Mealybugs on a Cactus, Home Guides, SF Gate
Mealybugs on a Cactus
- 1 Mealybugs on a Cactus
- 2 About Mealybugs
- 3 Natural Remedies
- 4 Chemical Remedies
- 5 Preventative Care
- 6 How to get rid of mealy bugs on succulents
- 7 See more about Troubleshooting Common Problems for Succulents!
- 8 How to get rid of mealy bugs on succulents
- 9 Listen to this blog post!
- 10 How to Treat Mealybugs on your Succulents
- 11 Mealybug Lifecycle
- 12 How to Treat a Mealybug Infestation
- 13 How to deal with mealybug on cacti?
- 14 How to Control & Prevent Mealybugs on Succulents!
With care, your cactus can recover from a mealybug infestation.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Mealybugs are a pest common to cacti and succulents. Greenhouse and windowsill assemblages are especially vulnerable to the critters. You can eliminate mealybugs temporarily, but they are difficult to eradicate completely, especially in large groupings of plants. Deal effectively with mealybugs and restore healthy environmental conditions in your cactus collection to prevent future infestations.
Mealybugs are gray or light brown insects 2 to 3 millimeters long. They resemble woodlice. Mealybugs can accumulate around the base of a cactus or just beneath the soil around its growing point. An early sign of a mealybug problem is a secretion that resembles white fluff on the plant. This is where the bugs reproduce. Fallen needles may also indicate a mealybug presence. Squashed bugs leave red or green stains. Ants farm mealybugs for their sweet secretions; an ant problem near a cactus may be an indication of mealybugs.
There are many effective nonchemical approaches to dealing with mealybugs. Experiment to find the best method for your cactus. Dab bugs and white fluff with denatured alcohol on a cotton swab to kill the insects. Repeat this treatment as often as is necessary to remove all bugs from the plant, checking it thoroughly once every three weeks. Fumigant smoke cones may be effective if used regularly, especially in large groupings of plants in a greenhouse. Alternatively, spray cactus with several drops of dish soap diluted in a cup of water. For a biological control, introduce a mealybug predator such as Cryptolaemus montrouzeri. Be aware that the effectiveness of biological controls for mealybugs in home settings can be low, as maintaining a balance of predators and pray can be difficult. Manage an ant problem to deter mealybug farming.
Systemic insecticides poison bugs that ingest the cactus’ sap. Human skin, however, may also absorb these poisons. Imidacloprid is effective against mealybugs and is lower in toxicity to animals than some other chemical treatments. Water plants with imidacloprid once every several months during active growth. To deal with a root infestation, immerse the cactus’s pot in a bucket containing insecticide and a few drops of dish soap. Let the plant dry completely after this treatment. Be sure that no mealybugs survive a chemical treatment to help deter the bugs from becoming resistant to insecticide.
Isolate a newly acquired cactus for two to three weeks to observe whether it contains mealybugs. Inspect all of your cactus plants regularly to intercept a mealybug infestation while it is small, before it spreads to nearby plants. Notice any dramatic changes in your cactus’s condition, such as discoloration or sudden limpness, as these may be signs of a mealybug problem that is not readily visible. Keep the area around your cactus clean and free of dried leaves and dropped flowers, as rotting organic matter provides an ideal home for a wide range of pests and diseases.
How to get rid of mealy bugs on succulents
Your succulents are growing healthy and well, yet one day you notice some tiny fuzzy white substances crawling on your plant beloved stems, and if left ignored, the plants may slowly wither and die eventually. The fuzzy white substances are mealy bugs, one of the most common pest problems for succulents and a stubborn one that requires a long and thorough fight to get rid of them.
The first thing to do when you notice mealy bugs on your succulents is to quarantine the infected plants, move them away from other plants. Inspect the healthy plants to see if they have any signs of mealy bugs.
After that, prepare to clean your infected plants by taking the plant out of the pot and rinsing them under a strong stream of water. Clean the pot in hot, soapy water. Letting the plant and pot dry then replant with new soil. Throw away the old soil in regular trash and not the green bin.
