There’s no denying the draw of an orchid. The orchid has long been associated with sexuality (thanks to the Greek physician Dioscorides). But more importantly, it can be a symbol of love, friendship, marriage, fertility, innocence, royalty, and more, depending on the color.
More interestingly, many of the 27,800 (and counting) varieties were eaten as an aphrodisiac. It comes from the Margosa tree, found mostly in India, where it has been used as an insect repellent and for pest control for centuries.
But there’s one thing that makes this plant far less romantic when you give one to your partner – a pest infestation.
You don’t want to use harsh chemicals on this wonderful flower. But can neem oil be used on orchids? Can you spray neem oil on orchids?
Thankfully, the gardener’s greatest natural ally, Neem oil, is a safe and effective pesticide protecting these floral treasures.
In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth look at neem oil and orchids, including neem oil on orchid leaves and its benefits.
How to Use Neem Oil Sprays for Orchid Pests
Using neem on an orchid isn’t much different than on other plants.
However, the orchid, like the Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), can be a little more sensitive, so a few extra steps can be vital to a healthy plant.
Precautions and How To Use Neem Oil on Orchids
Is neem oil safe for orchids? Yes, but as mentioned, orchids can be a little more sensitive than some of your other ornamental plants.
The following considerations will keep your orchids happy and healthy and can be applied to other flowering plants.
Neem products are included in some dog soaps and shampoos to repel fleas and ticks and are used as cattle-feed supplements to kill parasites like mosquitos.
- Avoid direct sunlight during treatment – Neem oil dissipates quickly, but a foliar spray is still water-based and can lead to sunburn when the wet leaves are exposed to direct sunlight.
- Don’t treat in temperatures above 85° degrees Fahrenheit – Neem oil loses potency at higher temperatures, and the heat may also lead to burns due to the oil content.
- Always test before treatment – Some orchid species can be more sensitive to neem oil. At the same time, individual plants can develop sensitivity, so test a small portion 24 hours before any treatment.
- Avoid the blooms – The flowers of many orchid species, including Miltonia and Masdevallia, can be sensitive to neem, even if the rest of the plant isn’t, so try not to get any on the flowers when using a foliar spray. Neem Oil on orchid roots can be applied without harm.
- Always spray outdoor plants at dusk or dawn – Bees and other beneficial insects are least active at this time, giving neem oil the 45 minutes to one hour needed to dissipate safely.
- Avoid using neem oil close to inhabited water features, as Azadirachtin is mildly toxic to many aquatic life forms.
Choosing the Type of Neem
There are three main types of neem, each with its own application and abilities.
100% percent cold-pressed raw neem oil is the unmodified form of neem oil.
Always make sure you buy cold-pressed, so it’s at the most potent, and store it in a cool, dry place. Raw neem contains Azadirachtin, a natural insecticide mimicking many insect species’ hormones.
Used in soil soaks, the Azadirachtin becomes a systemic insecticide consumed by any pest that pierces or chews the plant. This effectively controls aphids, caterpillars, fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, and scale.
Once ingested, Azadirachtin can block appetite signals, cause infertility, and prevent nymphs from reaching adulthood.
Never use raw neem in foliar sprays due to the risk of chemical burns.
Neem cakes are the solid remnants left after extracting raw neem oil. They contain trace amounts of neem oil and Azadirachtin and are commonly used as a supplemental fertilizer.
Azadirachtin and other active ingredients in the neem seed have insecticidal properties that are effective against a broad spectrum of insects, many mites and nematodes, and even slugs, snails, and fungi and do not seem to generate resistance in the pests they affect.
The exact NPK varies by manufacturer but is usually around 4-1-2.
Neem cakes won’t affect leaf-based pests but can be an effective barrier against grubs and other ground-based pests without harming earthworms.
If you use neem oil for prophylactic purposes, spray your orchid plant and potting media once a month or so with a diluted neem oil solution. Neem oil can also be used to clean and shine your orchid’s leaves.
Clarified hydrophobic neem oil is a modified form of neem where most of the Azadirachtin is removed for use in chemical pesticides.
For Phalaenopsis orchids, it’s recommended to use a fine or light horticultural oil containing neem oil for orchid leaves affected by pests like spider mites, scale, thrips, mealy bugs, or aphids.
It comes in concentrations of .5 to 3% percent Azadirachtin content.
We strongly suggest using the .5 to 1% percent for orchids to reduce the risk of burns.
Clarified neem is most often used in neem oil spray for orchids because it is gentler and suffocates any bug it coats.
Neem Oil is our FAVORITE natural organic insecticide. Control aphids, mealybugs, plant scale, Japanese Beetles and more. It can also be used as a soil drench.
Using a Neem Foliar Spray
To make the foliar spray, first mix 1 teaspoon of pure castile soap per gallon of warm water.
NOTE: Avoid Dawn dish soap for orchids, as this may damage the wax if you use too much.
Stir 4 teaspoons of clarified neem into the mix and pour into a spray bottle.
We suggest using .5% percent as a preventative and 1% percent for most infestations.
Unless the infestation has spread to the flowers, try to put a piece of cardboard in front of them while spraying orchid neem oil and work from the top down.
This will protect the flowers of more sensitive species while still getting most infestations, although thrips and a few other pests may also attack the flowers.
Repeat every other day for 14 days or until the infestation is gone.
Simply break up the neem cake and apply it as instructed.
Remember that the cakes have NPK and are considered a fertilizer, so be sure to adjust your regular orchid fertilizer as needed to keep the proper NPK totals.
Neem Soil Soaks
Neem soaks can last up to 22 days in the plant and won’t harm the wax coating or flowers. However, potting mix soaks are not the best option for some orchids due to their epiphytic qualities.
To mix, make an emulsion using 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish soap or pure castile soap, then add 2 tablespoons of raw neem oil.
Pour 2 to 3 cups of the mixture onto the soil directly over the roots, covering a roughly equal radius of the root spread.
Avoid splashing the plant itself.
The neem will kill ground pests as it soaks down without harming earthworms and will be absorbed by the plant to become a systemic insecticide that doubles as a partial fungicide with antibacterial properties.
Reapply every 14 to 21 days at watering time as a preventative or until the infestation is gone.
Neem oil is one of the best systemic insecticides for orchids and a natural fungicide for orchids that is worth trying
It can be used to protect orchids from pests. Whether you’re dealing with scale, mealybugs, or other orchid pests, neem oil can be an excellent solution.
Neem oil orchids are also non-toxic to humans and pets, but you should still wait one day after treatment before making a bouquet, just if the recipient has an allergy or sensitivity to neem.
Just remember to follow the precautions and choose the right type of neem oil for your specific orchid needs.