Neem Oil for Plants and Its Uses: Complete Guide to It’s Benefits

What is Neem Oil? What are it's Uses? Find out how you can use Neem oil for your plants in our complete guide

Getting your veggie patch ready for plants, sowing seeds, and planting seedlings is a lot of work. Watching your plants grow up healthy is rewarding, but it’s also going to take many hours tending to the garden.

One day you stroll out into your garden, and you notice that caterpillars are munching happily on your lettuce. Upon closer inspection, you see that there are bugs all over your plants – and they’re having a feast on your hard work.

So, now, what do you do? Do you give up on your veggie patch, and leave it to the pests? Or are you going to take a stand and claim your land back from these invaders?

Issues with Organics and Pesticides

If the bugs are taking over your vegetable garden or they’re ruining your roses and flowers, you’ll need chemical assistance to keep them at bay. We’re talking about using pesticides in your garden – and many gardeners are not okay with spraying toxic chemicals over their bushes.

It’s entirely understandable that you should want to avoid pesticides at all costs. After reading the research on the effects of pesticides from a leading producer, it’s enough to make your head spin. Herbicides and pesticides contain dangerous ingredients, such as glyphosate.

Glyphosate is proven to attack the healthy bacteria in your gut, causing myriad health issues. The abundant use of glyphosate in industrial agriculture is the most significant factor in reducing honeybee populations around the world.

The bees ingest the glyphosate, and the poison kills its gut bacteria, causing the death of entire colonies. We’re sure you don’t want anything to do with spraying this poison on your veggie garden. However, the bugs continue to devour your crops, and you need to do something to control them before they demolish them.

Organic Neem Oil, From Amazon

Neem Oil – The Natural Pest Control Alternative

Natural pest control is much better for your crops and your health. Neem oil is the natural pesticide you need to chase the bugs away from your plants.

Neem oil derives from the “Azadirachta indica” plant, native to India. The fruit and the seeds of the neem plant receive processing into oil. Due to the popularity of this oil, it grows in tropical climates and cultivars worldwide.

Neem oil comes in a variety of different colors, including red, yellow, and brown. Neem does not have an attractive smell; its pungent fragrance contains hits of garlic and peanuts. If you have a sensitive sense of smell, then the chances are the aroma of this oil will turn your stomach.

Neem oil has anti-microbial properties, and the pungent smell makes it useful for use as a natural pesticide. Bugs can’t stand the smell or taste of the oil, and they’ll take flight from your plants as soon as they can.

Neem oil creates an inhospitable environment for the pests, killing them or forcing them to move on to other food sources outside of your yard. Imagine you were enjoying a tasty milkshake, and someone came along and poured in a few tablespoons of castor oil. That’s kind of like what the bugs experience when you spray your crops with neem.

Spraying neem oil directly onto your plants isn’t a good idea. It’s better to dilute the oil before you start spraying down your plants. Neem oil mixes well with warm water. The oil mixes readily with warm water but doesn’t do as well with cold or room temperature water.

Triple Action Neem Oil Fungicide Insecticide, From Amazon

Azadirachtin – Neem Oil’s Secret Ingredient

Out of all the compounds found in neem oil, azadirachtin is the most-studied, and it offers your plants protective properties against pest infestations. Depending on the brand of neem, the oil can have anywhere between 300 to 2,500-ppm of azadirachtin.

That’s a significant difference. It’s for this reason that we recommend you buy a premium brand of this oil to get the most azadirachtin possible in your pesticide. Studies on the effects of azadirachtin in controlling locust populations show that it causes the insect to lose its appetite.

Further studies on the compound show that it has a similar effect on insects that eat crops. The azadirachtin has the effect of diminishing appetite or stunting growth in insects. These findings are good news for gardeners, and neem shows promising results when used to control the bugs in your backyard.

Thousands of organic farms rely on neem oil to control pests, and there’s no reason it can’t work in your backyard either.

The Neem Tree
The Neem Tree

Is Neem Oil Toxic in People?

You might be wondering if neem oil has a toxic effect on people. That’s an understandable concern. However, it will please you to learn that neem is non-toxic in people and animals. However, getting the undiluted oil on your skin may cause an allergic reaction in some people with sensitive skin.

We recommend you always use diluted neem oil when spraying your crops. Always ensure you’re wearing the correct personal protective equipment when spraying down your plants. Wear a dust mask or respirator, goggles, and gloves when spraying.

If you somehow have the misfortune of ingesting neem oil, it will cause severe gastrointestinal inflammation and irritation. However, you won’t experience any dangerous reactions to the oil, but you’ll probably develop diarrhea and stomach cramps for the rest of the day.

The USDA recognizes neem oil as safe for use, and you can use the oil for pest control without any issues. Neem is readily available for purchase online, and you can pick it up at most nurseries and garden centers as well.

How Do I Use Neem Oil?

Neem oil is available in a concentrated format. You’ll need to either buy a diluted spray or dilute the oil yourself to use it for gardening purposes.

We recommend buying oil concentrate and diluting. Most diluted products have low concentrations of neem oil, and they sell for outlandish prices. You can save yourself a bundle on your gardening budget by buying the oil and mixing it yourself.

To make a quart of neem oil pest repellant, you’ll need the following ingredients.

