Horticultural Oil: What Is It And How To Use It In The Garden


The use of horticultural oil, is a common way to eliminate pest issues for fruit trees and gardens. Many people struggle to control the garden pests such as spider mites, scales, aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, slugs and snails, and keep them at bay.

After exhausting other means of pest control such as insecticidal soaps, natural neem insecticide, pesticides, and fungicides many turn to horticultural oils also called a spray oil.

spraying horticultural oilspraying horticultural oil

You must remember not all insects are pests. Lady Bugs, are a natural enemy of some insects and pests, for example, helping to control aphid populations. Unfortunately, oils will harm both the good beneficial insects and the bad insects, so take care and evaluate the situation prior to using horticultural sprays.

What Is Horticultural Oil?

When it comes to pest or insect control, you’ll find several types of oil to use which can eliminate garden pests like spider mites on your fruit tree and shrubs.

Is neem oil a dormant oil?

Neem oil makes one of the best insect-repelling essential oils that exists.

Derived from petroleum, oils work by coating the outside of a bug (armored scale insects), and prevent them from proper breathing and eating, suffocating them.

The highly refined oils extracted from plants can also naturally eliminate pests and even their eggs.

Mix the oil with water and a little Dawn dish soap into a sprayer or a spray bottle and apply on plants struggling with insect issues.

You’ll hear several names get thrown around to describe the oil:

  • Dormant oil spray
  • Volck oil
  • Dormant spray
  • All seasons spray oil
  • Summer oil

How And When To Use Horticultural Oil Spray In The Garden?

Reach for horticulture oil after exhausting all other pest control options. Oils work very well on most plants, however, always check the labeling before applying them. Some oils perform better when applied during the dormant season and only under specific conditions (temperature as well as humidity).

Applying a “dormant oil” helps kill off any wintering insects like mites, scale, and give aphid control without harming the plant.

Horticultural spray oils when first introduced were heavy oils. Today, this type of oil is highly refined and “light weight” like Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil (amazon) now allow the safe use on many plants throughout the entire growing season as needed. Apply the oil, it dries up and becomes non-toxic to plants, but effective in pest control. Also, use oils to help control powdery mildew or black sooty mold.

The term “dormant spray”, refers to the proper timing to use the oil and not the kind of oil utilized. Always refer to the label for application directions.

Use Spray Oils On What Type Of Plants?

Using homemade horticultural oils to kill plant scale and other soft insects on woody ornamental plants make for a lethal combo.

Unfortunately, they also kill off any beneficial insects as well. Take great care to ensure the proper application and use of sprays on plants that can tolerate the oils.

The oils don’t harm the plant, just the bugs. They work by suffocating the insects as well as their eggs.

They also affect how the insects eat and can poison the insects as well as suffocate them. Additionally, one insect may carry the oils to other insects and contaminate the entire nest.

In order for oils to work effectively, insects need to be totally covered. Once the oil dry’s on the plant the oils no longer work on the insect pests.

Related Reading

Plants NOT To Use Oils On?

Never use oils with any aquaponic gardening, the oils are toxic to fish. Don’t use oils on plants such as:

  • Maples
  • Junipers
  • Spruce
  • Cedar or other such Evergreen plants
  • Japanese as well as Red Maples
  • Hickory and Black Walnut plants
  • Plume cedar
  • Smoke Tree – very sensitive

If plants show yellowing of leaves or needles after application, do not used again on the plant. This usually indicates a burn and could cause further damage if used again.

So, you’re probably thinking “horticultural oil vs neem oil”.

Make every effort to eliminate pests with other methods, such as neem oil, prior to seeking out horticultural oil such as insecticides or biorational pesticide. Never apply oils in freezing temperatures, droughts or extreme heat and ALWAYS read the chemical label.

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