A Cure for Scales: Horticultural Oil

I live on the Gulf Coast. Some of the plants you find in a typical yard, you just will not find in Northern yards. (By Northern, I mean anything North of I-10.) We grow lots of palms and these things called Oleanders among many. I was just taken with Oleanders when we moved down here. They come in lots of colors and seemed to bloom all through the spring and summer, which I really liked. My favorite colors are the hot pink and the light pink varieties.


Oleanders are not without their downfalls. They are poisonous so, if you have a pet that typically eats plants Oleanders are definitely not for you. And because they are poisonous you can never-ever burn them. So, if you prune the bushes in your yard and then burn your clippings you might want to think twice before you get Oleanders. Neither of those precautions apply to us, so we got some Oleanders.

And one day I noticed they were covered with little white dots and after a little bit of research I figured out those little white dots are actually Scales- a little pest that will just cause the plant lots of distress- leaf fall and mildew. I really needed to get rid of them for the sake of my Oleanders’ sanity. (Yes, I personify my plants.) There are a variety of different Scales that cause a range of damage but, here’s the deal: I am not the biggest fan of random, potentially hazardous chemicals being used in or around my house. With a little more research a.k.a. Google-ing, I found that not only would horticultural oil kill the Scales, but I could make it at home with stuff I already had and the ingredients wouldn’t kill the helpful insects. (Or I could have bought it at the hardware store- but, it was really easy to make.)

The recipe was fairly simple. To make a concentrate, you mix 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of dish soap. THEN you mix 1 tablespoon of the concentrate with 2 cups of water. I was careful to write all this on the containers I used so, I would always know.

Horticultural Oil

I made it and it successfully got rid of the Scales on the Oleanders! Essentially, the Scales are suffocated by the oil and the dish washing soap is needed to emulsify the oil and water together so that it can be easily sprayed with a spray bottle. There are some tips you need to know about using the horticultural oil: You should only use it in the Spring, if you use it in the summer- it will burn the plant (the hot sun in conjunction with the oil will literally fry the leaves). It is probably going to take at least 2 applications a week apart and you wanna use it when it’s not going to rain for a couple 3-5 days so that the rain won’t wash it off. If the Scales are not gone in 2 applications,  continue the process.

Fast-forward 2 years. I was in the yard when we were painting the front door when I noticed the tell-tale white dots on a Sago palm.


Out came the horticultural oil and away went the Scales! It is a handy mixture to have around. It  doesn’t really make an excessive amount but, it goes A LONG WAY. And what I really like about it is it is made from two household ingredients that I know exactly what they are. Plus, I am positive there are not any crazy chemicals that I cannot pronounce in it and it works. It’s an overall win-win to me.

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