If you’re an avid gardener, chances are you’ve encountered an aphid infestation at least once before. If you are new to the gardening world and noticed aphids on your fresh plants or flowers, you are probably very annoyed. To say that aphids are a nuisance would be an understatement. So, you need to get rid of them, but you don’t want to make it worse by using toxic chemicals. The question many homeowners have is, how do you kill aphids naturally?
My wife recently noticed that her newly planted roses were infested with aphids. It was time for me to research ways to control this problem naturally. But we first need to know what aphids are.
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are tiny insects that love to feed on leaves by sucking out their sap. They subsequently secrete honeydew, a sugar-rich sticky liquid that causes sooty mold. Although aphids seldom kill mature plants, they can seriously stress and damage them.
These insects can reproduce quite rapidly to the point where it’s easy for them to populate your garden in just one season.
Aphids are so small that they can be hard to identify. They can also range in appearance, with some looking green, while others can be brown, red, yellow, or even black. One way to tell if you have an aphid infestation is to check on your plants.
If you notice that they are yellowing, have twisted or curled up leaves, dead shoots, or are stunted in growth, chances are you’re dealing with an aphid infestation.
You can also check the undersides of the leaves for the aphids. Even if they’re not present in the moment, you’ll know they were there because of the sticky sap they leave behind.
How To Kill Aphids Naturally
While many pesticides may get rid of aphids successfully, they can also be harmful to your plants and the environment. To remove aphids from your garden naturally, there are various methods you can use. Take a look at these options and choose a solution that works for you.
Hosing Off Aphids
A great natural way to kill aphids is by hosing them off plants. Set the garden hose pressure strong enough to wash off the aphids but not so strong that it damages plants or fruits.
You may have to hose them down a couple of days in a row to kill them completely. Make sure that you focus on the underside of the leaves, as that’s where aphids tend to hide.
This video from the University of California’s agricultural and natural resources department demonstrates how to hose off aphids.
Spraying Soapy Water
Another way to kill aphids naturally is with soapy water. To accomplish this, all you need to do is combine several teaspoons of liquid dish soap with water and mix it into a spray bottle filled with water. Then spray the solution onto the leaves, making sure to get the stems and buds of the plant.
Alternatively, you can also add essential oils to some water to make a solution that can kill off aphids. Mix several drops of peppermint, clove, rosemary, and thyme into a spray bottle filled with water, and you are ready to eliminate the problem.
Gary Pilarchik demonstrates how to do this in this video below:
Ladybugs are known to eat aphids, particularly in their larvae stage. You can purchase ladybugs and then release them into your garden to get rid of the aphids. Be sure to lightly mist your plants with some water to encourage the ladybugs to stop and drink some of the water, thus leading them to the aphids.
Aphids love roses and that was the problem we had in our front garden until my wife decided to try ladybugs.
An interesting complication is that, unlike California where you can buy them locally in any garden center, they were not available in Delaware. She had to purchase them online from an out of State garden center. The good news is that it was an effective solution.
She let them out by the rose bushes and in just one day they were almost all gone. A couple of weeks later the roses are very healthy as you can see in the picture. All thanks to the ladybugs!
In this video below, Midwest Gardener shows how 1,500 ladybugs he also purchased on Amazon successfully got rid of the aphids infestation he had in his garden. The video shows the effectiveness of using ladybugs with before and after images.
How to Prevent Aphids From Coming Back
There are some things you can do to prevent aphids. Or at least you may catch the problem early, and you’ll be able to get rid of it much quicker.
Keep an Eye on Your Plants
Start monitoring your plants in early spring. You don’t have to check every day, but now and then, inspect a few leaves and make sure aphids are not back.
Check for Ants
Ants love the honeydew aphids leave behind. So, an excessive amount of ants may be a tell-tale sign of an incoming aphids infestation.
Take Advantage of Plants Aphids don’t Like
Aphids dislike certain plants you can take advantage of. Of course, you need to make sure these are plants you like. You don’t want to repel Aphids with plants you hate to see every day. Some of these plants aphids hate are onions, catnip, garlic, chives, and allium.
Don’t Use Too Much Fertilizer
Be sure that you are not over-fertilizing your plants because aphids like to feed on plants that have high levels of nitrogen in them. Instead, try to fertilize your plants with a slow-release fertilizer that releases nutrients gradually over time.
Protect Your Plants and Veggies
During spring, you can protect your plants and veggies by using floating row covers on them. These covers will not only keep aphids out, they’ll also keep away any other insect that can destroy your plants. The best part is, these row covers can still let in sunlight and moisture to make sure your plants are getting the nutrients they need. Be sure to remove the row covers once your seedlings get to be a few inches tall or when the weather starts to warm up.