Whiteflies are common pests of a variety of indoor and outdoor plants. Instead of using dangerous insecticides, home gardeners can try a variety of natural remedies for whitefly control. Always test any home remedy on a small portion of your plant before applying it all over to determine if your plant is sensitive to its contents.
Whiteflies are very small insects that are closely related to scales, aphids and mealybugs. Adult whiteflies measure 1/10 inch in length, have wings and are covered in a powdery wax. Whiteflies lay their eggs on the undersides of plant leaves and hatch within four to 10 days. As they grow, the nymphs take on a light colour and an oval shape. The insects damage plants by feeding on them with their sucking mouth parts, removing sap from the foliage. Whitefly feeding can cause leaves to appear speckled, turn yellow and wilt. These insects produce a sticky substance after feeding on plant sap known as honeydew. Honeydew adheres to the plant, causing black sooty mould to develop. This covering of fungi resembles chimney soot.
Homemade soap solutions can help reduce sucking pests on plants. You can make your own soap solution by mixing 1 gallon of water in a container with 3 tbsp of liquid dish detergent. Apply the soap solution to your plant and leave it on the plant for two to three hours. To avoid injury to the leaves, rinse the soap solution from the plant thoroughly, as some plants can suffer leaf burns with prolonged exposure to soap solutions. Reapply the soap solution several times each week for continued control.
Horticultural oils are commonly used to remove whiteflies from garden and house plants. You can make your own oil solution at home by placing 2 tbsp vegetable oil in 1 gallon of water. Apply to the foliage of your plant infested with whiteflies, concentrating on the undersides of leaves where whiteflies congregate. Rinse the solution from the plant after a few hours. Repeat the application of your homemade oil solution as needed for continued whitefly control.
Whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs and spider mites are susceptible to alcohol. Applying rubbing alcohol onto your plant leaves can help reduce these insects and the resulting damage. Place a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, allowing the cotton to soak up the alcohol. Rub the cotton ball over infested plant leaves and insects. Rinse the plant after a few hours to remove any alcohol residue. Repeat twice a week to keep whiteflies at bay.