Succulent plants are low maintenance because they can store water in their leaves and survive in dry weather. That’s why they can last longer than almost any other plant. For a mere observer, succulents may look like a pest-free and robust plant, especially the variety of cacti, but experienced growers know that succulents also have their problems with pests.
Even though insects are a natural part of gardening, and many insects are actually helpful (you should not consider them your enemies), some insects will damage plant growth. A great example is Aphids. It happened to me last year that three of my succulent plants almost died, getting dry and having plenty of tiny green dots in their leaves. These were aphids as I quickly learned…
Aphids suck vital fluids out of the plant
As I researched the topic more and more, I found out that aphids suck vital fluids out of plants, they get try and may eventually die.Aphids are those tiny green, yellow, pink, or soft-bodied black insects that are damaging the leaves and stem of the succulents.
Almost all plants have Aphids, but while for some mature plants they do not represent a major risk (unless we talk about the “beauty” aspect of the plant), for some smaller succulents aphids can cause even death.
Most Aphids are on the underside of the leaves which makes them harder to detect by a human hand. As a result of aphids infestation, succulent leaves will turn yellow and become distorted. In cacti, however, the first sign is not the yellowing of the leaves. It is not easy to detect if the plants are still healthy or not because they look like a strong plant because of their thorns and fattier structure.
We can only recognize when something is happening when the plant is continuously turning thinner with whitey dots because the fluid or nutrients inside of the plants are getting sucked away by aphids. After a few weeks or months, its thorns become brown. At that moment, the only choice is to cut the damaged part and replant the non-damage part for it to survive. When you identify Aphids in early stages, however, you can use some home remedies to get rid of them. Before we look at these remedies, let me first specify five common causes of infestation with aphids.
Five causes of aphids and four most common symptoms in succulents
To the main causes of aphids infestation belong the following five causes. Remember that severe infestation is typically a cumulative result of two or more causes.
- Lack of sunlight and water
- Strong heat not suitable for the plant
- Excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides
- Transplanting and changing of climate of the plant
- Springtime in a year that’s heavy with aphids
To the most common symptoms belong:
- The unnecessary death of leaves
- Yellowing and honeydew on leaves
- The stem is getting dry
- Wilting or folding of leaves
Now you know how to identify aphids on your succulents, and what causes this infestation to erupt and get worse. Let’s have a look at some easy home-made remedies.
One of the easiest ways to treat aphids is by getting one tsp. dish-washing liquid, one tsp. vegetable oil and two cups of water. Pour the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake gently, then finally lightly spray onto the affected area, or even on both sides of the leaves.
The combination of oil and dish-washing liquid covers the spiracles that will suffocate the aphids. After 3 to 4 hours, wipe the leaves and stem with a soft rag or tissue to remove the soapy residue. It takes three days to see the result if the home remedies are effective or not for the succulents.
The second natural way to kill or repel aphids is using 0nion-garlic solution made from two medium-size onion, two garlic cloves, and three cups of water (depending on your needs).
Chop them very finely, or if there is access with blender or food processor, it is much better. Mix the garlic and onion with water in a container and leave it to soak overnight.
Spray in the succulent leaves and stem with your solution. The smell of garlic and onion makes the aphids stay away from the plant. Keep the remaining solution in the refrigerator for future use. Repeat the process every seven days or so to keep aphids away from your succulents and even from other plants.
Baking Soda-Dishwashing Liquid- Oil-Water-Spray
Third natural remedy is the Baking Soda-Dishwashing Liquid-Oil-Water solution, made of one teaspoon of baking soda and one-third cup of vegetable oil or regular oil if possible. It may not kill all aphids, but it has a repellent action and progress to get rid of the pests.
Fourth option mixing 70% alcohol, a little bit of dish-washing liquid, and water. It is one of the least choices to treat succulents, but if you don’t have oil, onion, or garlic, this remedy may work.
Fifth home remedy is the mixture of tomato leaves and water. In this solution, it is still possible to add one tsp. of oil to make it even more effective in killing aphids on succulents.
Tomato has a toxic compound called alkaloids that can be found in its leaves. What you need to do is chop the leaves, and soak overnight with water in the spray bottle. It is a natural aphid’s killer and is not dangerous for humans or pets. The same process with other remedies, it should be sprayed on both sides of the leaves and stem for a better result.
As a succulent lover, I already tried the dishwashing liquid and oil solution to my cacti, Haworthia, or the “alligator tail” succulents, as well as to my water plant like Lucky Bambo. I found that the solution works great against aphids.
Two Basic Techniques to Trap Aphids
- Yellow Glass. Get yellow glasses and add water, as well as soap or detergents to break water tension. Place these glasses inside your garden or near your plants and eventually, aphids will drown inside the glass and die. We can also trap and capture aphids by yellow paper with sticky substance or tape and let the aphids walk into it.
- Fake Garden. We can also install or make a separate fake garden to distract or trap aphids. Just make sure that the plant inside the fake garden is not placed in the real and original garden. For this project, you can use Larkspur, Cosmos, Aster, Tuberous begonia, and Mum plants for your fake garden.
Even though we can successfully kill aphids on succulents, it doesn’t mean that it will no longer attract pests. From time to time, cacti and succulents develop different problems related to their conditions, pests, and diseases. But there are basic ways on how you can prevent the aphids from attacking your succulents.
Final thoughts on pest prevention on succulents
- Succulent must be strong and healthy during the growing season.
- Always remove dead leaves of the succulents to avoid aphids and other insects hiding and breeding into it. It also helps to prevent mold.
- Don’t use running water for the succulents because too much water will kill the plant. Utilizing a spray is more applicable. If the soil of succulents is always wet, it may also attract aphids and other pests.
- Never reuse soil or putting dead leaves from plants that are affected by aphids, because there are still survivor eggs of insects into it that will infect your healthy or new plants.
- Maintenance of natural or home remedies spray for the succulent will help them to grow and become healthier continuously. It is a 100% solution that was non-toxic to humans, but it can repel harmful aphids.
- Lastly, it is the least choice of repelling aphids, use pesticides if you don’t have time to make home remedies for your plants, or if they do not work.
I hope this post helps you figure out how to keep your succulents safe from pests, especially from aphids. To learn more about how to care for succulents, feel free to read my ultimate guide on How to Grow Succulents.