You won’t get far in any book or guide on plants without running into at least one mention of neem oil.
Using Neem oil on plant pests is one of the oldest and most popular garden products out there.
But neem’s claim to fame began with Ayurvedic medicine long before its use as a pesticide.
Even today, you’ll find neem oil in many healthcare products and even pet and beauty products.
You’ll hear us talk about Neem’s Big Three – raw neem seed oil, clarified hydrophobic neem oil, and neem cakes, but did you know you can also buy it in another form?
This “forgotten” fourth form of neem is neem powder, and it’s the version often used in the products above.
But is this something plant enthusiasts should be paying more attention to?
Or is Neem powder best kept for use on people?
Can You Use Neem Powder On Plants?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is also yes, but the process and uses may be a bit different from what you’re used to.
What is Neem Powder?
Neem oil is present in all parts of the plant, and cold-pressing just about any part of the plant results in raw neem oil and neem cakes.
Interestingly enough, the leaves can be dried just like with any other plant.
The sun-dried plant leaves are crushed into a powder.
As neem is becoming more readily available and gaining popularity among the organic health crowd, neem powder has become more readily available for people who make their skincare products.
You can brew neem powder just like regular compost tea and use this as an insecticide (as well as an herbal remedy).
Neem tea is very useful on plants with sensitivity to soap, as there’s no need to emulsify the water before use.
The process is very easy, and you can even make it in a teakettle since the neem is non-toxic.
Steep the neem powder for a while to make a nice, strong tea.
Allow the tea to cool and strain out the solids, which you can add to your compost.
Pour the tea into a spray bottle and treat plants as you would with a neem foliar spray.
Neem Powder as a Plant Dust
Another nice quality of neem powder is its use to dust plants or soil in the same fashion as diatomaceous earth.
Gently dusting your indoor plants with the powder is a safe and non-toxic way to combat a wide variety of insect pests.
The dust can get onto an insect’s body, which it will then ingest as it grooms.
You should avoid dusting outdoor plants, as beneficial insects may come in contact with the powder.
Lightly dusting the ground around a plant will help kill a wide range of ground insects, such as grubs, without harming earthworms.
The powder can kill ants, which may or may not be preferred, so keep this in mind before using it.
Also, note that the powder does have an NPK ratio that might differ from one brand to the next.
When it rains, or the plant is watered, the powder will release neem and nutrients into the soil, so be careful about using it on plants that you’ve confirmed have a reaction to neem oil.
Where to Find Neem Powder
It’s pretty easy to find neem powder on Amazon or other online stores.
If you have access to Azadirachta indica (AKA the neem tree), you can also harvest fresh, healthy leaves and make your own powder.
If you don’t have a neem tree nearby, consider buying one, as they’re easy to care for and provide both beauty and an easy source of neem.
Making Homemade Neem Powder
The process for making neem powder is quite easy, and you’ll know the powder is fresh and at full potency by doing it yourself.
You can also purchase fresh neem leaves online, but make sure they are not treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
To make homemade neem powder:
- Thoroughly wash three cups of fresh neem leaves under running water and hang upside down to allow the surfaces to dry.
- Next, place the individual leaves in a single layer on some parchment paper-lined baking sheets or a similar surface.
- Set the tray outside in a place with some shade, and be sure to cover or bring inside if it’s about to rain.
- Avoid direct sunlight, as this can weaken the Azadirachtin’s potency and leech out important nutrients.
- After a couple of days, the leaves should feel crisp and dry to the touch and may be left out if they need more time.
- Once fully dried, grind the leaves with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
- You may sift out any larger chunks if you plan to use the powder in a skin product or leave them in for garden use.
- Store the powder in an airtight container in the pantry or another cool, dry place away from sunlight.