How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Plants (12 Methods To Try Now)


It is frustrating to see aphids in your garden, sucking the life out of your plants.  It is best to get rid of them fast, since aphids can multiply quickly and spread to other plants in your garden.

So, how do you get rid of aphids on plants?  To get rid of aphids on plants, spray them with a mix of water, dish soap, and alcohol. Neem oil is another spray that gets rid of aphids. Onions, garlic, chives, or orange extract will repel aphids. Cloches or row covers on plants will protect them from aphids. Ladybugs also help to control aphids.

Of course, before you spray your plants, it helps to be able to identify aphids and the signs that they are present. That way, you can tell when to use these methods.

In this article, we’ll talk about aphids and what they are. Then we’ll look at some natural methods you can use to get rid of them without destroying beneficial insects.

Let’s get started.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Plants

There are lots of ways to get rid of aphids on plants, once you start looking. Some of these methods are natural and won’t harm beneficial insects (such as bees and other pollinators).

aphids
Aphids can multiply fast, and a small problem can soon become a big one!

Here are 12 methods to get rid of aphids on your plants:

  • Spray plants with a mix of water and either dish soap or alcohol
  • Spray plants with neem oil
  • Spray aphids off of plants with a hose
  • Use onions, garlic, or chives as aphid repellent
  • Dust plants with flour to control aphids
  • Use reflective mulch
  • Use cloches or row covers to protect plants from aphids
  • Use diatomaceous earth to remove aphids
  • Use tanglefoot to capture aphids
  • Release ladybugs or green lacewings into your garden
  • Use a mini vacuum on plants
  • Plant carefully to avoid attracting aphids

We’ll get into more detail on these methods soon. For now, let’s begin with a closer look at aphids: what they are, what they eat, and why they are so harmful to plants.

What Are Aphids?

Aphids are tiny insects that feed on the sap that they suck out of plants. Aphids multiply fast and can soon grow to numbers where they post a threat to your garden.

Aphids are common in temperature climates. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, they come in many different colors, including:

  • Green
  • Black
  • White
  • Gray
  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Pink
aphids
Aphids come in a variety of colors, including green, black, white, gray, brown, yellow, and pink.

Aphids have small, oval-shaped bodies, and they are sometimes difficult to see. They are often a quarter of an inch (or less) in length.

Some aphids are specific to certain crops, such as potato, cabbage, or beans.  Aphids will also infect houseplants if they get indoors.

What Do Aphids Eat?

Aphids feed on plants by sucking out the juices (sap).  Depending on the variety of aphid (there are thousands!), they may feed on leaves or stems, flowers or fruit, and even the roots of plants.

aphids
Here are some black aphids on a leaf. Be careful – one or a few will soon become many!

Aphids seem to prefer tender plants, and they usually feed on younger, softer growth as opposed to older, harder, woody stems.  They tend to congregate on the bottom side of leaves, and they usually lay their eggs there.

Why Are Aphids Harmful?

First of all, the appearance of aphids is deceiving.  It is tempting to believe that such small creatures cannot cause much damage.

However, aphids can multiply quickly, and their numbers give them destructive power. These insect pests mature in 7-10 days.

One female aphid can give birth to as many as 80 offspring in a week. In some cases, female aphids are born pregnant to speed up their population growth!

aphids
Aphids can multiply fast, spread disease, attract ants, and cause sooty mold on plants due to their excretion of honeydew.

If there are enough aphids on a plant, they can easily suck out enough juices to stunt the plant’s growth and kill it.

Even worse, aphids can transmit diseases between plants.  If even one of your plants (or a neighbor’s plants) is infected with a disease, aphids can carry the infection to other plants when they bite and suck out the juices.

As if that weren’t bad enough, aphids also produce waste that can cause problems for plants.  As aphids eat, they excrete honeydew, which is a sugary solution that is a waste product from their feeding.

This honeydew can cause sooty mold (a fungal infection) to appear on a plant. The mold itself feeds on the honeydew, and this can harm a plant further.

Honeydew also attracts ants, which are known to “tend” the aphids. This is similar to how humans tend honeybees.

aphids
Ants tend to aphids in a kind of farming, exchanging protection for sweet honeydew.

In a symbiotic relationship, the ants eat the honeydew that aphids excrete. In exchange, the ants protect the aphids from enemies.

If you go near a plant infected with aphids, the ants guarding them may attack you. Often, they will crawl up and bite your neck (I have been there, and it is not much fun!)

For more information, check out my article on getting rid of ants in your garden.