In case you don’t have ready-mix succulent soil available immediately in your house, you can put the soil inside oven-safe container covered with foil, then bake at 180-200°F for at least 30 minutes, or when the soil temperature reaches 180 °F . Then let cool and replant. Our recommendation is to get new soil since there might still be mealy bug eggs left in the old soil.
Next step, use either rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or neem oil and dish soap mixture to spray the whole infected plant. Or you could use a Q-tip to paint-brush any spot with mealy bugs. Rubbing alcohol can be found easily at your local drug stores. If you use rubbing alcohol, make sure you don’t put the plant out in full sun for a few hours since it may get burnt.
Check your plant and repeat the steps for a few days to see if there are any mealy bugs left. Then spray again after a week for preventive measure. You can also use neem oil to spray into the soil to kill off any bugs or eggs hiding there. After thoroughly checking and spraying for a few weeks, if you don’t see mealy bugs reappearing, put the plant back to its original spot, and keep checking every 3 weeks.
And to prevent an infection, there are some preventive measures you can take: isolate any new plant for 2-3 weeks to see if it’s infected, keep regular check on all the plants to stop the infection when it’s still small, get alert when ants start crowding your plants area as ants like the sweet water discharged by mealy bugs, notice if your plants start looking unhealthy for no obvious reason (with adequate light and water), keep your plant area dry, clean, and free of rotting leaves or flowers.
At Succulents Box, we are inspected regularly by the California Department of Agriculture for pests and diseases. We check each succulent carefully before shipping to make sure they are healthy. If you notice anything unusual with your succulents, please notify us right away.
See more about Troubleshooting Common Problems for Succulents!
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How to get rid of mealy bugs on succulents
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Mealy bugs are one of the most common pests that infect succulents. Learn a simple way to get rid of them that is safe for the succulents!
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If you’re growing succulents indoors (and possibly if you’re growing succulents outdoors), you are likely to encounter mealybugs at some point. If not, lucky you!
Mealybugs are like a plague. They spread quickly from plant to plant and it can be difficult to get rid of them. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a simple way to kill them that also keeps your succulents safe from burning or other problems normal pesticides may cause.
What are mealybugs?
Mealybugs are nasty little bugs that like to eat new growth on succulents. It’s difficult to say exactly what causes them to show up, but overwatering is a common cause, as well as over fertilizing. They tend to show up on indoor plants the most as the temperatures are more temperate, but they can show up on succulents outdoors too!
These little guys usually hang out in a white web-like substance in the nooks and crannies of your succulent. Their favorite place to hide is right where the leaves meet up with the stem. This makes them hard to see and hard to kill.
If they aren’t treated quickly, mealybugs will spread all over a succulent and to nearby succulents as well. It’s impressive how quickly they move, and frustrating too. As they move, they eat away at the succulent. Often, this will stunt the growth of the plant and cause the new growth to look mis-shaped or smaller than usual. They may also leave some dents in the leaves if they are left for too long.
How can I get rid of mealybugs?
The video below shows the technique I use to get rid of mealybugs from succulents using isopropyl alcohol. You can also read the details of this method in the sections that follow.
While many plant pesticides will kill mealybugs, the best solution I’ve found to kill them is 70% isopropyl alcohol. Many people recommend using q-tips to dab on the alcohol, but I’ve found that a spray bottle is much more effective and easier to use.
I actually keep a little travel sized spray bottle next to my plants so I can kill the nasty things as soon as they show up. I do use a larger one if the infestation gets out of hand or affects very many plants.
When you first notice the mealybugs, move your infected plants away from everything else. Mealybugs spread quickly and you don’t want to risk other plants getting infected.
To kill the mealybugs with the alcohol, simply spray the alcohol directly on the mealybugs, wherever they are on the succulent.
