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 are the uses of Neem powder for plants best kept for use on people?
Related: Using Neem as a Soil Drench
Is Neem Powder Good For 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 for Plants?
Neem oil is present in all parts of the plant, and cold-pressing just about any part of the plant results in an extract of raw neem oil and neem cakes.
It also has active ingredients, namely Azadirachtin, that make a great pest repellant.
Interestingly enough, the leaves can be dried like 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 for plants uses has become more readily available for people who make their skincare products.
It’s effective in killing all stages of insects, including egg, larvae, and adult.
Neem powder uses for plants can include acting as a fungicide, especially if your plants are plagued with fungus. Some examples of common fungal diseases it can treat are powdery mildew, rust, and black spot.
Neem Tea For Plants
You can brew neem powder just like regular compost tea and use this as a natural pesticide (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 oil sprays.
How to Use Neem Powder For Plants
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 powder is a safe and non-toxic way to combat a wide variety of insect pests, such as grubs, nematodes, mites, aphids, thrips, beetles, white ants, and caterpillars.
The dust can get onto an insect’s body, which it will then ingest as it grooms. Putting neem seed cake into the soil will protect the plant roots from these insects.
However, you should avoid dusting outdoor plants, as beneficial insects or pollinators may come in contact with the powder.
Examples include bees and butterflies, so ensure you’re spraying them in the morning and evening.
This also makes a great natural nematicide or antifeedant.
Lightly dusting the ground around a plant will help kill a wide range of ground insects, without harming earthworms.
The powder can kill ants, which may or may not be preferred, so remember this 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 cake 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 for neem leaf powder, consider buying one, as they’re easy to care for and provide both beauty and an easy source of neem.
How to Make Neem Powder for Plants at Home
The process of 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 them 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 it or bring it 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.