Succulents are naturally hardy and pest-resistant, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get bugs from time to time. Dealing with pests of any kind on your leafy friends is never fun, especially when they just keep coming back. So, how do you manage a pest infestation in your succulent garden?
Out of the many ways you can take care of pests that terrorize your succulents, diatomaceous earth is the one we’ll focus on today:
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from fossilized organisms called diatoms. This tiny aquatic algae contains naturally high amounts of silica in its cell walls, and over time, its fossils build up in rivers, oceans, lakes, and streams. Today, we mine this silica buildup for a number of uses: to preserve fabrics, to clean water, and to kill pests. You can even find it in some everyday products like toothpaste, paint, rubber, and some skincare products.
Diatomaceous Earth as a Pesticide
Even though it seems like a harmless powder, diatomaceous earth is considered a natural desiccant: a substance that absorbs lots of moisture and dries out anything around it. In small amounts, desiccation is great for preventing corrosion and mold, and in terms of plant care, it can dry out insect eggs on the surface of your soil.
In addition to its status as a desiccant, individual particles of diatomaceous earth are very sharp. These sharp fragments can effectively kill soft-bodied pests, including fungal gnats, ants, aphids, and grubs– all of which are common succulent pests.
Why use Diatomaceous Earth?
The main reason for using DE and not another pesticide is that pure diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to animals, plants, or people. Unlike common pesticides, diatomaceous earth is a naturally-occuring substance that, in small amounts, won’t hurt your plants: it’s actually recommended to mix a little bit into your soil! Plus, it won’t cause harm if accidentally ingested. We’ll get into the fine details about using diatomaceous earth safely at the end of this blog.
Can I use Diatomaceous Earth on Succulents?
Diatomaceous earth is good for succulents because it is a desiccant. Its ability to quickly absorb moisture and keep things dry is excellent for preventing root rot and minor overwatering problems. It dries quickly, meaning your succulents won’t have to sit with liquid on their leaves after treating pests. You can use DE on succulents in two ways:
As a Powder
As a powder, sprinkle a very small amount of diatomaceous earth onto your soil to kill any fungal gnat or ant eggs. You can also mix diatomaceous earth into your soil to help improve its texture. To do so, add about 20% food-grade DE to 80% of your soil. We recommend repotting succulents suffering from fungal gnats or root rot with this method to prevent further infestation.
In a Spray
You can also use diatomaceous earth in a liquid solution, but it won’t damage pests until it dries. Using a spray bottle is especially helpful for getting into hard-to-reach places, like the undersides of leaves where mealybugs like to hide. To make your DE solution, mix a teaspoon-full into a cup of water and pour it into a misting bottle.
Despite DE’s “generally safe” label, it is still a dangerous substance that can cause damage to your throat and lungs if inhaled. When handling diatomaceous earth, there are some key things you should always do to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe!
When working with diatomaceous earth, it’s best to use the substance outside or somewhere with lots of ventilation. That way, you’re less likely to sit in a cloud of dust particles while you work. Keep pets and children away from your work area until you’ve finished.
Wear Safety Gear
Wearing long sleeves, gloves, a face mask, and goggles is another crucial thing to do while working with DE. Since this substance is a desiccant, it’s best to avoid getting it on your hands and arms, so your skin doesn’t dry out. To protect your throat and lungs, wearing a mask like an N95 or KN95 will keep you safe from getting DE particles in your lungs.
Since diatomaceous earth is a desiccant, it’s best to avoid getting it on your hands and arms, so your skin doesn’t dry out.
Choose the Right Grade
A final note to mention is that there are two types of diatomaceous earth available: food grade and filter grade. You’ll always want to use food-grade DE when working with plants because while it is deadly to insects, it does not contain enough silica to cause harm to humans and other animals. Filter grade, on the other hand, has much higher concentrations of silica and is toxic to animals and people.
See more about IS CHARCOAL GOOD FOR SUCCULENTS?
If you found this article interesting, share it with your succulent loving friends!
And get a free plant when your friends make an order. Sign up here!
Learn more about how to nurture and enjoy many gorgeous succulents and clever decoration tips with our newsletter. Let's sign up!