How to Make Natural Science-Backed Bug Sprays to Keep Pests Away

published Sep 8, 2023
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I’ve been a proud plant parent since 2018, and I now have around 70 houseplants that I’m amazed fit in my one-bedroom apartment. In all these years, I’ve experimented with an array of solutions to keep bugs and pests away from my plants and my home. When it comes to pests and plant care, I like to keep things as natural and eco-friendly as possible. 

Quick Overview

How to Make 2 Natural Bug Sprays to Use at Home

Rosemary Peppermint Spray:

  • Fill a small fine mist spray bottle with 10 drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of rosemary oil, five drops of homemade rosemary-infused vodka, and distilled water until full. Give it a good shake.
  • To use, lightly spritz plants from a foot and a half away, or spray upwards in a room to let the solution fall and disperse.

Neem Oil Spray: 

  • Mix a half teaspoon of liquid dish soap and a teaspoon of neem oil in a liter of water. Pour solution into a plant mister.
  • To use, spray the undersides of leaves and stems where pests and fungal diseases like to hide. Cotton gloves can help to rub the solution thoroughly.

One of my favorite pest solutions for my plants has been a simple spray made with natural essential oils. Last summer, I was researching natural pesticides and their ingredients and two kept coming up frequently: peppermint oil and rosemary oil. 

It turns out, peppermint oil is great at both leaving a fresh fragrance and repelling mosquitoes, spiders, and ants. Rosemary oil acts as an effective fumigant agent against fungi, fungus gnats, weevils, and beetles, and can also repel roaches. Further research into these two ingredients led me to a second surprise — peppermint oil and rosemary oil are some of the most popular ingredients for an effective natural room spray (and even hair care!). 

This spray has become my favorite dual-purpose product that I use a couple of times per week to both protect my houseplants and make my apartment and linens smell fresh.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

How to Make a Homemade Rosemary Peppermint Spray

To make the rosemary peppermint spray, I use a recycled toilet spray bottle from Grove Co., but any small, fine mist spray bottle will do. I then add 10 drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of rosemary oil, and five drops of homemade rosemary-infused vodka (yes, it’s safe for plants!). This helps mix the oils and water for a longer-lasting scent. Plus, the extra rosemary gives my home a herbaceous touch. 

Lastly, I fill up the rest of the bottle with distilled water and give it a good shake. To use on my plants, I lightly spritz the leaves from about a foot and a half away. To use as a room fragrance, I spray upwards to let the solution fall and disperse all around. I use it in my bedroom, living room, bathroom, and even my car (two to four spritzes, depending on the size of your car, with the windows down is enough to give it a subtle scent). 

Another natural bug repellent that I’ve been using since I became a plant parent has been a neem oil spray. Neem oil is extracted from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) and is not only one of the least toxic botanical insecticides, but it’s extremely effective at eradicating and preventing mites, fungal diseases, mealybugs, and scale. For decades, this has been one of the safest natural pesticides and it’s even EPA-registered. While neem oil and the spray I make don’t smell as pleasant as the rosemary peppermint spray, it’s the most successful insecticide I’ve used that keeps my plants healthy.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

How to Make a Homemade Neem Oil Spray 

For the neem oil spray, I mix a half teaspoon of liquid dish soap (this serves as an emulsifier) and a teaspoon of my favorite organic neem oil in a liter of water. I then pour this solution into my plant mister for ease and convenience. While this spray is safe for the whole plant, I focus on spraying it on the undersides of the leaves and the stems where pests and fungal diseases like to hide, and I use a cotton glove to rub the solution thoroughly. It’s also important to use this spray in the evenings since direct sunlight combined with the neem oil can burn your plants.