How to Get Rid Of Aphids: Top 10 Super Clever Natural Ways to Control Aphids

How to Get Rid Of Aphids: The Best Super Clever Natural Ways

Aphids are a common pest affecting indoor and outdoor plants. The tiny pests can have yellow, brown, red, green, white, or black color. These pesky pear-shaped insects feed from the sap of plants, and large numbers can cause huge damage to plants. In this article you will learn how to get rid of aphids and how to identify them.  This article also includes a special section on how to get rid of aphids from your roses.

How to get rid of aphids: Physically remove aphids by brushing the plant, spraying water or pinching them off the plant. Control aphids naturally by spraying them with soapy water. Control aphids by using a natural organic spray containing a mixture of water and neem oil. Introduce natural aphid killers such as ladybugs and green lacewings.

What Are Aphids?

Aphids are pear-shaped insects that feed from the sap of plants. They are approximately 1/8-inch-long and may be green, yellow, red, black, white or brown in color depending on their food source and species. Some adult aphids have wings.

Aphids are pests that feed in clusters on new plants, which can cause wilt or a yellowish tint on plants. They can also prevent the plant from properly growing. In addition, several species can transmit plant diseases during feeding. They are also on the list of common houseplant pests.

Aphids multiply quickly, so try to control them before reproduction starts. Many generations can occur in one season. The good news is that they tend to move rather slowly and it’s relatively easy to get rid of aphids naturally.

What Aphids Look Like and How to Identify Aphids

Picture of aphids showing how they look like

Picture of aphids showing how they look like

What aphids look like? Aphids are tiny (they are approximately ⅛” long), and often invisible to the naked eye. Various species can appear white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light green, or even pink. Some aphids may have a waxy or woolly coating.

Here are a few signs of aphid damage:

  • Look for misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellow leaves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves as aphids love to hide there.
  • Look for leaves or stems that are covered with a sticky substance. This is a sign that aphids may have been sipping sap.
  • The honeydew, a sugary liquid produced by aphids as waste, can attract other insects, such as ants, which gather the substance for food. The honeydew can sometimes develop a fungal growth called sooty mold, causing branches and leaves to appear black.
  • Look for distorted flowers or fruits. Aphids feeding on flowers or fruit can cause them to become distorted.

How to Get Rid of Aphids Naturally

Pesticides, herbicides and insecticides have been linked to cancer, birth defects, autism, damaged brain function and depression, just to name a few. If you are growing plants organically, you won’t want to get rid of plant pests with any sort of chemicals. Luckily, there are several ways to keep aphids away from your plants naturally.

Here are some of the best natural ways to get rid of aphids.

1. Neem Oil is an Organic Aphid Control

Not only does neem oil repel aphids, it also repels mealy bugs, beetles, cabbage worms, ants, caterpillars and leaf miners. It can also be used to control fungus from being spread to other plants in your garden. Using neem oil is one of the ways to control some types of houseplant pests.

Neem oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the seed kernels of Neem trees. Neem oil is widely used in skin and hair care products, and as an insect repellent. It has a deep yellow color with a similar odor to garlic. Neem oil contains organic chemicals that act as a bug repellent and can be used as an organic aphid control.

Many commercial insecticides contain a refined extract of neem oil, but this is alongside many other dubious ingredients that are harmful to the planet.

You can use neem oil for your plants to control aphids and here is a recipe for a natural neem oil insecticide:

  • 2 tablespoons of neem oil with one tablespoon of Castile soap.
  • Add water as needed in a spray bottle and shake well.
  • Spray on plants as needed.

2. Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to Naturally Kill Aphids

You can use Diatomaceous earth to get rid of outdoor and indoor plant pests. Diatomaceous earth is a material composed of the fossils of tiny aquatic organisms known as diatoms. The skeleton of these tiny organisms features microscopically sharp edges that scrape through the protective coverings of insects. DE which is labelled as food grade is safe to use around pets and people and has little or no impact on the environment.

Before you apply DE, you need to put on a respiratory dust mask and safety goggles, as it is a fine powder that can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled and cause eye irritation.

There are 2 ways to apply diatomaceous earth to kill aphids: a dry method and a wet method.

Dry method – The best time to apply DE is early morning or late evening when the plants are wet with dew, as the moisture helps the DE to adhere to the plant. Alternatively, before applying the DE, use your hose to water the plants. Do it to all sides of the plant, including the underside of the leaves. Then dust your plants while they are still wet and make sure to apply the DE on the underside of the leaves as well. Apply DE around the plant base as well to deter snails, slugs and other crawling bugs.

Wet method – Mix 4-5 tablespoons of DE into a 1-gallon jug of water and pour to a spray bottle. Spray the plants including the undersides of leaves until the plants are wet but not dripping. Shake regularly to prevent the DE from sinking at the bottom of the spray bottle. Once the plants dry, they will have a thin, even coating of DE.

3. Physically Remove the Aphids

If you have just noticed damage to your plants and infestation is only minor, you may be able to physically remove the aphids. You will need a pair of gardening gloves and a brush.

Use the brush to scrape the insects off the leaves. You can also pinch them off from leaves and stems. Prune off infected stalks to prevent them from spreading to healthy parts of the plants. Be sure to drop the aphids into a bucket of soapy water as this will kill the aphids.

Another idea is to just spray the aphids off the plants with the hose! They can’t fly and won’t make it back to the plant

Aphids can usually be physically knocked off the plant. Once they fall to the ground, they are unlikely to reestablish on the plant because they are poor climbers and will likely be eaten by other predators first.

