Succulents are the most popular indoor plants among beginners and experts because of the magic they add to interior spaces. Also, succulent plants are easy to care for in indoor and outdoor environments. The succulents only need well-draining soil and light sources to thrive and fight common pests. If any of these factors are improper, the succulents will not grow and bloom. In this article, learn about pests in succulents and how to get rid of them.
A magical display of succulents Photo Credit
Succulents are low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and magically beautiful plants. They add aesthetics to living rooms, offices, hallways, and outdoor gardens. These stunning plants also act as air purifiers with striking flowers and leaves. However, one day you notice discolorations and dullness on your succulents, and the leading cause is common pests. These pests deprive your succulent plants of gorgeous leaves to dull and dead.
This article will discuss the common pests in succulents and how to eliminate them in organic and inorganic ways. It is essential to detect and manage these outdoor pests before they cause much damage to your favorite plants.
Pests in Succulents and How to Get Rid of Them?
The succulents are the most amazing plants because they are disease-free and do not need much care and attention except for good potting soil mix and light. However, they get insect pest infestation when the succulents spend their summer outdoors in USA hardiness zone 10, 11, and 12.
Succulent plants get infestations of spider mites, fungus gnats, scale insects, aphids, and mealybugs when outdoors or not healthy. These are the most common succulent pests and go unnoticed; they can deteriorate your favorite plants.
Spider mites on succulent plants are the most common problem and troublesome for plant owners and gardeners. They drive and thrive in dry, warm environments and hide between the leaves (because many succulents are stemless) and older leaves.
Spider mites infestation causes the small pale spots on infected plants and impacts their magical beauty. These tiny pests suck out plant juices and turn them into dull and deprived creatures.
Spider mites are primarily attracted to the light and the new growths of your plants facing direct sunlight. Not only this, but spider mites also inject toxins into the foliage of the infected plant and leading to characteristic drought-related symptoms.
Spider mites on a garden succulent along with fine webbing on the upper side of leaves Photo Credit
Spider mites on Lithops Photo Credit
Another essential symptom of spider mite infestation is the production of fine webbing on the underside of leaves, which looks unpleasant due to the accumulation of dust and spider mite eggs.
It is difficult to get rid of these tiny creatures but not impossible. Regular flushing with high-pressure water can help in the elimination of spider mites.
Mealybugs on Succulents
A tiny mealybug pest on the flower opening of Huernia insigniflora flower Photo Credit
Mealy bugs are the most problematic pests on succulents and cacti. They appear as white fuzzy and powdery substances present on the underside of leaves. Like spider mites, they suck sap from the host tissues and produce a sticky substance (honeydew) which attracts the secondary pests.
The honeydew promotes the growth of a black sooty mold fungus and black ants. Mealybugs get their name from a waxy and powdery covering that they produce. They are the most resistant to control on host plants. They feed in large colonies (consisting of all the life stages, crawlers, and adults) with a higher reproduction rate.
Furthermore, they hide in protected areas of plants, on the underside of leaves, and joints of the plant. Mealybugs can quickly spread from plant to plant, or even sometimes they are carried to new host plants through black ants for the bribe of more honeydew.
Mealybugs on a host plant with hiding tactics Photo Credit
Fungus Gnats on Succulents
The adult fungus gnats are harmless, except their presence is utterly noisy. However, the female fungus gnats lay eggs in your favorite indoor plants’ moist or wet soil. The eggs hatch into transparent or yellowish larvae responsible for significant damage. Fungus gnat’s larvae consume the young roots and negatively impact the plant strength.
Fungus gnat larvae in a large colony form Photo Credit
Even the fungus gnat larvae cause the root rot and encourage the soil-dwelling fungal pathogens. The easy way to identify these fungus gnat babies is they appear with yellow or clear skin with long narrow bodies and blackheads.
Note: Adult fungus gnats are beneficial insects sometimes because they consume excess moisture.
Male and female gnat flies Photo Credit
Aphids on Succulents or Plant Lice
Like mealy bugs, aphids are the most severe problem on succulent plants. They are the soft-bodied, pear-shaped, sap-sucking pests responsible for major leaf discolorations and dropping.
A heavy invasion of aphids on succulent plant Photo Credit
Within days, the aphid’s numbers turn into an army with non-stop feeding and reproduction. They are present on the underside of leaves and busy sucking plant juices from foliage and flowers.
Aphids are busy sucking sap on a succulent plant Photo Credit
Aphids appear from light green to orange, black, and pale green and produce a sugary, sticky substance while feeding. The honeydew attracts the black ants and sooty mold fungus, ultimately leading to defoliation and stunted growth.
Scale Insects on Succulents
Scale insects (plant sap feeders, either succulent or woody perennial) Photo Credit
Scale insects suck out sap from succulents, making them susceptible to drought and other pathogens. Their constant feeding on succulents causes stunted growth and wilting. Scales turn these small succulents into dull, defoliated material and affect their cosmetic value.
The visible sign and symptoms of scale insects feeding are brown spots on leaves, no flower production, and defoliation.
Whiteflies on Succulents
Whiteflies infestations on rose plant Photo Credit
Whiteflies are common on leafy succulents. They reproduce quickly and are difficult to control. Therefore, whiteflies pose a severe threat to the entire plant. On hose plants, they appear tiny, powdery, and white that remain on the underside of leaves to suck out succulent juices.
