Orchids and Alcohol: DIY Pest Control For Orchid Pests


The Aphids family is the most common enemy of the small-time orchid grower, with mealybugs and scale insects on the front line. Even a small infestation of either of these can leave your orchid with marred leaves, and a larger amount of soft scale can kill the plant altogether.

Soon enough, paranoia will have you reaching for the insecticide spray. Chances are you’ll either get rid of scale on your Phalaenopsis orchid or you’ll get the bugs to develop resistance to the insecticide. In both cases, you will release a ton of chemicals that you, your pets and your plant will have to breathe long after the orchid scale treatment is over.

By no means does that imply you should leave your plant to fend for itself. There is a true, tested, safe aphid control method out there – it’s isopropyl alcohol.

How to Use Alcohol on Orchids Indoors

Rubbing alcohol is an effective pest prevention and pest control method against aphids, mealybugs and, thankfully, soft scale insects. While it still might slightly dehydrate the houseplant, it’s safe to use on indoor orchids because it, unlike chemical insecticides, isn’t toxic.

Naturally, it’s not a good idea to apply alcohol directly to your orchid’s leaves. There are two ways to use isopropyl alcohol to get rid of orchid pests:

  • Alcohol on a Cotton Swab:

    Take a piece of cotton and soak it in alcohol ( 70% isopropyl alcohol ), then press it directly against the orchid pests. It works especially well for boisduval scale, spider mites, mealybugs and aphids.

    Press lightly several times on each insect you find to make sure that the alcohol dissolves its waxy covering.

    Apply the alcohol thoroughly on all parts of the orchid, especially leaf crevices, sheaths, midrib and leaf edges.
  • Orchid Alcohol Spray:

    Mix isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol with a few drops of soap. You can use either regular mild liquid soap or a specialised insecticidal soap.  Put the mix in a misting bottle or a pump sprayer. Do not put more than a few drops of soap, however, to avoid damaging your orchid’s flowers and buds. Also refrain from using water in the mix, because mealybugs and soft scales have a water-repelling coating over their bodies.

Tips for Using Orchid Alcohol Pest Control

  • Repeat the pest treatment in intervals of 7 to 10 days. This way you will kill off any generations of the orchid pests and will make the treatment effective. Repeat three to four times, depending on what’s necessary.
  • Reach every area of the orchid where pests might be hiding. This part takes time and patience but is crucial to the success of the pest control treatment.
  • Don’t wait for the infestation to become serious before taking measures. Apply your homemade orchid insecticide as soon as you notice any sign of pests. For mealybugs, for example, look for glistening marks on the foliage if you want to spot them early on.
  • Clean garden tools with alcohol regularly, if you’ve used them on infected houseplants. That will lessen the chances of the pest infestation spreading.
  • Repotting the indoor orchid will remove pest eggs. If changing the pot, gently clean and spray the roots of the orchid to remove mealybugs and scale insects.
  • Keep your orchid healthy and your growing area clean. Damaged buds, dead leaves and other green waste should be regularly cleared out.
  • Never bring in an infested orchid into your home and orchid collection! Pest control experts advice: “Inspect a plant for mealybugs before bringing it into your house or greenhouse, remove dead leaves and prunings regularly.”
  • If you find pests, isolate the infested orchid at once!
  • Check your growing area and orchid collection for pests at least once a week.
  • If the infestation is out of control and you plan on using pesticides, first test it on a small area to determine side effects. It’s also a good idea to switch pest control methods and insecticides, so that the orchid pests don’t develop resistance. That would make your life ten times worse!

About the author:

Margaret grew up in a home with a ‘greenhouse’ bigger than her own bedroom and learned many of the the tricks of indoor gardening. She is personally taking care of a pink Phalaenopsis orchid at the moment and is doing her best to take good care of it. Her experience with pests, unfortunately, doesn’t end with gardening. She’s single-handedly gotten rid of ants and fleas with DIY pest control methods. She’s had to use her knowledge in the past few months, as she’s working part time for a London pest control company, writing content about pest prevention and pest management.

Margaret is a book lover and writer with an interest in environmentalism and different points of view. She's lived in London all her life but her family has roots from Eastern Europe. She spends most of her time travelling to the country, discussing politics and ecology and catching up on her reading. Maggie makes a living by writing blog posts and articles for London organisations and green companies. She covers topics of waste management, recycling and responsible waste habits in the home and office. She has a lot to say about those, as I'm sure you'll find out!