4. Use Natural Soap and Water to Organically Control Aphids

Chances are you have an aphid natural remedy in your home right now. Soapy hot water can be used to get rid of mild to moderate aphid infestations. Aphids have a waxy protective coating that dissolves once it hits the soapy water. This will dehydrate the bugs and eventually kill them without harming the plant.

Start by diluting a few tablespoons of natural organic soap (such as Castile soap) into a bucket of water. Use a spray bottle or a sponge to apply the soapy water to the plant. Be sure to treat both sides of the leaves as aphid eggs and larvae like to hide.

Just like neem oil, soap and water will also kill off insects that are beneficial to plants. So be very careful when applying the natural garden pesticide. Killing off ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies will allow more aphids to take over.

Here is another idea on how to use Castile soap with essential oils as a general insect repellent. You can use this Castile soap recipe to naturally repel bugs such as ants, spiders, roaches, and other creepy-crawlers:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid Castile soap
  • 2 cups of water
  • 10 drops of citronella essential oil
  • 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake before each use. You can also add in a few drops of peppermint essential oil to this mixture. Spiders especially hate that!

You can also use other natural ways to get rid of ants, spiders, roaches, and flies.

5. Use Epsom Salt

Epsom slat can be extremely beneficial for your plants and you can find detailed information about it in my previous article. Epsom salt can also help you to get rid of aphids.

You can add 1/4 cup of Epsom salt to the above mixture and spray it on the plant, including the bottom of the leaves, in the late afternoon or early evening. The next morning rinse the tops of the leaves to prevent sun scorching and leaf drop.

You can use this on roses, oranges and grapes and even on your tomatoes. This will also remove most of the black smut fungus that grows on the honeydew from the aphids.

6. Introduce Beneficial Insects (Natural Aphid Killers)

If you don’t want to treat your plants with anything, you can protect your plants by introducing proactive bugs that are natural aphid killers.

Ladybirds and ladybug beetles are some of the best known beneficial bugs that kill aphids. They can be bought in bulk from most gardening stores.

Green lacewings and hoverfly larvae are also beneficial because they are known to eat aphids. You can buy lacewing eggs but hoverflies will need to naturally be drawn to the plant with fennel, caraway or parsley.

In addition to introducing helpful bugs to your garden, you can try planting herbs such as garlic, oregano and catnip (catnip is also one of the best plants to repel mosquitoes). The odors of these plants attract beneficial bugs. Herbs such as mint, dill, fennel, yarrow and clover can be used to naturally attract lacewings and ladybugs.

Another technique is to attract wrens, titmice and chickadees to your garden, which are known to eat aphids and other pesky bugs. As these birds nest in small trees and other spots that provide good cover, you can attract them to your garden by planting hydrangeas, abelia and other shrubs with dense foliage nearby.

7. Lead the Ants Away

Because ants feed off the honeydew secreted from aphids, they will protect colonies of aphids from predators such as birds. If you can naturally draw the ants away from your garden, birds and other insects will have a better chance at eating aphids.

You can lead ants away from your garden naturally by lacing natural ant deterrents around the base. Ants do not like the smell of mint or cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon around the base of the infected aphid plant to keep ants from protecting them. For other ideas, read my article on how to get rid of ants naturally.

8. Choose Disease Resistant Plants

To limit the possibility of disease and infection being spread throughout your garden, choose plants that are disease resistant. Although there are very few options, most gardening stores should be able to tell you which plants are resistant to disease and aphids. Some examples may include geraniums, marigolds and alliums.

9. Feed Your Plants with Organic Fertilizers

Aphids are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft new growth, which is caused from over fertilizing and watering too much. Organic fertilizers are best to use because they release nutrients slowly.

10. Grow a Fake Garden

You can lure aphids away from your real garden by planting a garden designed just for them. This will keep them happily distracted from munching on your real garden. Aphids love the following plants:

  • Nasturtium
  • Aster
  • Cosmos
  • Mum
  • Larkspur
  • Hollyhock
  • Tuberous begonia
  • Dahlia
  • Zinnia
  • Verbena

In addition, be sure not to plant any of the above mentioned plants in the garden that you want aphids to stay out of.

If you have bugs affecting your indoor plants, read our extensive guide on how to get rid of houseplant pests.

How to Get Rid of Aphids on Roses

All kinds of aphids like roses, especially the main rose-attacking aphids, rose aphids. There are several species of rose aphids, but the most common is usually Macrosiphum rosae. Signs of rose aphid infestation often appear in early spring and summer months.

Some aphids may also carry rose mosaic virus, which causes bleaching and spotting on rose leaves. Signs of rose aphid infestation include curled, sticky or disfigured rose leaves and flower buds and leaves that are bronzed or have white spots, small green and/or pink insects clustered on the leaves, flower buds and shoot tips, rose plants become sticky and black sooty molds may grow. You may also notice white cast aphid skins on infested rose flower buds and leaves.

All the methods for getting rid of aphids naturally are also effective for roses, but in addition to them, you need to deadhead rose plants as soon as blooms are spent. Flowers commonly attract the aphids and provide them hiding place, and this will help with removing colonies from the plant.

Also prune out weak, dead, diseased or damaged rose stems during the winter to open the canopy and increase air flow to the plant, reducing the incidence of pests and diseases.

For more information on how to make your own DIY natural pesticides read the following article: How to Make Your Own Natural Garden Pesticides

Related article: Common Houseplant Pests: Types, Identification, and Control