Get the Scoop on Soaps and Oils

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Bucks Country GardensLandscapeLawn & GardenPlants

I know what you’re thinking… what do oils and soaps have to do with gardening? I found myself asking the exact same thing. To my disbelief, oils and soaps happen to be one of the best choices for sensible pest control and even fungi. However, like all good gardening practices, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an application that best suits your landscape!

Plants can be sensitive to soaps and oils depending on a few vital factors. Avoid spraying plants when they are stressed. Spraying will only make the situation worse. In fact, it can cause leaf burn, leaf scorch, or spotting. We recommend not spraying when the temperature outside is above 85 degrees. And, we also recommend doing a two-week spray interval (before and/or after) when spraying horticultural oil and other sprays that contain sulfur, zinc, or chlorothalonil. The mixing of these two may cause foliage injury or leaf drop.

Always read the label – no matter what! I cannot stress this element enough. This step is extremely important due to the sensitivity factor. Some plants are more sensitive to soaps, while others are more sensitive to oils. For example, common plants that are soap-sensitive are Mountain ash, Japanese maple, Lantana, Gardenia, Crown-of-thorns. Oil-sensitive plants include: Japanese maple, Silver maple, Sugar maple, Hickory, Blue spruce, and Azalea. By reading the product label, you can avoid these sensitivity issues. Plus, the label tells you important application information, like when to spray certain plants, that is essential to proper controlling.

You can use a backpack sprayer or a high-pressure pump sprayer. But, when using a backpack sprayer, you need to periodically agitate the solution to keep it balanced and not separated.

Take in account the pests you are trying to rid your garden of. Both soaps white fly on plantand oils are most effective on soft-bodied pests such as mites, aphids, scale and mealybugs. Direct contact is crucial! Slathering the pests is the key to success. They must be completely covered by the soap or oil for this method to be effective. Oils work primarily through suffocation and the coating of oil forms this blockage. It is important to note that ingestion of sprayed material by the bug will not rid them. Neither will the pests walking through the oil. These oils will kill susceptible beneficial insects, too. So coating the bugs in targeted areas will be the most beneficial.


While there are a large variety of soil and oil products that are available on the market today, below are ones that we would recommend.

Bonide Hort OilAll Seasons Horticultural & Dormant Spray Oil
You can use it on a variety of fruits, vegetables, shade trees, evergreens, and ornamentals, flowers, and houseplants. It kills troublesome insects like scale, fungus gnats, aphids, whiteflies, mites, thrips, and leafminers. The cool thing about this specific product is that it kills all stages of the insects, including the eggs. This is an organic concentrate formula, so it will need to be mixed with water before applying.

Espoma Earth-tone


Espoma Earth-tone Insecticidal Soap
This multi-purpose insect killer is organic and will control pests like lacebugs, scale insects, tent caterpillars, spider mites, and more! You can spray and harvest on the same day and can be used indoors or out.



When it comes down to pest control, oils and soaps are a viable solution. Just remember to read the label and take into account when you’re spraying and what you’re trying to get rid of. Now, I bet you didn’t think soaps and oils would be helpful in the garden now did you?!

Jessie Tanski | Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator
David Jones | Horticulturist, Arborist, & Customer Service Specialist