How to eliminate pests in succulents and cactus

Mosquitoes on succulents


Succulent plants and most cacti are hard to kill (compared to other types of plants), but that does not make them immortal. Even if you irrigate them properly and give them the right fertilizer and light, they can still develop pests, and those insignificant bugs! They are harmful invaders, from cottonwood pillbugs to red spiders, aphids, mosquitoes, ants, snails and more. But do not worry today you have the solution to get rid of these bugs that harm your succulents and cactus.

These are some natural remedies for pest control and systemic insecticide treatments to help keep pests away from your succulents and cactus.

If you see a white fluff or small insects in your succulent plant, it may be time to invest in the control of some pest. I am going to tell you about the most common pests in succulents (and others not so much), cactus and other desert plants, and I will give you some advice on the best pest control techniques, natural products for pest control and some systemic pesticides for long-term pest treatments, in addition to prevention tips.

Many of the products that I will recommend are easy to obtain or to elaborate, as the case may be. So please read on how to eliminate pests from succulents is not such a difficult task seems.

Tips for the prevention of pests in cactus and succulents

Here are some things that you should generally do to keep the pests away from your succulents and cactus.

    • You can keep your succulents and cactus strong and healthy during the growing seasons with a soft and balanced fertilizer . After the fall, you do not need to fertilize your plants until the end of the cold season.
    • Make sure to remove dead leaves so insects do not have places to hide and reproduce. This also helps prevent the formation of mold.
    • Keep your succulents quite dry. Keeping the soil wet for long periods of time can attract mealy bugs, mosquitoes and other pests as well. That is why a good irrigation method for cactus and succulents is the most advisable: See: How to irrigate succulent plants guide.
    • Never use soil again or put dead leaves of plants that have been affected by pests in the compost pile. You will not want some survivor or his eggs infect your other plants. This is something I learned in the worst way.
    • Pesticides can be used to deter or kill insects and an occasional pest in succulents. Basically there are two types of pesticides: the first type is contact pesticides, which have to come in contact with the pest to kill it. Then there are systemic pesticides, which are absorbed into the roots of the plant to poison the insects that feed on the plants. Systemic pesticides are generally more expensive and come in a concentrate that needs to be diluted.
  • To help prevent future pest infestations, you can regularly spray or brush your plants with a natural systemic pesticide containing “Pure Neem Oil”. The oil is a 100% natural product that is not toxic to humans and repels all kinds of harmful insects. Okay, now read on for more specific information on pests .


cochinilla on succulent leavesWhen it comes to succulent plants, mealy or cottony insects are one of the most common pests. Ugh, we hate these bugs! They make themselves known by the white fluff left on the leaves or thorns of your cactus and succulents, and when the insects are fully developed, they actually look like small crabs. At first they may seem friendly, and you may only see some, but once they have selected  your cactus or succulent as an excellent place to live, they can seriously damage the plant. If a female decides to lay eggs on your succulent, she can reproduce more than six hundred of them. When those eggs break, they stick to your succulent and basically suck it. The damage can encourage the growth of mold on your plants and the insects themselves, at a high enough concentration,

How to eliminate the cottony cochineal

Use a cotton swab or brush to rub the mealy insects with alcohol. This will kill them without causing too much damage to your plants. Remove dead insects to keep the plant clean.

There is also a product called Safer Soap, which is a soap to kill insects that you can use to wash your plants. It will kill mealy bugs quickly by dissolving their shells. But keep in mind that if your succulents are in a terrarium, the soap will not have a place to drain. Therefore, use soaps infrequently to avoid accumulation.

If you REALLY need to use a pesticide , try Take Down Garden Spray . It is completely natural, does not stay in the environment for long, and is designed to kill most pests that like to attack succulents.

If your plants are outdoors and their pest situation is in critical condition, there are good evils that can remedy the worst evils. This option is beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings and the Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) to effectively eat the filthy mealybugs.

If you are seeing the damage caused by the cottony scale insects, but you are not seeing the insects themselves, the insects may be at their roots. If this is the case, you must remove the plants from their pot and treat the roots with one of the previous solutions before transplanting again. Some of their leaves will die, but generally the whole plant will recover.

Red spiders and mites


Read spider on succulent leafNot entirely spiders, not quite mites, these insects are the worst of the two worlds. They are very, very small, and if you are not looking for them in your succulents, you could easily overlook them. Spiders love succulent plants because they harbor a high concentration of sweet sap that mites like to suck. If your cactus is infected, you will see yellow and rust-colored spots that appear on your plant as scars. This can cause the plant to weaken and infect other problems.

