Thursday, September 19, 2013

Natural Houseplant Insect Repellent

Aphids, or plant lice, are a common pest that can feed on almost all types of houseplants.

Houseplants are just as susceptible to insect pests as outdoor plants. Some of these pests can cause significant damage. Chemical insecticides can eliminate many insects, but aren't always safe for your family. There are natural alternatives that are effective against many indoor insects, as well as safe for both your plants and your family.

Alcohol Spray

Alcohol spray can be effective against aphids, whiteflies, and scaly insects. It is typically most successful on plants with heavy, waxy leaves that aren't easily burned. Mix a cup of rubbing alcohol to 4 cups water in a spray bottle. Test a small area first. If the test spot shows no ill effects from the spray after a couple of days, treat the entire plant to kill off the pests.

Nightshade Plants

The nightshade family of plants, specifically tomato and tobacco plants, contain alkaloids, which are toxic for many plant pests. Tomato leaf sprays can help eliminate aphids and nicotine sprays can be effective against most soil pests such as aphids, fungus gnats, and some leaf-eating insects. Make a tomato leaf spray by mixing a cup of chopped tomato leaves with 2 cups of water and leave it to soak overnight. Strain and add 2 cups of water to dilute the liquid. Spray the leaves of your plant on both sides. To make a tobacco leaf spray, soak a cup of dried tobacco leaves, or cigarette butts, in a gallon of warm water. Add 2 to 3 drops of liquid soap and leave it to soak for 30 minutes. Strain and spray on the soil near the stem and root area and on both sides of the leaves. Nicotine may be absorbed by plants and can stay inside the plant for several weeks so it's best to avoid spraying on food plants with nicotine. Reapply as needed, never more than once each week.

Garlic Oil

Garlic oil is an effective repellent against many insect pests and for some, like aphids, earwigs and whiteflies, it's also toxic. To make your own garlic insecticide, soak 6 tbsp. minced garlic in 2 tsp. mineral oil for 24 hours. Add 2 cups of water and 2 to 3 drops of liquid soap. Stir the mixture and strain. When you're ready to use, dilute 2 tbsp. of the mixture with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and apply to your plant sparingly. Do a test spray before treating the entire plant and watch for leaf damage. If the leaves appear unaffected after a couple of days, then apply to the entire plant.


When made into teas, herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary, catnip, chives, feverfew, marigolds and white clover may kill leaf-eating pests such as aphids. Test different herbs before you find one that is effective against your particular plant pest. Make your own herbal spray by mashing together 1 to 2 cups of fresh leaves with 2 to 4 cups of water. Leave them to soak overnight. Strain the mixture through a piece of cheesecloth, add 1/4 tsp. liquid soap and dilute further with another 2 to 4 cups of water before spraying on your plants. Cover the tops and bottoms of the leaves and repeat as needed, typically in weekly intervals.

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