Be sure to check those hard to see places near the stem. Spray them really well with the alcohol. You’ll notice the web-like substance will almost disappear as soon as you spray them and a little brownish/black bug, the size of a crumb will be left.
Generally, if you catch the mealybugs early just one round of alcohol spray will be enough to kill them. If you didn’t quite get them all though, they may come back in a day or two. Continue to spray them until they don’t come back.
If you’ve had a large infestation, it may be a good idea to pour alcohol over the soil the next time you water. This will kill any bugs or eggs that are hiding out in the soil.
Doesn’t the alcohol damage the succulent?
Nope! The great thing about alcohol, as opposed to other pesticides, is it’s completely safe for succulents.
I’ve had a few plants with a really bad mealy bug problem that I have pretty much soaked with alcohol a few days in a row. They didn’t show any signs of burn or damage from the alcohol. The alcohol itself evaporates quickly, so it’s just water that remains. If you use the spray bottle, it won’t get too much on the leaves so it evaporates before any damage may occur.
Are there other ways to kill mealybugs?
Yep! I’ve had people suggest adding a little bit of dish soap to water and spraying or dabbing that on. You can also use systemic pesticides for house plants. Lady bugs also keep mealybugs away!
The best solution, and cheapest, I’ve found though, is the rubbing alcohol. It is the only one I’m confident will eliminate the mealybug problem and won’t damage your succulents.
Mealybugs aren’t the only pests to plague succulents. Many succulent growers suffer from gnats, too. This video will teach you why your succulent soil has gnats, and a simple solution to get rid of them.
My friend Jacki at Drought Smart Plants has put together an ebook about plant pests and how to treat them. If you’re looking for more information about bugs that may be infecting your succulents, I’d highly recommend checking it out!
If you’ve found other safe ways to conquer mealybugs, or other pests, feel free to send me a message let me know!
How to Treat Mealybugs on your Succulents
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Succulents, fortunately, are only susceptible to a few kinds of pests. Mealybugs are probably the most common one we have to deal with, and fortunately, they’re one of the easier bugs to squash.
I was in the middle of my morning admiration session, browsing my office window planter, when I saw something disturbing. A little cottony fluff on the inner rosette of my Echeveria ‘Black Prince’.
Admittedly, my ‘Black Prince’ isn’t very black. It would need to be sun-stressed to look as sexy as these.
Anyway, there are a couple things that could be the reason for that cotton on my plant. There are wooly aphids, but those hang out on woody plants usually. It could be a spider egg sac, but those are bigger (and usually spherical). Spider mites spin very wispy webs, but they’re not nearly as thick or cottony as this. We’ve covered dealing with the usual succulent pests in this article.
So the most likely candidate is mealybugs. Their cotton is a lot more messy. And usually, when you find them, there’s a lot of ’em.
This is a more typical infestation. And more sad.
I was lucky though. I caught it very early, before it could spread. I was able to treat it immediately. And I did.
Little bit of alcohol.
Little bit of Q-Tip. Problem solved.
I averted a disaster today that might have forced me to throw out that whole planter. Read on to learn more about dealing with mealybugs.
In order to do battle, it’s important you know your enemy.
Mealybugs are a kind of scale insect, actually. They’re unarmored, unlike the pest you think of when scale is mentioned. And, also unlike regular scale, mealybugs retain their legs throughout their whole life. They are called mealybugs because they secrete a white, powdery wax that helps protect them from potential predators.
There are many species; they’re found the whole world over. The thing they have in common is that they love to live in warm, moist places. If you have an infestation, ensure that your plant is in a place with little humidity and doesn’t stay wet for long (which is good practice for succulents anyway).
Interestingly, the mealybugs you see are either females or juveniles. The males have wings, and don’t hang out on plants. They don’t even have mouths, actually. They live a short time for the sole purpose of mating. They also look completely alien to their female counterparts – more like wasps or flies.