The best way to deal with these problems is to avoid aphids in the first place.  If you already have aphids in your garden, then here are some ways to deal with them.

aphid on leaf
A pink aphid on a leaf.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids

There are plenty of methods you can use to get rid of aphids in your garden.  Some of them are completely organic, relying on natural substances (such as orange extract) that repel aphids.

Spray Plants With Water & Dish Soap Or Alcohol To Control Aphids

This is a quick and easy way to treat plants infected with aphids. It is also not as toxic as many other insecticides on the market.

First, mix together some water and either dish soap or alcohol.  Then, put the solution in a spray bottle.

Go out to the garden and spray plants if you see aphids (remember that they like to hide on the underside of leaves). This method works by contact, so spray the solution on the aphids you see, not just on the bare leaves.

Check the bottom of the leaves and spray there if necessary, since aphids often like to hide there.

spray bottle head
Fill your spray bottle with water plus dish soap or alcohol, then get to work to get rid of those aphids!

If you don’t like the idea of soap and/or alcohol in your garden, you can try a mixture of water with cayenne pepper as a means of repelling aphids from plants.

Spray Plants With Neem Oil To Control Aphids

Neem oil is another method you can use to spray plants that have been infected with aphids.  Neem oil is available in spray bottles online or at your local garden center.

neem oil from tree
Neem oil is extracted from a tree and is useful for aphid control.

One caution: you should avoid breathing in Neem Oil, so wear a mask when applying it.  Also, don’t use it on a windy day.

Make sure to follow the instructions on the container.

You can learn more about neem oil and other horticultural oils in this article from the Colorado State University Extension.

Spray Off Aphids With A Hose

If you want to go with a completely natural method, you can simply spray off aphids with your garden hose.  This method may not keep aphids from coming back, but you can avoid using chemicals in your garden.

hose spray nozzle
Use a hose with a spray nozzle attachment and create a jet of water to remove aphids.

The Oregon State University Extension suggests pruning off foliage that is damaged to the point of no return.

Spraying with a hose is a good option if your plants are already flowering. Water will not repel or harm bees and other pollinators in your garden.

Of course, you can always hand pollinate your plants if the bees aren’t doing the job. For more information, check out my article on hand pollination.)

bumblebee
Spraying aphids off with a hose will avoid the chemicals that can hurt bees.

Use Onions, Garlic, Or Chives As Aphid Repellent

This is a good natural aphid repellent that is more effective than water alone.  When you plant onions, garlic, or chives near plants that you want to protect, the aphids may not want to go near them (this is one form of companion planting).

red onions
Onions, in addition to garlic and chives, can repel aphids.

If it is too late in the season to plant, you can also try putting orange extract or banana peels near the plants you want to protect.

Dust Plants With Flour To Control Aphids

Dusting your plants with flour is supposed to constipate aphids, preventing them from secreting honeydew and attracting sooty mold or ants.

flour
Flour – not just for baking bread! You can use it as a treatment for aphids.

Remember that a rainstorm will wash away your flour treatment.  Make sure to check the weather forecast so you don’t waste your effort.

Use Reflective Mulch To Discourage Aphids

Reflective mulch (also called metalized mulch) will also help to prevent aphid infestation on plants. All you need to do is lay the mulch around the base of the plant you want to protect.

Reflective silver mulch is one type of mulch you can use to repel aphids. According to the University of Massachusetts, this material can repel cucumber beetles (and possibly other insects pests), in addition to aphids.

Even better, the extra light reflected by reflective silver mulch can help plants to grow better. In a study by Penn State University, bell peppers grown on reflective silver mulch had a 20% higher fruit yield than peppers grown on black plastic mulch.

You can also use a piece of aluminum foil to spread over the surface of the soil. Use stones to weigh it down or bury the edges, since it is light enough to blow away on a strong wind.

aluminum foil
Use aluminum foil spread on the ground around plants to repel aphids.

In a pinch, you can also cut an aluminum pie plate and put it around the base of a plant.

Use Cloches Or Row Covers To Protect Plants From Aphids

Remember that aphids like to feed on tender, young leaves and shoots, as opposed to older growth.  As such, it is younger plants that will need protection from aphids early in the season.

Luckily, younger plants are often small enough to fit inside cloches.  A cloche is a small glass or plastic container with a vent at the top that protects young plants from cold, wind, and insects.

water bottles
You can make a cloche out of a plastic bottle to protect a plant from aphids.

A cloche is useful because you can leave the vent on the top open during hot days, and close it to protect plants from cold nights.

You will need to remove the cloche when the plants get large enough, but by then, the tender young growth will be mature enough to resist aphid infestation.

