How to Get Rid of Scale Insects on Houseplants

Scale insects can weaken plants by decreasing vigor, decreasing vigor and leading to chlorotic leaves on woody shade trees, conifers and indoor houseplants that are susceptible to scale infestation.

Before spraying, isolate infested plants to limit their spread and clean twigs and leaves regularly with alcohol or neem oil to eliminate pests from spreading further.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a natural insecticide, used to rid houseplants of scale insects. While safe for most indoor plants, sunlit hours should be avoided as spraying your plants during these times could result in rapid evaporation and possibly burning the leaves and stems of your plant.

Mix two teaspoons of neem oil and one teaspoon of Castile soap in one quart (1 l) of water until they dissolve completely, pour into a spray bottle, shake to disperse ingredients evenly, and spray across all parts of infested plants; paying special attention to areas where scale insects have taken residence. You may need to repeat this process several times until infestation has been eradicated completely.

Neem oil will penetrate and destroy the outer layers of scale insects, leading them to dehydrate and die. It’s particularly effective during their crawler stage which typically happens soon after they hatch from their eggs; at this stage nymphs with legs actively look for places where they can attach themselves and feed, creating new breeding grounds. Applying neem oil at this point will prevent scale bugs from maturing and reproducing which in turn significantly lowers their population.

Rubing alcohol can also help eliminate scale bugs from your plants when infestations are minimal, just dab a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and wipe over individual pests to eliminate them. For larger infestations, spray the plant with neem oil instead.

Proper care of plants is key in order to ward off scale insects and other pests from invading. This includes providing sufficient sunlight, water and nutrients. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to purchase disease-free seeds and use uninfected potting mix in order to minimize chances of infestation.

When faced with a scale bug infestation, isolate the plant immediately so as to limit further spread. If necessary, repot it before cleaning its roots with hot soapy water to kill any nymphs and sterilize its pot.

Insecticidal Soap

Organic mild liquid soap diluted in water can quickly kill and remove many scale insects. You can purchase insecticidal soaps or make your own with basic kitchen ingredients; I prefer spraying my plants directly, washing off as many scale insects with my fingers before leaving it dry in a sunny location to dry. This method has proven very successful at eliminating scale insects.

Scale insects often resemble diseases, and heavy infestations of them can result in poor growth, chlorotic (yellowed) leaves and reduced vigor in host plants. Sap-sucking pests known as scale insects feed by attaching themselves to host plant branches and leaves to sap sucking for sustenance; there are 8,000 different species worldwide with specific host plant preferences; two main categories exist – soft or unarmored scale and hard or armored scale with hard shells that both pose threats that damage ornamental shrubs and houseplants alike.

Examining every plant thoroughly to detect scale insects is essential in identifying their source of damage and diagnosing its problem. Look out for sticky residue on stems and branches; this indicates a sugar-producing sap sucking insect is present, along with black sooty mold on leaves undersides; such signs could point towards scale infestation.

Rubbing alcohol can help remove some of the harder, stubborn scales from plants. Additionally, inspect each plant weekly for mobile crawlers – one of the primary indicators of infestation. Commercially available beneficial insects like ladybugs, soldier beetles and lacewing larvae are natural predators of scale insect eggs and nymphs that help eradicate infestation.

Chemical pesticides should only ever be used as a last resort, as their chemicals may pose risks to both people and wildlife – not to mention other plants in your garden and household. If you decide to use insecticidal sprays, always follow label instructions for application, testing on several leaves to make sure it won’t damage houseplants first.


Scale may sound like a disease, but in reality it refers to an infestation by one of more than 8,000 species of sap-sucking insects belonging to the superfamily Coccoidea. These bugs typically cling to stems, branches and leaves of their host plants while feeding on sap. Their shell-like bump appearance and immobility often confuse people into mistaking them for fungal or bacterial disease – prompt identification and treatment is therefore essential.

Woody plants like shade trees, conifers and broadleaf evergreen shrubs as well as fruit trees are particularly susceptible to scale insect issues, while many types of indoor houseplants may also be at risk. Scale insects have an extensive host range encompassing indoor and outdoor plants as well as ornamental ornaments found in gardens patios or decks.

Soft and hard-shelled scale insects both produce waxy protective coverings to defend themselves against herbivores and parasitoids. Hard-shelled scale insects (also called armored scales) typically range in length from 1/8 to 1/2 inch long with an elongated shape; their colors range from black, white, tan and amber hues. Soft-shelled scale insects resemble aphids by possessing sucking mouthparts that pierce plant cells to draw in juices; their length ranges anywhere between 1/8 and 1/2 inch long with shapes such as sphere or crab shapes.

Insecticidal soap or rubbing alcohol will work effectively against both types of scale insects. Both will break down their external cuticle and block up their breathing pores, while horticultural oil sprays such as neem, white or botanical may also provide effective protection. When applying such oils however, water stressed or sunburnt plants must not receive them as this could harm them further.

When discovering that their plants have become heavily infested with scale insects, gardeners or homeowners should isolate these infested plants to keep them away from healthy ones. Indoor plants may require being relocated temporarily until all scale insects have been eliminated completely; when only a few scale insects remain, they can often be manually removed with cotton swabs dipped in soapy water or 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol before discarding altogether if severe infestation has taken place.

Hand Removal

Scale insects, or sap-sucking pests, have more than 8,000 species that attach themselves to host plants and feed by sucking up sap from them. While infestations often go undetected, heavy numbers can cause distorted leaves, shriveled fruits, reduced vigor of the host plant and honeydew secretions promote mold growth while drawing in ants which consume them as food sources.

Woody plants such as shade trees and evergreen shrubs are particularly prone to scale infestation, though the pests can also infest houseplants. Before bringing new plants into your home, carefully inspect them for scales and keep them isolated until you can treat them to eliminate these pesky pests.

Scale insect infestations usually arise when plants are improperly cared for, from improper watering and overfeeding to using recycled plant containers contaminated with bugs that spread scale insects. When inspecting your plants for signs of scale insects such as brown bumps with shell-shaped bumps that resemble shells; brown, tan or black spots on them or their container are likely indicators. Should an infestation exist, isolate it immediately while also cleaning its container thoroughly.

Scale populations that are low may be removed by gently rubbing or picking them off of plants using cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol or neem-based leaf shine products. Make sure to carefully inspect every part of the plant including crevices, stem bases and undersides of leaves before proceeding with this task.

Spray your plant with insecticidal soap or any of several types of horticultural oils like white, botanical or neem oils; these treatments break down scale insect cuticles by blocking breathing pores or breaking them down externally, thus killing them off effectively. Just beware when applying oils if the plant is water stressed and/or hot and dry weather exists – any oil treatments could potentially become toxic over time and should only be applied during cooler, drier weather periods.

If the oils and soaps do not successfully reduce your scale infestation, consider switching to fast-acting botanical insecticides or systemic chemicals as an alternative solution. These have less harmful side effects than synthetic pesticides while breaking down quicker in the environment; always read and follow label instructions on these products; they should only be used if other methods have failed.

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