It’s hard to generalize about a genus of insects that has a lot of diverse species, but they all have a lot in common. They possess mouth-parts that penetrate a plant to suck out juice – which will weaken or kill a plant if enough are present. They prefer new growth, which further harms the plant. Various species have several iterations of larva and nymph stages. Adult females die after laying eggs (between 300-600). The average mealybug life lasts between 6 weeks to 2 months, but breeding continues year-round indoors as generations overlap.
How to Treat a Mealybug Infestation
Fortunately, mealybugs aren’t very tenacious. There are lots of ways to get rid of them.
The first step, as with any infestation, is to quarantine the plant to prevent spread. After that, start your treatment with one of the following methods.
The simplest way, perhaps, is to use mechanical pressure. A high-powered stream of water will remove most adults and probably their eggs. You can use a garden hose with your thumb on the mouth, or a spray-faucet from your sink. A wash bottle, like the one pictured above, will help you get in those hard-to-reach places with some power. Rinse thoroughly, especially in all the nooks and crannies, until you can’t see any trace. Watch the plant carefully over the next couple days to see if mealybugs reappear, then treat again. You may have to unpot the plant during this process to make sure it doesn’t drown. It’s OK to leave it out of soil while you’re treating it.
Obviously, this works better on sturdier plants like agaves or cacti. Succulents with leaves that are prone to falling off are poor candidates for this procedure.
Rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover – whatever you’ve got, really. I used the 70% isopropyl alcohol I keep in the medicine cabinet. Applying this directly to the affected areas should clear it up quick. Turns out that bugs don’t really like being covered in alcohol. Who knew? Definitely not me; that sounds delightful. (Just kidding, don’t drink isopropyl alcohol. You’ll die. Only drink ethanol alcohol.)
Most people recommend you use the alcohol at 50%-70% strength. That is more than enough to kill the pests, but won’t harm your plant. In fact, even a 100% alcohol solution probably won’t have an effect on most succulents. One of the main characteristics for our fat plants is their thick cuticle. That’s the layer of waxy substance on the leaf that prevents liquids from going in or out (for the most part). It’s a great adaptation to prevent water loss which, coincidentally, is one of the ways high alcohol content harms organisms.
Use a wash bottle like the one we talked about earlier to get those bugs in corners. Small infestations can be attacked by soaking a Q-Tip in the alcohol and giving it a little scrub. If the infestation covers a lot of the plant, use a spray bottle and just drown that bad boy. Alcohol evaporates quickly, so you don’t have to worry about the moisture hurting your plant.
Neem oil is one of those natural substances people use for everything – skin care, hair care, and pest care. It’s an antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-insect. It will not (directly) harm any of your plants either, which is awesome!
However, you have to use neem oil in a very specific manner. It needs to be diluted before using. Check the directions on your product, but it’s often something like 1 ounce of neem oil to 1 gallon of water. Note also that, as an oil, it tends to stick to things much longer than water. If you apply neem oil to your plants during the day, the combination of sun and oil will burn your plants.
One of the great things about neem oil is that it does NOT affect bees, unlike many other insecticides. It works primarily by being ingested by insects munching on plants covered with neem.
If you don’t mind spraying at night, neem oil is an extremely effective measure. Maybe even too effective.
Azamax is the commercial pesticide version of neem oil. It’s still all-natural, so you don’t have to worry about side effects. It’s refined, however, and is easier and safer to use. When using Azamax you don’t have to worry nearly as much about the effects of the sun on your treatment. Diluting will also be more precise.
Azamax is highly lauded as a safe pesticide that is highly effective. Remember, however, that pesticide effects can rarely be limited to one kind of pest. It’s lethal to many soft-bodied insects, so be cognizant of when and how you apply. Remember that neem oil and its derivatives, while not harmful to mammals at all, can hurt aquatic life. Don’t use near water features or allow it to drain into sewers.
An old-fashioned remedy, but still a good one. Insecticidal soaps lost popularity to stronger (and harsher) chemical insecticides, but are making a resurgence with the rise of eco-friendly and organic gardening. These work well on many soft-bodied insects because the potassium salts of the fatty acid chains (soaps are made from animal fat or vegetable oil) wreaks havoc on the cell membranes of the bugs.
