Neem Oil as Organic Pest Control

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Neem Oil As Organic Pest Control

I love my houseplants, and indoor gardening is one of my favorite winter hobbies. But I’ve spent enough of my time dealing with houseplant pests, and I’m tired of all the fuss. So, I finally broke down and purchased some organic neem oil to use against pesty houseplant pests. I have known about neem oil as organic pest control for some time, but didn’t purchase it before because it can be a bit spendy.

Neem Oil And Soap Kill Houseplant Pests

Neem Oil And Soap Kill Houseplant Pests

What Is Neem Oil?

According to the label “Neem oil is pressed from the seeds of the Indian Neem tree”. The label doesn’t say how it works to kill pests. But from what I’ve read elsewhere, it messes with the brains of the houseplant pests, so they stop eating and mating and eventually die off. Neem oil won’t kill all of the the houseplant pests on contact, so it might take a few days for all of the bugs to disappear.

Related Post: Debugging and Cleaning Potted Plants

Aphids On Houseplants

Aphids On Houseplants

Neem Oil as Organic Pest Control

There’s no way I’m using chemical pesticides, so the fact that neem oil is a natural, organic product is awesome. In years past, I’ve had chronic issues with houseplant pests like spider mites, whiteflies, scale, aphids, soil gnats and mealybugs.

Last year, we decided to try growing a pepper plant hydroponically. I’ve tried overwintering pepper plants in the house before, and I found that no amount of cleaning them would keep the aphids away. Pepper plants are serious aphid magnets. Since aphids multiply very quickly and I didn’t want to spend my winter fighting them again (and risk a repeat of the aphid outbreak I had in 2009, ugh!), I decided to bite the bullet and give neem oil a try.

Spray Neem Oil On houseplants

Spray Neem Oil On houseplants

How To Use Neem Oil As Organic Pesticide

The directions say to mix the neem oil with a little mild liquid soap (I recommend using Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap), which helps the oil mix with water. The soap has the added effect of killing the houseplant pests on contact, so you should see an improvement right away.

Neem oil also has a residual effect, so you don’t have to spray the plant every day like you would with other organic pest control methods. I spray it on my pepper plant every month or so in the winter just to keep the aphids in check. You could wait until you see evidence of pests before spraying the plant again, because the infestation might go away completely after applying neem oil.

Neem Oil On Houseplants

Neem Oil On Houseplants

I am happy to report that our pepper plant has been aphid free since we started using neem oil as organic pest control. I also tried it on the whiteflies that have been plaguing my hibiscus and plumeria plants for five years, and it worked like a charm. No whiteflies in my house this winter, woohoo.

White Flies On Houseplants

White Flies On Houseplants

I would recommend using neem oil as organic pest control if you are tired of fighting houseplant pest infestations. It’s expensive, but it comes in a concentrate, so a large bottle will last you a long time. Trust me, it’s worth. every. penny! You can buy neem oil here. It sure has made my life a lot easier.

For more information and tips for how to combat those super annoying indoor garden pests, click here… Houseplant Pests

Have you ever tried neem oil as organic pest control? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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  1. says

    I tried eradicating scale insect which is a menace to my orchids and mealy bugs to some of my plants which they keep coming back.
    Then I tried using neem oil and light soap for the mixture.
    I got it from an Indian store which sells it very cheap – like a sundry price.
    And it worked so far..
    The only setback – there is this oil fragrance that is a bit repulsive.
    I guess it

    • says

      Glad to hear you had success using neem oil! I haven't tried it against scale or mealy bugs yet since I haven't had to deal with these pests in a few years (knock on wood). It does have a strong smell, but it goes away after a few minutes, so it hasn't bothered me too much. At least you know it's not a toxic substance you're breathing in, that's a good thing.


    • Amy Andrychowicz says

      Oooo, good to know! I wonder if it will work on other types of fungi. I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. Jenna says

    I have used neem oil to combat aphids and spider mites on my hibiscus. My plant sits in front of a window so I sprayed it in the evening. i have never used it before so I sprayed as much of the plant as I could, cause I read it only kills aphids if it hits them and I had aphids all around the flower buds and underside of my hibiscus flowers.
    It is approximately one week later and there are no buds on my plant and i have about half of the leaves have turned yellow….help! did I just shock the plant? could it be that the sunny window the next day fried the leaves or is it safe once it dries on the plant?
    This is my first plant I have taken in the house in the fall, and I did not know I needed to give it a good water soaking before I brought it in! It did not have aphids outside and was flourishing. It actually did well and was blooming tons till I sprayed it with the neem. Please keep in mind that it is November, and I think this plant also can go “dormant” at certain times of the year but the fact that I sprayed it last week seems important.
    any advice?