  • 1-teaspoon cold-pressed neem oil (5ml)
  • 1/3-teaspoon insecticidal soap (2 to 3ml) *This ingredient is optional but use it if you can
  • 1-quart of warm tap water

If you want to make a bigger batch of your home-made pest repellant, scale up on these quantities. The above recipe is for a 0.5% solution. For a more robust 1% solution, double up on the neem oil and insecticidal soap but use the same amount of water.

To prepare your home-made pest repellant, follow these instructions.

  • Pour the warm water into a spray bottle
  • Mix in the insecticidal soap until well distributed
  • Add the neem oil and close the container
  • Close the lid on your spray bottle and shake well
  • Shake the bottle well before each use

Harris Neem Oil, From Amazon

How Do I Apply Neem Oil?

After mixing up your home-made pest repellant, you’re ready to give the pesky pests the dosing they deserve. Before you go out into the garden, remember to don your gloves, eyewear, and respirator. When spraying your plants, use the misting applicator on your spray bottle for a wide spray zone.

Remember to cover both the tops and undersides of all leaves, as most bugs prefer hanging out on the bottom of leaves. Get the spray into all the nooks and crannies, ensuring that you give your garden total coverage.

It’s okay if the spray gets onto the soil and has no detrimental effect on the plants’ health. The spray will help to prevent nematodes appearing, and it enhances soil quality.

After finishing your spray, you can throw the rest of what’s leftover in your spray bottle down the drain. The non-toxic ingredients will not do anything to harm your local water supply. Any leftover pest repellant will start to separate, and the elements will breakdown in around 8-hours, rendering the spray ineffective.

It’s impossible to overspray your plants, so don’t worry about overdoing it. Make sure that you get complete coverage of your garden. We recommend a maintenance spray of your plants once a week using the 0.5% solution.

If you have existing infestations, then we recommend you mix up a batch of the 1% solution. The stronger solution will help to curb the pests. Repeat the spraying twice a week until the bugs are gone, and then back off to the maintenance protocol going forward until the end of the growing season.

Neem Oil Kills Pests at Every Stage of the Lifecycle

Most pesticides only target a specific stage of the lifecycle of the pest. Therefore, you’ll find the product only suitable for killing eggs, larvae, or adult pests.

Neem is a holistic pesticide solution. The oil kills bugs at every stage of the lifecycle. Neem works by disrupting the normal behavior of pests.

  • Prevents the bugs from feeding in the adult stage
  • Disrupts growth in the larval stage
  • Smothers eggs and larvae
  • Blanket pest control for over 200+ varieties of insects

The original studies on the effects on neem oil in pests were on locusts. However, since these trials, the oil shows promise I blanket protection for your garden from over 200 varieties of pests, including the following troublemakers in your yard.

  • Caterpillars
  • Mites
  • Whitefly
  • Greenfly
  • Aphids
  • Thrip
  • Mealybugs
  • Scale insects
  • Grasshoppers

Neem Oil FAQs

Is neem oil effective at chasing away mosquitos?

It might surprise you to learn that neem can prevent mosquito bites. The pests hate the garlic-scent of the oil, chasing them away.

Will neem oil kill Japanese beetle larvae?

The Japanese beetle is a nightmare for your crops. Fortunately, neem oil is an excellent solution for stopping these pests at every stage of the Lifecycle.

Will pests build a tolerance to neem oil?

Some pests can build a tolerance to chemical pesticides. However, neem is effective at removing pests with each application. Bugs don’t build a tolerance to the oil, and if you think it’s losing its effect, then increase the strength of the solution.

Is it safe to use neem oil around my pets?

Chemical pesticides are deadly for your pets. They might contaminate the soil and water around your plants. Your pets may consume the foliage of plants or water, causing death or sickness in your animals. Neem is non-toxic. If your pet consumes it, the worst that can happen is an upset tummy.

What is a neem cake?

Neem cakes are a byproduct of the neem extraction process. You can find these cakes at the nursery, and they still have neem in them. Spread them around your flowerbeds and let them breakdown in the soil for additional pesticide protection and extra nutrients for your soil.

Can I use Neem oil on my houseplants?

Yes, neem oil is entirely safe to use on your indoor plants. However, before you start drowning them in neem, it’s important to note that indoor plants typically don’t have the same level of pest problems as outdoor plants. Therefore, only treat your plants if they start showing signs of pest infestation.

Is Neem Oil Biodegradable?

Neem oil is a natural substance derived from the neem tree. Therefore, it breaks down naturally without harming the environment.

Neem Oil – A Powerful Natural Fungicide

Neem oil is a potent natural pesticide, and it has strong anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. You can apply neem oil to your plants to smother the following fungal infections.

  • White powdery mildew
  • Anthracnose
  • Rusy
  • Tip blight
  • Leaf spot and blackspot
  • Scab

Spray the plants using the 1.0% solution once a week.

Once you notice the fungus declining, it’s time to back off to a monthly dose for prevention.

Use Neem Oil Up to Your Harvest Date

Neem is an organic pest repellant and contains no harmful chemicals. Therefore, it’s safe to use right up until your harvest date. When you harvest your fruits and vegetables, a light rinse under the tap is all you need to remove any neem residue.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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