Like other sap-sucking pests, whiteflies excrete honeydew, which attracts and assists the growth of black ants and sooty mold fungus. These tiny flies bring more problems for succulents.
The damage of whitefly feeding on plants ranges from yellowing of leaves to stunted growth or severe infestations that lead to death.
Ants on Succulents
Black ants on flower Photo Credit
Are black ants harmless to succulents? The answer is yes, but they indicate the infestation of other pests such as mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and scale insects. Ants guard these insects for honeydew production and interfere with the beneficial insects to raise these pests.
How to Get Rid of Pests on Succulents?
Succulents are hard to kill for insect pests, but their constant feeding and infestations encourage growers to get rid of them, either organic or inorganic. The following are the best-proven methods to control fungus gnats on succulents and other plants.
Natural Pest Control Solutions or DIY Pest Control Techniques
- The first step to avoiding pest infestation on succulents involves regular examination. The most common invaders on leafy succulents are aphids and mealybugs. Always start investigation from the underside of leaves.
- The second step in natural pest control is to isolate the infested plant from healthy plants. Keep a close eye on quarantined succulents and treat them with home remedies. Separating newly purchased succulents is also practical because it will destroy any eggs laid by females.
- Hang yellow sticky traps near your window sill garden and outdoors to attract and catch the adult flying pests such as male moths and fungus gnats.
- Introduce beneficial insects such as lady beetle and green lacewings to kill and deter aphids and mealybugs. These beneficial bugs on succulents deter the damaging fungus gnats and mealybugs.
- Keep the indoor and outdoor spaces clean. Remove any fallen, dead, and damaged leaves; otherwise, they will attract future pest infestations.
- Prune off the large, weak, and damaged twigs to support succulents’ new and healthy growth. The removal of unnecessary leaves and twigs will prevent pest infestation.
- Do not overwater your plants underwater because a stressed plant is more susceptible to pest attack. Also, the wet soil and organic matter will attract fungus gnats.
- Be very cautious while buying and making a potting soil mix. The succulents need well-draining soil to thrive and survive. Always add a coarse material such as perlite to the potting mix for better aeration and water movement.
- Do not keep the soil excessively wet and moist while following the “soak and dry” technique for succulents. It involves saturating your soil with water and then waiting until the soil mix dries completely.
- Always provide your succulents with good sunlight; almost every succulent needs direct bright light to flower and bloom.
- Keep the temperature between 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for healthy growth and repel the succulent pests.
Lady beetle—a beneficial insect, munching on aphids Photo Credit
Use Neem Oil
Neem oil is a triple-action agent and helps get rid of succulent pests. Make a dilution of neem oil half of the recommendation with water and dish soap. Thoroughly mix all ingredients and pour them into a spray bottle for weekly applications. Ensure to apply the neem oil in the early morning and evening to avoid the scorching sun.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
To wash off resilient mealybugs, spider mites, and scales, dip a cotton swab in 70% isopropyl alcohol and directly apply it to the pests. The alcohol will instantly kill the problem without harming the succulent plant.
Is Insecticidal Soap Safe for Succulents?
Insecticidal soap is highly effective on succulents against mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, and soft scale insects. It is a highly effective and rapid action insecticide to help gardeners get rid of pests.
Can You Use Bug Spray on Succulents?
Homemade bug spray is best against succulents because it is less toxic and does not harm pets, children, and beneficial birds. To make a homemade bug spray,
- Take one tablespoon of mild liquid dish soap (ensure it does not contain any bleach)
- One teaspoon of red chili (fine powder)
- One gallon of water, mix all the ingredients thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle.
- Apply on succulents evenly from top to bottom. Ensure the foliage is uniformly covered.
How Do You Get Rid of a Mealybug Infestation?
Mealybugs are difficult to control when they are in high numbers (reproduce rapidly) and appear as white, cottony fuzz on the underside of leaves. To get rid of mealybugs on succulents, apply neem oil spray. It is because mealybugs can not resist the insecticidal property of azadirachtin. It will suffocate the mealybugs to death.
Why Are There Bugs Around My Succulent?
The bugs are around your succulents because there is too much moisture in your soil and your plants are not strong enough to fight back against them. Due to their outdoor summers or spring, the pest populations are high. When you bring the succulents inside, their outdoor pests also get inside.
To avoid harmful bug infestations, encourage beneficial insects and maintain good growing conditions so that your succulent avoids the critical time of pest invasion.
Is Cinnamon Good for Succulent Plants?
Cinnamon has tremendous benefits for plant health, particularly for succulents. It is suitable for plants to deter pests (black ants). Its sharp smell repels the ants and kills the spore of many fungal diseases (kills the damping-off fungus).
Sources for Further Reading
- Hahn, J. (2020b). Managing insects on indoor plants. UMN Extension. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://extension.umn.edu/product-and-houseplant-pests/insects-indoor-plants
- Flint, M. L. (2016c). Mealybugs Management Guidelines–UC IPM. University of California Statewide IPM Program. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74174.html
- Unit 1: Principles of Pest Control. (n.d.). University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus Located in Honolulu. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/epp/Education/Study-Guide-Packets/APC-Core/APC-Unit1