant is getting enough moisture or not, underwatered succulents tend to look wrinkled or shriveled up. It’s the same idea of how your fingertips start to develop tiny wrinkles when you’re dehydrated.
You may need to consider getting a humidifier for your plants.
How do you keep bugs off your succulents?
The best advice is to keep your succulents dry. Shower them the appropriate amount of water they need, keep the soil damp, but do not overwater them.
One way to check if your succulent is overwatered is to look at the leaves. If they appear translucent, soft, or mushy, you’re likely watering them far more than necessary.
Those leaves eventually turn black after rotting from the inside out, so it’s best not to let them get that far. Doing this is the most effective way of keeping your succulents pest free.
However, you can also use one of the DIY recipes noted above as a preventative measure to keep insects at bay.
How else do you get rid of bugs on your succulents?
There are many different pest control recipes out there, but sometimes all you need is just a little bit of water to knock off a small infestation.
Insecticidal soap or regular soap mixed with water also does wonders when getting rid of unwanted insects. The soap and water are enough to trap the pests underneath and essentially drown them where they stand.
In other cases, using more effective methods like neem oil or rubbing alcohol also helps.
Below, is a fantastic recipe for treating your plants with rubbing alcohol.
Homemade Alcohol Pest Remover
- 1 part rubbing alcohol
- 7 parts water
When collecting your ingredients, use rubbing alcohol that is 70% proof. Just as with neem oil, spray the leaves of the plant, not the flower or roots.
The alcohol works a little differently than the neem oil. It breaks down the coating on the bugs and dries out any soft sensitive areas.
Doing this makes the bugs more susceptible to harm and is easier to wash them away.
Neem oil is an incredible product for pest control when properly administered. It is critical not to use it in levels that are too strong for even the plant to handle.
You also don’t want to use it in aquatic gardens or areas where fish might suffer exposure to runoff. The oil is toxic to fish, even if it is safe to use around virtually everything else.
In any case, it’s a fantastic way to use natural ingredients in your garden without introducing harsh chemicals. To discover other ways to use neem oil, take a look at this fantastic article for more ideas.