With a low environmental impact, Sublime Succulents is happy to recommend commercial or homemade insecticidal soaps. To make your own, simply make a 2% solution of liquid soap. That’s about a (big) teaspoon in a quart of water. Be sure you’re not using dish soaps or detergents. That’s not real “soap”. Spray liberally on plant, retreat every couple of days until infestation is gone. Remember that this is oil-based, so avoid doing it in direct sunlight.
Of course, you could do it nature’s way – with predators. Mealybugs are a juicy snack for several other insects. You probably already know you can purchase live ladybugs for aphid control, but did you know they like mealybugs too?
Even better than your common ladybug is its close relative – which we have dubbed the mealybug destroyer. I didn’t make it up: that’s what they’re marketed as. And they do exactly what their name implies. A few of these beetles on each infected plant will clear up the problem in mere days. These guys can eat thousands of mealybugs in their lifetime.
And it’s a low effort-solution too – you can buy these on Amazon, for goodness sake. You shake a few out onto affected plants and let them work their magic. You can keep the extra ones in your refrigerator for a couple months to use later, if necessary. Or, let them go. While they hail from Australia originally, they were introduced to America in the 1800s and have since been naturalized. I probably wouldn’t use these in my house, but I love having beneficial bugs in my backyard.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to be aware of other bugs too, namely ants. Mealybugs, and other plant pests like aphids, secrete a sugary substance that ants really love. If ants find a bunch of mealybugs making this sugar water, they’ll often hang around and protect the mealybugs so they can continue to benefit. Those ants will kill a predator like ladybugs or mealybug destroyers. If you mealybugs have teamed up with ants, an insecticide is your best bet.
Hopefully one of these solutions helped deal with your mealybug problem! Which one worked for you? Tell us in the comments!
How to deal with mealybug on cacti?
How to Control & Prevent Mealybugs on Succulents!
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Treatment and Prevention of Pests on Succulents
I love talking about the many fun sides of succulents. But today, we need to talk about pests on succulents. I don’t mean the neighbors’ kids — I’m talking those nasty little sap-sucking insects feeding on the juices inside your succulents. In a short time, a few become many, and they can do real damage. If you love growing and collecting succulents, you will someday face mealybugs on succulents. Let’s see how to get rid of them. Even better, I will show you how to prevent them!
Recognizing Mealybugs on Succulents
Full disclosure here — I am not that great at identifying individuals in the large group of pest insects that are a plague on succulents. Although I am certain God had great reasons for making so many, and making them each distinct, I tend to lump insects largely into the categories of Friend or Foe. With respect to succulents, the foe insects include mealybugs, whiteflies, aphids, scale, thrips and mites among others. Although they have their differences, each feeds by sucking on the sap of plants. You can see why they find thick, juicy succulent leave so attractive. In time, they drain the vitality of the succulent, making it more vulnerable to damage from stress and disease. As they feed, they lay eggs, hatching more hungry mouths to further damage your plants.
Typically, your first sign of mealybugs on succulents is a white, fluffy substance. Upon closer inspection, you may notice tiny little legs. They may cling to the underside of the leaves, or hide in the small crevices between the leaf and the stem. Some insects instead look like small black or brown bumps, or black specks, and may cling to the stems of your plants. Often, they lay their eggs just under the soil’s surface. The key is to remain vigilant. When you see the first signs of pests on succulents, take action! The cactus above had just a single mealybug when it was spotted and successfully treated, with no further infestation. While many insects produce a white residue, be sure to recognize the difference between insects and epicuticular wax or farina on your succulents. Thank you, Brittany Smith, for the use of this photo! Check out Brittany’s love of succulents on Instagram!