You can learn more about cloches in my article here.

You can also use row covers to protect plants from cold and pests.  Instead of protecting one plant, a row cover can protect many plants all at once.

Row covers are made of plastic or fabric that is clear to allow sunlight through, and breathable to allow air through (plastic row covers often have small perforations for air flow).  Just remember to water underneath row covers made of plastic!

row cover
Row covers are made of a light, breathable material that allows water and sunlight through while preventing insects pests from getting to your plants.

You can learn more about row covers in my article here.

For more information on cloches and row covers, check out my article on protecting your plants from cold and frost.

Use Diatomaceous Earth To Remove Aphids (& Ants)

Diatomaceous earth is a substance that is “sharp” enough to cut the bodies of aphids, ants, and other insects that come in contact with it.  The insects then die of dehydration, due to their wounds.

diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is “sharp” and will cut insects, causing them to lose moisture and dry out.

You can dust your plants with diatomaceous earth if they are infected with aphids and ants, or as a preventative measure.  Rain or watering will wash it away, so be sure to apply it after you water, and make sure there are no rainstorms in the weather forecast.

One downside of diatomaceous earth is that it does not discriminate between pests and beneficial creatures.  It can also kill bees if they come in contact with it.

So, avoid using diatomaceous earth if your plants are flowering, since bees will come soon after flowers.

Use Tanglefoot To Capture Aphids (& Ants)

Tanglefoot is an adhesive trap for insects. It has a sticky substance that traps aphids, ants, and other insects.  You can buy it online or at your local garden center.

As with diatomaceous earth, this substance does not discriminate between pests and beneficial insects, so be careful when you apply it.

Buy Ladybugs Or Green Lacewings To Release Into Your Garden

Insects (such as ladybugs and lacewings) are another natural method of aphid control – one which uses no chemicals.  Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of aphids, and will fly around eating them off the plants that are infected.

ladybug
Ladybugs will eat aphids, so they can help to control an infestation.

These insects may not stay around once the aphid population is under control.  However, they can help to prevent an infestation or a rapid spread to other plants in your garden.

For more information or to buy ladybugs, check out this article on aphids from planet natural.

You can learn more about lacewings here.

green lacewing
Green lacewings are another natural predator of aphids.

A great way to attract natural aphids predators (and keep them around) is to plant what they like. The Oregon State University Extension suggests the following plants:

  • Caraway
  • Common Knotweed
  • Cowpeas
  • Crimson Clover
  • Flowering Buckwheat
  • Hairy Vetch
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Spearmint
  • Sweet Fennel
  • Tansy
  • White Sweet Clover
  • Wild Buckwheat
  • Yarrow

Likewise, try to get rid of weeds that can harbor the growth of aphids. The University of Minnesota Extension suggests removing weeds such as mustard and sowthistle to give aphids fewer places to live.

Use A Mini Vacuum On Indoor Plants

If aphids have made the transition to the inside of your house, you can use some of the methods mentioned above.  However, you can also try to use a small vacuum to suck them off the leaves of your houseplants.

small vacuum
Use a small vacuum with low power to suck up aphids without damaging your plants.

A big vacuum can do harm to your plants, so use a low-power one to prevent damage.

Plant Carefully To Avoid Aphids

Remember that certain plants are more likely to attract aphids to your garden. As a result, it is a good idea to keep these plants out of your yard or far away from your other plants.

For example, according to the Oregon State University Extension, birch trees attract aphids. In addition, the University of Missouri Extension suggests that ash, elm, maple, oak, and pine trees can all harbor aphid infestations.

birch trees
Birch trees will attract aphids, along with ash, elm, maple, oak, and pine trees.

How To Dispose Of Infected Plants

In some cases, a plant will be close to death due to aphid infestation (or the diseases they can transfer).  If you think it cannot be saved, it may be worthwhile to pull it out and destroy it to prevent a spread of the aphids to other plants in the garden.

If you take this course, do not put the plant in your compost pile or bin.  Aphids can winter over in a compost pile, and you don’t want to be dealing with a bigger problem next year.

Instead, destroy any infected plants (burn if it is allowed, and put the ashes in your compost pile, or throw away the plants if burning is not allowed). For more information, check out my article on putting ashes in your compost pile.

wood ash
You can add ash from burned plants to your compost pile.

Conclusion

Now you are more familiar with aphids, including what they look like and how they can harm your plants. You also know how you can fight back to protect your plants from aphids.

If you have trouble with insects in your garden and want to take an organic approach to combat them, you can learn more about carnivorous plants in my article here.

I I hope that you found the article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. 

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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