Neem Oil: What is it and How to Include it in your Houseplant Care Routine

The art of indoor plant care truly is a rabbit hole worth delving into, one that quickly transforms your initial curiosity into a full blown obsession. With every new hobby, however, comes challenges one must overcome, and indoor plant care is no different.

Pests and insects; an inevitable hurdle any indoor gardener, or outdoor for that matter, must overcome sooner or later. These unwelcome guests are one of the less glamorous aspects of our craft, but an aspect we have to deal with none-the-less. They come in many shapes and sizes, from mealy bugs and fungus gnats to thrips and scale. Fortunately, however, there are ways to get rid of these pests and, better yet, prevent their spread in the first place: Neem Oil.

What is Neem Oil?

A naturally occurring pesticide, neem oil is extracted from the Azadirachta indica, or neem tree. Neem trees are native to India, most of Africa and the southern islands of Iran. As well as a pesticide, it has historic uses in alternative medicine and in Indian Festivals such as Ugadi.

The oil is most prevalent in the tree’s seeds where it can be extracted either by crushing the seeds and soaking them in water, or by cold-pressing; a process by which the seeds are put under pressure to extract the oils.

"The oil is most prevalent in the tree’s seeds where it can be extracted either by crushing the seeds and soaking them in water, or by cold-pressing."

How Does Neem Oil Work?

Neem oil is both a preventative measure and treatment for insect infestations on plants, as well as some fungi. It is composed of a number of compounds, the most effective of which being Azadiractin. These compounds act to repel insects from taking refuge on your precious plants in the first place. If there are insects already present, the neem oil causes them to cease feeding and producing larvae and kill them directly.

When Should I Use Neem Oil?

Unlike some fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, neem oil can be used year round. We recommend applying neem oil to the leaves of plants in the evening when sunlight is much less intense. This gives the plant adequate time to absorb the neem oil instead of it evaporating due to the heat of the sun. Neem oil can be applied as frequently as once per week. Regular applications are best as this will help to repel pests and fungi from inhabiting your plants.

How do I use Neem Oil?

It is exceptionally easy to add Neem Oil to your plant care routine. Because it is a completely organic and natural oil it can be used both inside and outside and is suitable for use on crops. It is non-toxic to birds, animals, pollinators and people.

Mix the neem oil in a 1:100 ratio (for example 1ml of neem oil in 100ml of water) with room temperature water in a mister or spray bottle. Spray directly onto the leaves of your plants. We recommend mixing neem oil in very small doses each time as a little goes a long way. The active ingredients in neem oil are most effective in the first 24 hours of mixing, after this time the active ingredients will begin to break down. Mixing in smaller doses will reduce waste. 

Neem oil is also systemic; this means it can be poured into the surrounding compost of your plant to kill any compost-dwelling pests and for the plant to absorb and redistribute throughout its leaves and stems.

For more information on how you can handle common indoor plant pests, check out our YouTube video:

Add Neem Oil to your Plant Care Routine

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Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company

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Words by: Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company

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