Identifying Common Succulent Pests and Natural Remedies

Succulents bring a touch of vibrant beauty to your home and garden with their quirky shapes and colors. However, maintaining a pest-free succulent can be challenging, even with proper care.

You’re not alone in your admiration for these resilient plants; pests also find succulents irresistible and often infest them, compromising their health and aesthetics.

Using a cotton swab to removing small pests on succulent leaf

Understanding the common pests that attack succulents is crucial to keeping your plants thriving.

In this article, we’re going to talk more about the types of pests that target succulents, what harm they can do, and how to spot them. We’ll also share tips on keeping these pests away and what to do if your plants get infested.

Common Pests in Succulents and How to Spot Them

When dealing with succulent pests, quick identification is crucial to maintaining the health of your plants. This section will guide you through the most common invaders, their telltale signs, and steps you can take for identification.

Mealybugs and Aphids

Mealybugs are easily spotted by the cottony substance they produce on leaves and stems. These pests feed on plant juices, weakening succulents and attracting ants with the honeydew they excrete.

Aphids, similarly, target the leaves and flower buds of succulents and can cause stunted growth with their feeding.

Mites and Scale Insects

Spider mites, especially red spider mites, are minuscule pests that can cause a great deal of damage to succulent leaves. You might notice fine webbing and yellowing of leaves.

Scale insects, on the other hand, appear as small bumps on leaves and stems, often mistaken for part of the plant. These pests suck on the sap, weakening the plant.

Root Mealybugs

These are similar to the more visible mealybugs that attack the above-ground parts of succulents but live in the soil and feed on the roots.

They can be harder to detect until the plant shows signs of distress or weakened growth due to root damage. Overwatering can worsen the problem, as these pests thrive in moist conditions.

You avoid overwatering by keeping an eye on the soil’s moisture; for easy tips on how to check if your succulent soil is dry and the best time to water, head over to this guide.

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are small flies that you’ll find near the soil of overwatered succulents. Their larvae feed on the roots, potentially leading to stunted growth and root rot.

By allowing the soil to dry out adequately between watering, you can discourage gnat infestations and protect the roots of your plants.


These tiny, slender insects can be difficult to spot without a magnifying glass. They cause damage by puncturing the succulent’s surface to feed on the sap, leading to distorted growth, silvering of the leaf surface, and the spread of virus diseases.

Their presence is often indicated by the appearance of black fecal spots and a stippled or silvery sheen on the leaves.


Whiteflies are small, winged insects that resemble tiny moths. They are usually found on the undersides of leaves, feeding on the plant’s sap.

Infestations can cause yellowing of leaves, leaf drop, and stunted growth. Whiteflies excrete honeydew, which can lead to the growth of sooty mold on the leaves.

Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are the larvae of various insects, including flies, moths, and beetles. They tunnel between the upper and lower surface layers of succulent leaves, creating distinctive winding trails or blotches.

The damage is mostly cosmetic but can weaken young or small plants. Control often involves removing and destroying infested leaves to break the pest’s life cycle.

Other Common Insects that Can Harm Your Succulents

Tiny aphids latching on to a small succulent leaf

Besides the usual suspects, succulents can also become the target of ants, which are known to herd honeydew-producing insects like aphids and mealybugs.

Let’s also not forget about snails and slugs. These slimy visitors are particularly fond of munching on succulent leaves, often leaving behind noticeable holes. They’re more active during the night or in damp conditions, making catching them in the act a bit tricky.

Natural Remedies and Treatment Techniques

Natural remedies reduce the reliance on chemical pesticides, which can harm the soil, water sources, and non-target organisms like beneficial insects, birds, and even pets and humans.

By choosing natural treatments, you’re helping to protect your family and the environment and also save a few dollars from spending on chemical treatments that can be expensive and require a lot of reapplications to remain effective.

Using Household Products

You can tackle succulent pests using simple household products. A mixture of soapy water can be sprayed directly on pests, disrupting their cell membranes and effectively eliminating them.

For precise application, a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol can be used to remove pests individually without harming the plant.

  • Alcohol Solution: Mix 70% isopropyl alcohol with water in a 1:1 ratio for a potent spray.
  • Dish Soap Mixture: Add a few drops of dish soap to a cup of water for a gentle yet effective pest treatment.

Organic Insecticides and Preventive Solutions

Organic insecticides such as neem oil and insecticidal soap are powerful tools in your natural pest control arsenal. They are safer for plants and are not harmful to beneficial insects like ladybugs, which are natural predators of many common pests.

  • Neem Oil: It acts as an antifeedant and growth regulator, deterring pests from eating and reproducing.
  • Insecticidal Soap: Ideal for soft-bodied pests, it penetrates their outer shell, causing dehydration and death.

Other Natural Remedies

Some other effective natural solutions include using diatomaceous earth, pyrethrin-based insecticides, and essential oils to protect your succulents.

Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from fossilized organisms. Sprinkle it around or on your plants to kill pests by scraping off the oils and fats from their body. It’s great against aphids, slugs, and beetles.

Essential oils, like peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus, mixed with water and a bit of soap, also repel pests and make your plants smell good.

Pyrethrin-based insecticides, which come from chrysanthemum flowers, are also another gentle remedy. They attack pests’ nervous systems on contact. But note that they can still affect good insects and water life, so use them carefully.

Finally, adding beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory mites, can also help naturally control pest populations, reducing the need for chemical treatments.

Chemical-Based Formulas

When natural methods don’t control severe pest infestations, you might need to use chemical-based treatments. These should be your last option because they can affect the environment and other living things not targeted by the treatment.

Systemic Insecticides

Systemic insecticides get absorbed by plants, making them toxic to pests from the inside. They work against many pests, including those hard to reach with sprays. But, be careful to use them only as needed and follow the instructions to avoid hurting good insects or the environment.

Contact Pesticides

These pesticides kill both bad and good insects, so it’s best to use them when beneficial insects are less active, like in the early morning or late evening. Make sure the pesticide is safe for succulents and follow the directions closely.

A Few Tips to Prevent Pest Infestations

Proper care of succulents is crucial for preventing pest infestations. Regular monitoring and proper watering are fundamental practices.

Deterring pests also involves quarantining new plants, removing dead leaves that can harbor pests, and providing the right fertilizer to keep plants healthy.

  • Quarantine: Isolate new plants for at least two weeks to prevent potential pest spread.
  • Regular Monitoring: Inspect plants frequently for early signs of pests or diseases.
  • Preventive Measures: Apply a thin layer of neem oil to foliage occasionally to deter pests.

Keeping Your Succulents Happy and Pest-Free

Caring for your succulents can be both easy and enjoyable if you stay proactive. Here are some final tips for you to remember to keep your succulents healthy and free from pests:

  1. Regular Checks: Get into the habit of inspecting your succulents often. Keep an eye out for any unusual signs, such as strange marks, bugs, or anything that doesn’t seem right.
  2. Identify the Problem: If you do find something off, try to figure out what it is. Knowing exactly what you’re dealing with is half the battle and will help you pick the best solution.
  3. Opt for Natural Solutions: When it’s time to act, natural remedies should be your first choice. They’re safer for your plants and the environment. However, if you need to use a pesticide, always read the label carefully to ensure you use it correctly and safely.
  4. Prevent Future Issues: Continue with the good practices that help prevent pests in the first place. This includes not overwatering, ensuring your plants get enough light, and using quality soil.

By following these simple steps, you’re not just taking care of your plants; you’re also creating a healthier, greener space in your home.

Taking action early and using the right treatments can keep your succulent collection beautiful and thriving. So, let’s get started and ensure your succulent buddies have a long and healthy life!