An organic spray for Aphids and other insects on roses

cupshaped_roses(6)June 15, 2008

I wrote this Article yesterday for my blog, since many seems to be "bugged" these days: Click on Images to enlarge:

Roses like many other ornamental garden plants, are attacked by insects that damage the plants. The problem with rose gardens are, that they are a mono culture. In mono cultures there are no biological diversity of plants, that create natural habitats for beneficial insects that can keep the number of harmful insects down. A mixed planting with roses, trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials, annuals and semi-annuals, have more biodiversity and attract more of the beneficial insects that can keep the number of harmful insects at bay.

It is becoming more and more unacceptable for gardeners to use chemical toxic insecticides. The environmentally long term effects of many chemical insecticides are unknown and many are also toxic to gardeners, who have to wear protection gear, when spraying these insecticides.

One organic insecticide that has almost been forgotten is extracts of Chrysanthemum cinerariefolium or Dalmatian chrysanthemums. The active component in the extracts are pyrethrum or natural-pyrethrins. They are neuro-toxic to insects and kill all insect hit by a spray containing natural-pyrethrins. Natural-pyrethrins are biodegradable and short acting since its is broken down by UV light and Oxygen. They are safe to use on vegetables and they are safe to eat after 24 hours. (Do wash them).I used to buy a few pounds of dried flowerheads of Chrysanthemum cinerariefolium and made a tea for my little pressure sprayer. I sprayed shoots that had very badly infested with aphids and leaves infected with leafhopper and rose-slugs (Sawfly). The effects are remarkable! Take a look at this tip of a rose-shoot infested with aphids:

And then take a look at the same shoot sprayed with natural-pyrethrin 7 days later:

One might say: Well aphids can just be sprayed a way with a jet of water, well true if repeated a few times that will help! But what if you have 200 or more roses? Or even just 50, it would be a waste of water and take an absurd amount of time. Also many ornamental plants would look horrible after been sprayed with jets of water! I also do not like insecticidal soaps since I have experienced follicular burns.

Aphids in large numbers suck the life out of young rose shoots and cause deformed flowers and leaves. They also increase the risk of fungal disease by the damage they do to the plant and the honeydew they excrete. Take a look at this rose shoot:

That is above the tolerance I have for aphids on roses! I either make the pyretrum tea and spray or use one of the natural extracts that can now be bought from various companies. It is also possible to grow the Chrysanthemums yourself or buy the dried flowerheads and make they tea used to spray:

For one half liter / about 16 fl OZ of water I use 3 table spoons of dried flowerheads of Chrysanthemum cinerariefolium and slowly warm the tea in a small pot, until it becomes hot but not boiling. I allow the tea to cool with the flowerheads still in. When Cooled I filter away the flowerheads and poor the tea in my little pressure sprayer.

I spray shoots and plants heavy infested with aphids. I do not nuke the entire garden or use bigger pressure sprayers with this pyrethrum tea. If I did that I would kill too many beneficial insects too. The idea is to keep a balance and target specific insects that are causing a problem. I do that by spraying areas where I see the insects I want to get rid of. I am careful not to hit fx. bees. If plants are infested with roseslugs or leafhoppers, I do use a bigger pressure sprayer, that is better at creating a fine mist and has a longer handle so I can spray the underside of the leaves too. I only spray about 3 times every year. I see plenty of beneficial insects and there are still lots of aphids left them and birds like sparrows and tits eats a lot of them too. I have nesting boxes for these garden helpers:

Natural Pyrethrum and pyrethrins tea and extract have a very pleasant smell of chrysanthemums. Some are however allergic to chrysanthemums, and the spray can cause skin irritation and irritate the eyes. I have never experienced any of that, but do be careful when spraying! Just because it is organic does not mean it is harmless. Also make sure not spray around ponds, since it will kill aquatic insects too. Natural pyrethrins is useful against many different insects on many different plants.

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buford(7 NE GA)

Great post. Do you know if there are any ready made products with natural-pyrethrins in them?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 7:52AM
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bloomorelse(Z4b NB Canada)

Very interesting reading. I don't have a lot of roses, just planted 8 new minis and HT's this Spring, but they are planted among other perennials. I'm not familiar with all the rose pests, but I've noticed these tiny white things on the flower buds. When I squish them, I have green stuff on my fingers. They are about 1/4 the size of an aphid. Are these aphids in disguise, or some other bug. They don't even appear to move when I watch them. Can't seem to get a clear pic of them. I saw aphids on 1 bud only.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 8:18AM
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mexicanhat(6a/Sub Rosa)

Rotenone is a brand name of a pyrethrin based spray. Keep in mind, it's highly toxic to bees so please use with care.

Cornell guide to pyrethrin

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 10:16AM
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roseman(Z 8A GA)

If you want to get rid of aphids with something you may already have in your kitchen or pantry, that is cheap as well as biodegradable, and will not hurt the environment, go to, and email me for the item as well as how to apply it. It's very simple, yet works extremely well.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 11:09AM
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gardenmanya(6B SEPA)

Where do you get your chrysanthemums from? I had really heavy infestation a couple of weeks ago.I used pipe tobacco tea , also probably pretty toxic. Works miracles. 3oz of pipe tobacco from the store, 1/2 cup dishwasher soap per one gallon of water. Boil it together, chill, dilute 1:2, spray. I've been using it for a couple of years already usually in spring, both in CO and PA with very good results. Maria

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 11:13AM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)

Cupshaped Roses, Thanks for the great information.

