Boxwoods are a popular choice for hedges and landscaping due to their hardiness and attractive appearance. However, like any plant, they can fall victim to pests such as the boxwood leaf miner, psyllids, and mites.
While chemical insecticides are often used to combat these pests, many people are turning to natural alternatives such as neem oil. But can you really use neem oil on boxwoods?
In this article, we’ll explore the effectiveness of neem oil as a pest control option for boxwoods and provide tips on how to use it safely and effectively.
Can You Use Neem Oil On Boxwoods?
Yes, neem oil can be used on boxwoods to control pests such as the boxwood leaf miner, psyllids, and mites. Neem oil is a natural alternative to chemical insecticides and is derived from the seeds of the neem tree, which is native to India.
Neem oil works by disrupting the life cycle of pests and preventing them from feeding and reproducing. It also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that discourage fungi and parasites.
When using neem oil on boxwoods, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully. Neem oil should be applied in mid to late May and again in mid-June to July to keep the numbers of leaf miners down to tolerable thresholds. It’s also important to prune infected foliage before the flies emerge to help control the population.
Neem oil can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drench. It’s important to note that neem oil may need to be reapplied every year for effective pest control.
Understanding Boxwood Pests
Boxwood is generally a hardy plant, but it does have a few pests to watch out for. The most notable pest is the boxwood leaf miner, which causes the leaves to turn yellow. Another common pest is the boxwood psyllid, which causes cupping of the leaves. Mites can also be a problem for boxwoods.
The boxwood leaf miner is best controlled through systemic injection or basal drenching of imidacloprid, a restricted product that should be administered by a licensed applicator. Foliar spray applications are much less effective on the boxwood leaf miner as they only emerge as adults that can be sprayed for a short period of time. Organic applications of neem oil can be used for organic properties, but it will need to be done every year mid and late May to keep the numbers of leaf miners down to tolerable thresholds.
The boxwood psyllid can be managed with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil when new growth first starts expanding in the spring. Once the insects are protected in cupped leaves, systemic insecticides are more effective than those which require direct contact with the insect. Systemic insecticides may be soil applied post bloom according to label instructions to reduce the risk of impacting pollinator populations. After cupping of the leaves occurs, managing boxwood psyllid with contact insecticides is not a viable option for the current year (the aesthetic damage has already occurred to the plant and the insects are well protected) but it may be noted and included in next season’s integrated pest management plan.
Mites can be controlled with miticides such as Avid or Floramite. It’s important to note that miticides should only be applied if there is an actual mite infestation, as they can harm beneficial insects.
It’s important to read and follow all label instructions when using any pesticide product, including neem oil. Make sure that the product you select is labeled for use against the pest you wish to manage, on the site to which it will be applied. Neonicotinoid insecticides cannot be applied to trees or shrubs in Massachusetts except by an individual with the proper licensure or certification from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources.
What Is Neem Oil And How Does It Work?
Neem oil is a natural insecticide, fungicide, and bactericide derived from the seeds of the neem tree. The oil contains over 70 compounds, many of which have insecticidal or repellent properties. The most common compound extracted from neem seed is azadirachtin, which disrupts the hormones that control breeding, growth, and feeding in pests.
Neem oil works by suffocating insects or disrupting how they feed, ultimately preventing them from reproducing and spreading. It also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that discourage fungi and parasites.
Neem oil can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drench. It’s particularly effective against soft-bodied pests such as aphids, beetle larvae, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, mealybugs, thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. However, it’s important to identify the specific pest you’re dealing with before using neem oil, as it may not be effective against all pests.
When applying neem oil to plants, it’s important to cover all parts of the plant and spray the undersides of leaves where pests can hide and lay eggs. It should be applied either late in the evening or very early in the morning to ensure it has time to dry on the plant before pollinators are active. Once dry, neem poses little to no risk to bees or other pollinating insects.
While neem oil is generally safe for use in food gardens when applied according to the manufacturer’s directions and using appropriate cautions, it’s best to use neem when pollinating insects are not active to reduce risks to our beneficial insect populations. Neem oil is toxic to fish and other aquatic creatures, so care should be taken to avoid harming water habitats when applying the spray.
Benefits Of Using Neem Oil On Boxwoods
Using neem oil on boxwoods has several benefits. Firstly, it’s a natural and organic alternative to chemical insecticides, making it a safer option for the environment, pets, and humans. Secondly, neem oil is effective in controlling a wide range of pests, including the boxwood leaf miner, psyllids, and mites. It works by disrupting the pests’ hormones that control breeding, growth, and feeding. Thirdly, neem oil has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that discourage fungi and parasites, making it useful for controlling fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.
Another benefit of using neem oil on boxwoods is that it can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drench, making it easy to use and versatile. It’s also biodegradable, breaking down quickly into harmless components and leaving no toxic residue.
Furthermore, using neem oil on boxwoods can help maintain the health and appearance of the plants. Pests and fungal diseases can weaken boxwoods, making them more vulnerable to other stressors such as drought or extreme temperatures. By controlling pests and diseases with neem oil, boxwoods can thrive and remain healthy for years to come.
How To Apply Neem Oil To Boxwoods
To apply neem oil to boxwoods, follow these steps:
1. Mix the neem oil according to the instructions on the label. Typically, it is mixed with water at a ratio of 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water.
2. Fill a spray bottle with the neem oil mixture.
3. Spray the neem oil mixture evenly over the entire boxwood plant, making sure to cover both the top and bottom of the leaves.
4. Repeat this process every 7-14 days as needed, depending on the severity of the pest infestation.
5. If using neem oil as a soil drench, mix the neem oil with water according to the instructions on the label and pour it around the base of the boxwood plant.
6. Repeat this process every 4-6 weeks as needed.
It’s important to note that neem oil should not be applied when bees or other pollinators are present, as it can be harmful to them. It should also not be applied in direct sunlight, as this can cause damage to the plant. It’s best to apply neem oil in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler and bees are less active.
Precautions When Using Neem Oil On Boxwoods
While neem oil is generally considered safe for use on plants, there are a few precautions to keep in mind when using it on boxwoods. First, it’s important to test the neem oil mixture on a small section of the plant before applying it to the entire shrub. This will help ensure that the mixture does not cause any damage to the plant.
It’s also important to apply neem oil during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, to avoid burning the leaves. Additionally, neem oil should not be applied during periods of high humidity or rain, as this can reduce its effectiveness.
When applying neem oil as a foliar spray, be sure to cover all parts of the plant, including the undersides of leaves and stems. It’s also important to reapply the spray every two weeks for best results.
Finally, it’s important to store neem oil properly in a cool, dark place away from children and pets. Neem oil should also not be ingested or used on humans or animals.
Other Natural Pest Control Options For Boxwoods
In addition to neem oil, there are other natural pest control options for boxwoods that can be used to prevent and treat infestations. One option is spinosad, such as Bull’s Eye, which is also safe for people, pets, and the environment.
Another option is to use beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, which feed on pests like mites and aphids. These insects can be purchased and released in your garden to help control pest populations.
Additionally, using companion planting with herbs like basil and mint can help repel pests and attract beneficial insects. These herbs can be planted near your boxwoods to help prevent infestations.
Lastly, maintaining healthy soil and proper watering practices can also help prevent pest infestations. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to pests. By following proper watering procedures and keeping the soil healthy, you can help keep your boxwoods pest-free.