Here’s a guide to recognizing aphid infestations and how to get rid of aphids naturally.
All gardeners eventually battle aphids in the home garden. Aphids on Houseplants can also be a problem. Other pests also pose problems to both indoor and outdoor plants.
Learn How to recognize aphids and aphid damage. We discuss strategies on how to kill and control these pests. Our homemade spray kills aphids and other pesky pests like spider mites, thrips and other common plant pests.
The recipe is in our how to card at the bottom of this post. If that’s what you’re here for. Click the jump to how to card button at the top of this post to avoid lengthy scrolling. 🙂
FYI: Fungus gnats on houseplants cannot be eliminated with these methods and products. Read our post on how to kill fungus gnats (and why you should) to control these disease spreading bugs.
How to Get Rid of Aphids on plants:
Step one: Learn what aphid damage looks like:
- Aphids are sap suckers. They take the nectar from plant stems and leaves.
- This diminishes the plant energy and its ability to grow and support its fruit.
- In a serious long term infestation the plant is stunted and so are the leaves.
- Aphids often carry virus that are transferred to the plants they attack.
- Aphids come in a myriad of species and attack a huge variety of house and garden plants.
The pictures below show the common types of leaf damage aphids do. And what aphids look like.
How to spot Aphid Damage.
The first part of learning How to Get Rid of Aphids is learning what they look like. And what the damage they cause also looks like.
Get a small hand held magnifier and look for the source of the plant damage.
Check the UNDERSIDES of leaves. Also look at buds and plant stem intersections.
Signs that your plant damage is from aphids.
- You may spot a mass of teeny aphids clumped up the plant stem just under the new leaf whorls (Aphids can be green, grey or black).
- The underside of the leaf, or running up the stem under the leaf, may have aphids or aphid eggs on it. They will be clumps of tiny white rice shaped objects.
- Once the eggs hatch out into nymphs you will find white flecks on the leaves. These are nymph castings.
- Watch for the castings every couple of weeks as the aphid lifecycle continues. The next generation will hatch and you will suddenly see LOTS more nymph castings.
- Also some shiny sticky aphid honeydew substance might be on the leaves. That’s what ants are interested in.
- Twisted, stunted, curled and sucked leaves.
- Sooty mold goes with Aphids too.
Herder Ants Farm Aphids:
Some ants protect and herd aphids like cattle for the honeydew nectar aphids produce.
Kids and pets safe Ant Killer:
- Cornmeal is bad for ant digestion. It will kill ants. Scout Ants take cornmeal back to the queen and hopefully the hill dies off with her.
- Cornmeal will not harm small kids or pets.
- Spread cornmeal along ant trails or near ant hills. This will take some time to work.
- Look for food grade diatomaceous earth. It cuts up the ant exoskeleton. Safe for kids and pets.
- Sprinkle some around any entrance point or ant hills you’ve located to get the job done.
- Non-food grade diatomaceous earth is harmful to breathe so stick with food grade..
- Diatomaceous earth dehydrates and kills the ants. Unfortunately it does not stick to them so it won’t kill the queen.
- To kill a whole ant hill you will have to find the hill, open it and pour the diatomaceous earth right into it.
How to Kill Aphids:
TIP: Once you spot pests or the damage they do on your plant, take control.
Remember, organic gardening is all about balance. Aphids only do a lot of damage when there are a LOT OF THEM.
Strategies to Kill aphids.
- Strong water spray will wash Aphid populations off your plant leaves and may be enough for a small infestation.
- Snip off heavily affected plant parts and remove the worst of the pests.
- Directly Spray aphids with our DIY Organic Insecticidal Soap with liquid dish soap. The Printable card at the post bottom.
- Pick them off with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab or wipe them off with baby wipes.
- Squishing aphids and scale with soapy fingers is another quick removal method (gross but it works).
- Isolate infected plants as much as possible. Remove a heavily infested plant if you must.
- Try essential oils. We add some suggestions for oils in our homemade aphid soap recipe below.
- For houseplants spraying may not be ideal. You can choose to wash each leaf of your plants top and bottom if that works best for you. Use a soft cloth or paper towel.
Suggested Non Toxic Aphid Sprays:
- Our Homemade Aphid Spray works well with tough vines like Pothos, and tender fussy plants like Calatheas. And all other Houseplants and outdoor plants. It just Requires a one quart spray bottle.
- Neem oil. Neem oil aphid treatment is safe for home and garden. We use it in our homemade spray. It’s very safe.
- Trifecta Spray is also natural and available on Amazon.
More Strategies on How to Get Rid of Aphids:
There are several methods discussed here to control aphid populations in the longer term. Learn how to minimize plant pests with these ideas.
Good allies in the aphid wars. Ladybugs in both the larval and adult stage eat about 5,000 aphids in their one year lifetime.
- Import and support Beneficial bugs. Certain wasps, Green Lacewing Larvae and good old lady bugs will eat lots of Aphids.
- Spiders are encouraged in our greenhouse because they eat aphids and mites too. (we have no toxic spiders here. 🙂
Here is an Amazon page of Beneficial Insects to purchase that your garden will love.
This is a wonderful way to beautify your garden and greenhouse. And naturally provide some control of aphids.
Rosemary, marigolds, thyme, garlic, chives, leeks, fennel, dill, cilantro and catnip all drive aphids away.
Plant these defender plants in amongst your plants that are susceptible to aphids.
- Plant them distinctly apart from other plants to draw pests away.
- Nasturtiums and sunflowers are good trap plants.
- Treat trap plants as infestations occur.
Your Printable Insecticide Recipe:
- 1/2 Teaspoon pure Castile liquid dish soap (or other organic liquid soap)
- 1 Tsp. Neem Oil
- 1 quart water-soft or average hard water for best results.
- A few added drops of lavender, peppermint, or orange oil
- mix the water and soap into a solution. Do NOT shake as it will cause lots of bubbles.
- Pour solution into the spray bottle.
- spray on the affected plant leaves on the top and bottom.
- Also spray stems, intersections and buds of flowers.
- Leave the solution on the plants overnight.
- Spray the plants with water after 12 hours of so to rinse the leaves and remove dead aphids.
- Reapply as needed. To interrupt the aphid life cycle spray every three days for two weeks.
Although the basic recipe will work as described you may wish to enhance your formula by adding
A few added drops of lavender, peppermint, or orange oil in this recipe will help repel pests and smells great!
Sensitivity of Plants:
If you find this recipe is too harsh and burns your plants. Cut the soap amount in half or follow this spray with an immediate spray of plain water to protect your plant leaves. Also sensitive plants like ferns, succulents, azaleas and waxy leaved plants may be harmed by this spray.
Water Hardness matters:
This recipe is most effective with average to soft water. A hard water will yield a less effective insecticidal spray recipe and can leave soap scum on your plant leaves.
How to use this Spray:
- DIY Organic Insecticidal Soap Recipe works on contact which means it must coat the insect to kill it.
- This spray has No residual effect and must be applied several times at weekly intervals for best control. Although neem oil has some lasting impact on insects most of the effectiveness of this spray is by direct contact.
- Spray the entire plant with special focus on those areas of your plant where you can find the bugs.
- Spray in the morning or evening in cooler temperatures and when plants are shaded. You want the spray to last. Once it dries the spray is ineffective.
The cost of this recipe is determined by which soap you use and if you have to purchase a spray bottle.
This insecticidal soap is not effective on fungus gnats. Read this article on how to kill and manage Fungus Gnats
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