    • says

      It’s not uncommon for a hibiscus to start dropping it’s leaves once it comes indoors in the fall – and like you said, hibiscus plants will start to go dormant for winter. I would make sure that you are watering it consistently (don’t overwater though), and keep an eye on it. The sun coming through the window at this time of the year probably isn’t strong enough to burn the leaves. I’m guessing that the shock of moving indoors is what’s causing the yellow leaves, and not the neem oil.

      Good luck,

  3. Jenna says

    Thank you! The interesting part is that the majority of the leaves that turned yellow, didnt fall off. I picked them off. The bush still has approx. half of its leaves and is looking better this week vs last. I do see small fruit fly type flies sometimes around the plant and there is definately some sort of little worm in the soil, they are very tiny. Im assuming they are from the soil that the plant came with in its original pot cause i only used potting soil when I replanted it in the summer. Do you have any concerns with these details and do you suggest I give the plant any nutrients or miracle grow or anything???

    • says

      Those bugs you describe are called soil gnats. Here’s a post I wrote about how to control those… How to Control Soil Gnats

      Don’t fertilize it during the winter, maintain it in it’s semi dormant state. Once it gets used to being inside, you should start to see new growth and it will probably even flower for you this winter.


  4. Brad Gregory says

    I sprayed neem oil on my hibiscus and heard it was bad for them.The bottle never gave an accurate description
    of the mixture ratio?So i poured a small amount of neem oil in a water spray bottle with dawn dish soap and sprayed it on a white infestation(possibly scales) causing harm to my hibiscus plants.What should i do next?
    Did I cause harm to my plants?

    • says

      Oh bummer!! Chemical pesticides don’t usually work on mealybugs, they are immune to most chemical pesticides. I would stick with the Neem oil and also work to dab the mealybugs off with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. In time, they will die off. Good luck!

  5. Barb says

    I am going to try and buy it local and use it on my grapes for Japanese Beetles anyone ever use it for those critters and did it work?

  6. Sherry says

    Can I use been oil on a jade plant? My jades have been outside for the summer and I want to bring them in without infecting other plants! I’ve heard that neem oil or Murphys oil soap can harm jades and cause them to suffocate from the oil. Is this true? What should I treat a jade with for scale? They also look like they have some kind of fungus on them. It’s a white fuzzy patch (not mealy bugs) and underneath the patch its all brown. Not sure if I should go straight to liquid sevin or not! Thanx so much for any advice! I have an indoor greenhouse and don’t want to bring anything in!

    • says

      I haven’t used neem oil on my jade plant before, because I haven’t needed to. But, it should be safe to use as long as you buy the pure oil (with no other chemical additives that many companies put in). The stuff I buy (shown above) is organic, and pure neem oil. Follow the directions on the label to use it on your plant. I would test it on your jade before spraying the whole plant. Spray a few leaves and leave it for a week and make sure the spray didn’t cause any damage.

      Jade plants can get powdery mildew and other types of mildew too, so that’s probably the white stuff. The neem oil spray should help with that too, but it’s good to remove the heavily damaged leaves so that it won’t spread to the rest of the plant (unless all the leaves are already infected, don’t remove them all! :-) ). Here’s a post I wrote about scale… Controlling Houseplant Scale

      • Sherry says

        Amy, Thanx for all your valuable info. I just bought your e-book for battling bugs on indoor plants! Do you use Neem oil on even your succulent plants too? Do you also ‘wash’ them in the tub of soapy water and neem before bringing them inside for the winter? It seems like they would get way too wet after submerging them for 10 minutes or so and get “rot” from being too wet! OR do you just use a spray bottle on the succulents with the neem and soap? Thanx, you’re a great help!

        • says

          You’re welcome Sherry, thanks for buying the e-book! I hope you love it! Yes, as long as you get pure neem oil (like the kind I show in this post) and then dilute it yourself it should be safe. If you’re worried, just spray it on a few leaves to test it out and give it a few days to make sure it doesn’t cause any damage. Be careful about what type of soap you use though. Use a mild liquid soap (like the one I mention above), because soaps with detergents and degreasers can cause damage to plants.

          I soak my plants in a tub of soapy water to debug them before bringing them inside. I do this with all my succulents, and haven’t had a problem with them rotting. Make sure to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering them again, and only do this with plants that are in pots that have drainage holes. Also, be sure to allow the water to drain completely from the pot. I don’t put neem oil in the water when I soak the plants. I only spray neem oil on plants that are prone to pest infestations, or when I see the first signs of an infestation.

          If you’re too nervous to try that method, you can simply wash the plants and give them a good hose down before bringing them in. But again, make sure they have plenty of time to drain. Of course, if you want you could spray them all with neem oil (after testing it on a few leaves). But it can be a bit stinky when you spray everything at once. :-)

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