I have had great result keeping the bugs and blackspot under control using the natural spray product, Good Health Roses made by Organic Plant Healthcare. I like it because I can also use it on my vegatable garden. They have a full line of organic and natural product. They just came out with a JB product called Bye Bye Beetles.

I have attached their website link below. When ever I order I just give them a call.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Plant Healthcare

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:16PM
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I used to buy the dried flower heads from a seed supply store. Recently extracts with rapseed oil have become available in Europe from Neudosan and Ecostyle.

The Chrysantemumseeeds can be bought from many seed companies. The flowers look like white daisises.

For US citizens I only recommend OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) listed products:

Pyganic Crop Protection EC 5.0 II
Pyganic® Crop Protection EC 1.4 II
Safer® Brand Yard & Garden Insect Killer Concentrate II (with soap)
Safer® Brand Yard & Garden Insect Killer II (with soap)

I do not like products with soaps since I have experienced follicular burns from ALL of these. (you are never gone win a roseexhibition show if you use insecticidal soaps!) Roses are supposed to be ornamental plants, not schorched burn wictims (and yes I used the right amount - never again!).

The only non OMRI listed product I will recommend is: Pyola Insect Spray. It contains natural pyrethrins and canola oil:

I do not recommend products with synergist /Enhancers like PBO : piperonyl buttoxide. Since it gives a longer breakdown time.

Also be aware the natural pyrethrins is very differnt from synthetic Pyrethroids!

Mexicanhat: Rotenone IS NOT A BRAND NAME FOR PYRETHRUM! Rotenone is an entirely different natural insecticide! Sometimes products containing pyrethroids are mixed with rotenone ... Thank you however for posting the Cornell ressource guide for Pyrethrum.

And you are right: As I wrote in my article I specifically wrote not to hit bees, but to ONLY SPRAY AREAS OF PLANTS INFESTED WITH UNWANTED INSECTS!

Maria no wonder your tobacco/soap mix worked. Nicotine is the tobbacoplants natural insecticide. I have however seen roseplants loose all the leaves from just a few drops of diswater soap --- so I do not recommed this either.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:20PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I think immidacloripid is also a tobacco based product.

Just because something is 'organic' or natural doesn't mean it's not deadly or can't harm you or the good bugs.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:48PM
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I put a few birdbaths near the roses with fresh water, and not an aphid to be seen. One other solution if you dont want to spray with anything.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 1:32PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Nope -- they're all non-specific, so they are going to kill the goodies along with the badies.
In my opinion, the potential for harm outweighs the good, BUT that's a decision everyone has to make for him- or herself.

HOWEVER -- Make a fully INFORMED decision.
Before you apply any pesticide, FIRST take the trouble to research the possible side-effects and consider them.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 1:33PM
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Excactly Buford! Just because they are natural or "Organic" does not mean they are harmless. Natural pyrethrum is however the safest insecticide. Breaks down very fast 1-2 hours in sunlight- kills insects hit within 1-2 min and is approved for organic garden and food products in both USA and Europe. All gardeners can ask themselves whether they want to protect their ornamentals - suppose we all hope to see our roses bloom? And if we do use the means that are the least damaging to our soil, plants and the environment.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 2:55PM
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Hi cuped...,

That is the coolest mix I have heard of in my 50 something years.

neem oil is great. It is a vegetable oil and used as a medicinal by itself. By itself it is just a repellent. It can be placed into pesticides and that changes the effects.

It is highly useful by itself in a mix of 32 oz. of water with two small cupfulls of the neem and a teaspoon of Ivory liquid. I have had nothing but good luck with this and the organic gardener/garden nursery here in the area swears by it as i do also. I have checked many websites and it is said to be non-toxic to animals, people, bees etc. My bees thrive and so do my lady bugs.

Thanks for the tip,
Happy growing,

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 5:55PM
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I have lots of beautiful blooms and lots of lush beautiful leaves on my beautiful plants.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 6:21PM
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mexicanhat(6a/Sub Rosa)

Ahhhh, CSR, I was thinking of rotenone-pyrethrin rotation. Sorry for thinking of rotenone. Obviously needed more coffee in the brain this morning.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 8:26PM
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Where would one get neem oil? By 2 small cupfulls do you mean a measuring cup-full? I'm looking for the best thing..right now new roses look ok.Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 10:30PM
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I get my Neem Oil at an organic nursery in Mill Valley Ca. I have been an organic garderner my whole life. The brand is Dyna-grow and it is the real deal from the tree. I buy the 8oz. size and use the cap off the bottle. So for 32 oz. of water (1 quart) I put two capfulls and a few drops of ivory liquid. The recipe on the bottle calls for 1.5 teaspoons of neem. I tend to dilute less than formulas.
Check out the People rave about my roses. Honestly they looked like sh.. until I started using the Neem oil. I even put the mixture in the ground for watering occasionally. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 1:12AM
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I have taken over a rose garden at a church to get the plants healthy. After three weeks they are looking much better. One of the plants is infested with rose chafers. Today I just cut the heads off. And I put a diluted solution of Neem Oil and Ivory soap in the soil. This rose is in a container and I am going to transplant it to soil so I can manage it better. Rodale press says pyrethrin is the solution. Any other suggestions that are organic?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 1:29AM
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