Aphids on Succulents? Isolate the Plant
Some succulents are especially attractive to pests. Echeveria in bloom are magnets for aphids. Many collectors refuse to let them bloom for this very reason. The first step in controlling pests on succulents is to watch for them. Like mealybugs, aphids secrete a sweet substance known as honeydew which will attract ants. So if you see ants on your succulents, that is a good clue that other pests may be lurking there, too. As soon as you see the first signs of insects, isolate that succulent to prevent their spread to your other plants.
There are a few treatment options I recommend at this stage. With a single insect, like the one mealybug at the top, or a few like these aphids, soak a Q-tip in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and dab it directly onto each insect. The alcohol dissolves the exoskeletons of the insects and their eggs. While 70% is most often recommended, the 91% is just as effective. Thanks to the tough skin succulents develop to prevent water loss, the alcohol is not damaging to your succulents, but take care with other plants. This is a highly effective method to kill the adult stage of aphids, scale, mites, whiteflies or mealybugs on succulents. Plan to repeat the process every 2-3 days for a week to ensure you kill the juvenile stage insects as they mature, too. My thanks to Caitlin Rose for the use of this photo!
Controlling Whiteflies on Succulents
In a short time, a few insects become many, and they start to spread out. These whiteflies were throughout the sempervivum —as evidenced by the casings — and would soon spread to the surrounding succulents. When it is not practical to dab each insect as an individual with your alcohol, pour it into a spray bottle and spray the insects. Again, this will not harm your succulents. Their skin is thick, evolved to keep their precious stores of moisture secure. Spray the soil, too, to be sure to kill any eggs. The alcohol rapidly evaporates, doing its duty and quickly disappearing. However, do not treat your plants during the heat of the day, when the sun is on them. Do so in the early morning, or in the evening after the sun has passed.
Another good way to treat an infestation of insects or mealybugs on succulents is with insecticidal soap. For store-bought, I recommend Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap. However, you can make your own, highly effective insecticidal soap spray. Use 1 cup water, 1 cup isopropyl alcohol and add 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing soap like Dawn. Use the soap for in your sink, not what you use in the dishwasher, and don’t use one that contains chlorine. Shake well and spray on your infested plants. The soap will smother juvenile insects that may survive the alcohol spray. Again, take care to use only in the early mornings or evenings, out of the direct sun. Thank you, Lindsy Hemmersbach for the use of this photo!
Ladybugs Treat Pests on Succulents
If you have a widespread issue with pests on succulents growing outdoors, try releasing ladybugs! These are insects on the Friends list, and their natural food source is a wide range of succulents pests. These little ladybugs are predators that will feast on soft-bodied insects like aphids, soft-bodied scale, mites and mealybugs on succulents and throughout your garden. You can purchase healthy ladybugs online or sometimes at your local nursery. While not practical for treating pests on your indoor plants, they will quickly clean up the pests in your garden. Don’t be surprised to see them disappear once your garden is pest-free — they are searching for more food.
Be sure to release your ladybugs in the early evening, so they don’t fly away before exploring your garden. Spray your garden with water before releasing the ladybugs to ensure they can find a good drink nearby. Ladybugs are an excellent way to control for pest insects in your garden. Take care not to use insecticides once you release them. Chemical controls will harm beneficial insects like ladybugs, too.
Top Dressing to Cut Down Pests on Succulents
My final recommendation for combatting pests on succulents is to use an inorganic top dressing on the soil. While mealybugs and aphids lay eggs on the leaves, some pests lay their eggs in the soil of your plants. The obnoxious little gnats that lurk around indoor plants lay their eggs in the upper reaches of the damp, organic soil. When you apply a layer of inorganic top dressing, like decorative pebbles, perlite or sand, it prevents the insects from reaching the soil, and any hatchlings cannot reach the surface. The eggs cannot live on the inorganic matter. Even a bad infestation of gnats indoors will clear up in days simply by applying a half inch layer of inorganic top dressing on the soil. The gnat’s life cycle is so short, and reproduction is so fast, that this step alone will end the infestation indoors. You may be familiar with the many other benefits of using an inorganic top dressing like this. It keeps the plant clean, soil does not splash up onto the leaves. It prevents water from evaporating too quickly on hot days. And it really ties the look of your planting together, while masking the look of the bare soil.