It is very important to know that mites are not common insects like most pests on this page. Instead, they are a type of arachnid, like spiders, so regular insect sprays and insecticides will not kill them. In fact, those pesticides may be killing insects that eat red spiders. You will have to deal with mites and spiders in a more specific way.

How to control mites and red spider from succulents

If you see white fabrics on your plant, clean them as soon as possible. If you see mites too, brush or remove them and discard them from your succulents and cactus. You could even be thinking of removing the entire plant to prevent mites from entering your other plants.

Pure Neem oil is a good way to keep mites and red spiders away from your plants.

Take Down Garden Spray really works with mites, so use this all-natural pesticide before trying other brands bought in the store that might be designed for normal insects, not arachnids.




Mosquitoes on succulentsMosquitoes may not be as dangerous as other pests on the list of pests in succulent plants, but they can be a serious nuisance if you have succulents in a terrarium . If you water your succulents too much and there is too much water in your terrarium, the mosquitoes will flock and begin to reproduce. They do not bite, but they do procreate in masses , which is super disgusting. They will try to live in your plant and they will emerge whenever they perform any kind of succulent or cactus care.

How to control mosquitoes in succulent plants

To be able to fight a plague of  mosquitoes, it is better to avoid them. A good way to prevent mosquitoes from gathering and forming babies is to cover the top layer of your substrate  with a layer of sand, glass shavings or lava rock coverings. This will cover the soil layer that can be an attractive and humid place for mosquito breeding.

You can keep mosquitoes at bay by covering your succulents regularly with a repellent, a good choice are the essential oils of orange or rue. Strong in smell and that the mosquitoes do not like.

Be sure to let the soil around your succulents completely dry between waterings. When things are dry, mosquitoes have no place to lay eggs and any egg or larva that exists will die.

Check the soil and under the leaves to see if there is any transparent white egg. If you see any of these, remove them immediately and spray with a natural pesticide such as Take Down Garden Spray . Be careful not to use too much pesticide, but do want to do everything possible to ensure that all adults, babies and eggs have died. KILL THEM ALL!



scale insects on a plantIf you are seeing small bumps of brown  on your succulents, it is probably because they have attracted the attention of scale insects. These insects love to eat the sap of succulent plants, damaging your poor little plants and making them more susceptible to infections and drought. If you are not familiar, you may think that your plant only has small brown spots, but in reality they are insects with outer shells that protect them from most pesticides and predators.

Scattering insects constitute a surprisingly large portion of the family tree of insects , with more than a thousand separate species. Fortunately, you should only worry about two groups: insects with armored scales and insects with soft scales. Hard insects will produce a hard secretion to protect their bodies. The soft scales produce a film that is waxy in color and texture. This is connected to your body and serves the same purpose as the armored scale: protect insect.

The females can lay up to three hundred eggs at a time, protected by one of those armored carapaces. When the babies hatch, they leave the shell and find their own place to develop shells and eat your succulent plant. Many of the males will also grow small wings so they can fly around your house. Dealing with these insects as you find them is the best way to get rid of them and prevent them from fatally damaging your plants. Looking for these small insects should be part of the attention to your succulent plants.

How to control the scale insects

If you only see some of the insects, you can scratch them with the nail or with tweezers.

If your suculrntas is infected with hard body scale insects, the simplest way to treat them is to simply remove the branch or leaves that are affected. Sad, but sure.

Like the mealy bugs (cotton wool), you can apply a cotton brush or a brush and a little alcohol. This will help dissolve their projectiles and eventually kill them.

You can also get Safer soap   to kill insects and wash your plants. It will kill scaly insects by dissolving their shells. But remember that if your succulents are in a terrarium, the soap will not have a place to drain. Therefore, use soaps infrequently to avoid accumulation.

Weevils and Cocoideos

One of the plagues of the most common succulents are the so-called weevils. The best way to eradicate these pests is through the use of insecticides.

The weevils, similar to the beetles, you will notice because these will wither the leaves and will cause the succulents and cactus to collapse. These feed on leaves and tissue; if not treated in time, they will destroy the plant. Kill them individually.

As for the cocoideos, their color varies from light brown to dark and they are covered with scales. They look like incrustations of fungi or ballads on the sides of the plants. These insects absorb the sap and transmit diseases. Eradicate them as soon as possible.

White fly

The whitefly, as the name implies, are small white flies, which seem to have a fondness for Euphorbias, particularly those with soft leaves. Perhaps the most pleasant way to control these pests is through parasitic wasps; in just one week they can end up with a large population of white flies. The soap that I mentioned before can be effective too.

Natural remedies to eliminate pests in succulents and cactus

Now, I’ve talked in broad strokes of insect pests that commonly affect cacti and other succulent plants, as well as some solutions that exist in the market and others that you can make at home and in a natural way to combat them.