Treating Pest and Mealybugs on Succulents
To recap, these are the steps for treating pests on succulents once you have a problem:
- Be watchful — The sooner you spot insects, the easier they are to deal with.
- Isolate the plant with pests — to keep the insects from spreading to the rest of your succulents.
- Dab with alcohol — Spot treat individual insects with isopropyl alcohol.
- Spray with alcohol or soap mix — Spray larger groups of insects with alcohol or soap mixture.
- Release Ladybugs — Clean your entire garden of pests by releasing ladybugs.
- Inorganic Top Dressing — Stop the life-cycle of insects that lay their eggs in soil.
Each of the above steps is a good way to treat insects that have already arrived. Even when there are no insects, I always look my plants over carefully, so I am alert to any changes in their condition. And an inorganic top dressing looks great in addition to providing excellent hygiene and preventing a few insects from becoming an infestation. Now let’s see how to prevent pests from troubling your succulents in the first place!
How to Prevent Pest and Mealybugs on Succulents
You may already know that worm castings are an excellent fertilizer for your succulents. But did you know they are also highly effective at killing and preventing insects? Worm castings are the manure from earthworms. Gardeners’ Black gold. There are six important benefits of worm castings for your succulents:
- Worm castings contain more than 60 micronutrients and trace minerals, feeding both your plants and the soil.
- Worm castings suppress pathogens, bacteria and harmful fungi in the soil, protecting plants from disease and rot.
- The use of worm castings improves soil drainage and boosts moisture retention.
- Worm castings fix heavy metals in the soil, preventing their uptake by your plants’ roots.
- Worm castings enable plant roots to handle soils with high or low pH values.
- Chitinase in worm castings kills and repels insects like whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs, mites, scale and thrips.
There is a lot to love here. Some of the benefits of worm castings are of particular interest to succulent lovers. Worm castings are an excellent fertilizer that will nourish your succulents without burning them. Your plants will be less prone to rot when you use worm castings. This does not mean it will now be safe to drown your plants! But any help on the rot issue is a boon for succulent growers. But the reason they are in this article is #6.
Worm castings are rich in chitinase, an enzyme that breaks down the exoskeletons of insects. As the roots take in the chitinase, it is dispersed throughout the cells of the plant. Insects sense the chitinase in the leaves, stems and roots and simply shun those plants. Sap-sucking pests will feed on any plant’s leaves. But just as allllll that moisture stored in the leaves makes an unguarded succulent particularly attractive, when filled with chitinase-laced moisture, succulents are extra scary. Prevention is everything!
How to Use Worm Castings
After reading the benefits of worm castings, it won’t surprise you that I do all I can to promote the health of earthworms in my soil. I even seek out worms to “plant” in my large containers. But that is not always practical, and it seems odd to put worms into small pots or with indoor succulents. Fortunately, there are easier ways to reap the benefits of worm castings for all your succulents!
Dr. Verm’s Premium Worm Castings is an excellent brand that raises and feeds their earthworms organically. I mix the dried worm castings in with my succulent soil. For a 4-inch pot, I mix in a couple tablespoons of worm castings and then plant my succulent. I use 3 tablespoons in a 6-inch pot and so on. In a gallon size pot, I use about half a cup. The measurements don’t need to be precise. Another excellent worm castings product is Hello Succulents natural worm tea food spray. It is a worm castings foliar spray that both feeds your plants and kills and repels insects. Simply spray a few pumps directly onto your plants’ leaves for a quick feed, and to kill any pests.
An infestation of insects can quickly turn your beloved succulents into a mess! Now you know the safe and effective methods I use to combat mealybugs on succulents, as well as a whole range of other pests. Even better — now you know how to prevent pests from becoming a problem in the first place. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I will be happy to help! Enjoy your succulents pest-free!