But that’s not all, you know that in we have given ourselves the task of always giving you the most complete information possible. Just because we love succulents as much as you do.

An effective natural remedy to combat pests and that is the old school methods (those that are passed down from generation to generation) is the following.

This “insecticide for succulents”, allows you to eliminate pests from the cottonworts and even the snails, which are those gluttons that eat succulent plants.

Homemade extract of orange peel and rue

A natural remedy that does not kill but does drive away and is also not toxic. But, that also does not affect the pollination of flowers. It does not poison bees or snails, but it does not keep them at bay.


  • Peel of approximately 1/2 kilo of orange
  • A bunch of rue (route graveolens)
  • Natural alcohol (commercially comes with red cap)


In a glass jar (preferably) mix the ingredients, cover everything with alcohol.

Let rest for 15 days. Strain and cover well to preserve.

In an atomizer or sprayer, mix 10% with 90% water.

This extract, which covers the plants with a layer of essential oil that will repel insects and parasites. It is strong in smell, for the ingredients it contains that bugs do not like.

In addition this substance eliminates fungi and spots on plants.

It can be used as many times as necessary, it does not affect the plants at all and is friendly to the environment.

Dish soap and water

Another remedy to eliminate pests in homemade succulents is to mix dishwasher soap with water. Spray the affected plants with this mixture, as many times as necessary.

Systemic insecticides:

If these natural products do not work for you after a few weeks, and bugs in succulents have resisted disappearing, you can choose to try one of the “systemic insecticide” treatments that are more expensive as a last resort. You can find them in specialized stores like insecticide for cactus and succulents. Over time, systemic pesticides are absorbed into plants through the roots and when insects drink that juice, they die or their hormones are affected and they can not procreate or multiply. Most of these are of natural origin, but they are still potent and poisonous, so you must be careful not to put it in your hands or other plants, animals, children, BEES and any edible crops that do not need it.

How to fight fungi in succulents

In addition to the cactus and succulent pests fungi appear together with or after a plague attack. Here I give you the details of some of the most common.

Black mold

Black mold (Capnodium spp) is among the less harmful fungi for succulent plants. It appears as a result of the feeding of aphids, woodlice, white flies and scales, since these insects exude a sweet substance called honeydew from which the mold feeds. To eliminate black mold, the insect infestation must be eliminated. By spraying the plant with a hose, mold is removed and then an appropriate method of insect control is implemented. Fortunately, black mold does not cause direct damage to succulents, although it can interfere with photosynthesis if the colonies are large.

Stains on the leaves

Succulents have shown a wide tolerance to fungi that cause spots on the leaves and stem. For the most part, these fungi are harmless, although they can disfigure landscape plants quite severely. Shallow tan lesions appear on susceptible plants, creating a permanent spotting or staining. In the landscape, the substitution of the plant for a more resistant cultivar can be justified or the spots can be tolerated, since they cause very little damage despite their appearance. Very infested succulents can spread stains to other plants, but fungicides are generally not recommended.

Gray mold

Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), also known as blight botrytis, is easily identified by its masses of grayish-brown spores that form on the surfaces of affected leaves and succulent flowers. Gray mold is more common when the weather is cool and damp in early spring or summer. It tends to settle on tissues of older, damaged or dying plants and spreads rapidly outward. Where gray mold prevails, fungicides can be used as a preventive measure, but will not cure an infestation. The affected areas of the succulent need to cut and burn the damaged tissues. It is better to avoid watering the succulents from the top, as they are allowed to dry between waterings and not leave chunks when cuttings are made.

Anthracnose of the cactus

The anthracnose of the cactus (Colletotrichum spp.) Affects a wide range of cactus and succulents. It often appears as a wet brown rot with red, orange or pink pustules on the surface. The spots start small, but expand rapidly in both the leaves and crowns. Once a succulent is infected, the only treatment is the elimination and destruction of the affected leaves. Anthracnose can spread through contaminated pots or soils, so tools and pots require complete disinfection and the garden floor is not reusable. The application of copper fungicide can help to destroy fungal bodies.

Root and crown rots

Fungal pathogens of the genus Phytophthora cause a variety of root and crown decay. Unfortunately, these diseases are difficult to differentiate from the early stages of other fungal diseases since their symptoms are largely nonspecific. Affected plants become stressed, wither, change color and eventually die due to a slow rot that develops upwards from ground level. Although radicular and coronary rots do not respond well to treatment, they can be discouraged if succulents are planted in well drained soils and care is taken not to irrigate excessively. Some succulents, such as aloe, can be restarted from cuts of unaffected tissues.

Diseases that affects succulents

Haworthia cymbiformis

Haworthia cymbiformis.