Aphids on petunias are significant concern to gardeners, as these damaging insects attack petunias growing in soils with high nitrogen, stressed petunias plants, and those overcrowded with weeds.
The good news is that you can control the insects by getting rid of weeds, using insecticides, and checking the soil conditions. Check out more solutions in this article.
- Why Do Aphids Attack Petunia Plants?
- How To Get Rid of Aphids on Petunias
Why Do Aphids Attack Petunia Plants?
Aphids attack petunia plants because these pests look for stressed plants due to drought, overwatering, and petunias growing amidst many weeds. Also, if your garden lacks aphid-controlling insects like ladybirds and wasps, these pests can invade your petunias and cause damage.
When attacked by aphids, the petunias start wilting, affecting the plant’s ability to transpire and grow. The destructive insects also cause a sooty mold that attaches to the stems’ corners. When moisture gets into contact with the sooty mold, it can damage the stems killing the plant. Some of the common reasons aphids are attacking your petunias are.
– High Nitrogen Levels in The Soil
Aphids attack petunias for various reasons, and one of the common ones is that, if your plants grow in soils with high nitrogen content, you will likely deal with aphid infestations frequently, which can be annoying. This is because nitrogen supports the rapid growth of soft, green and tender leaves, which the pests prefer.
These leaves are easy to feed on because the pests’ mouthpieces easily pierce them. In addition, they would also find the right food source to help them thrive and grow in their best way, where the infestation can easily increase in a short period of time.
Nitrogen also causes rapid growth of the plant roots. Aphids are also attracted by the soft-growing plant roots, overcrowding the petunias. The pests will feed on the entire plant roots with time, killing it.
– Young Petunia Seedlings
Your young petunias are attractive to aphids because of their tender and soft plant tissue. During the early stages, aphids’ mouthpiece makes every plant part soft and easy to pierce, and they have a tender growth, which is what they require. Noticing their presence at the early stage can be tricky, but you can check for signs like stunted growth or yellowing leaves.
While insecticides can be vital for young seedlings, you can protect them from pests by growing them indoors. Another preventive measure is growing the seedlings on a window sill and ensuring you treat the nearby plants of aphids before growing the young petunias.
– Stressed Petunias
Diseases, lack of sunlight, inappropriate climate, and overwatering or drought cause plant stress. During this time, the plant produces glutathione, which helps pest survival by repelling insecticides and reproduction.
This chemical attracts petunia pests like aphids, spider mites and caterpillars. Moreover, when there are debris of the old or fallen leaves that have become weak in the long run, they would also aim to grow upon those.
– Weed Overcrowding the Plants
Besides weed overcrowding causing plant stress, they also attract insects and pests that can attack the plants. For example, weeds like sow thistle and mustard attract aphids which can migrate to petunias.
Weeds also cause water and nutrient competition with your petunias, weakening them. These weak plants will also produce glutathione which attracts aphids and other insects.
How To Get Rid of Aphids on Petunias
To get rid of aphids on petunias, you can spray the insects with water, use insecticides, introduce natural predators like ladybirds and rove beetles, and use biological controls to reduce the spread. Ensure you remove weeds and grow healthy petunia to reduce aphid attacks.
– Spray Aphids with A Sprayer Pump
One of the non-chemical aphid control methods for petunias is using water. Aphids are weak pests that water sprays can quickly sweep and drown. Use a hose pump or a delicate jet stream to spray the water on the plant, so be sure that the shower setting on your hose pipe will be a great place to start and tackle them away.
While using a sprayer pump sweeps the insects away and drowns them, be careful with the pressure because too much of it can damage the petunias. The plant has weak branches that strong sprays can easily bend. Also, ensure you pour only a little water on the plants to avoid overwatering issues, or else you will open up a door for new risks.
You can also add dish soap to make the water soapy. Soapy water washes away the protective coating on the aphid, causing its body to dry, leading to its death. Spray the water on the stems and the top and bottom of the leaves. You should rinse the soapy water from the plant after two hours to prevent injuries.
– Handpick Them
Another natural way of getting rid of aphids on petunias is by crushing them with fingers. However, this method is possible during the initial stage of the infestation. When you go ahead and pick them up with your hand, make sure that you are wearing the right gloves to avoid getting harmed in any way possible.
Whenever you notice aphids on your petunias, rub them gently between your thumb and fingers. Don’t rub them between the leaves and petunias flowers because the friction can damage the leaf and flower cells.
While crushing the insects will not kill them all, it will reduce their population. In short, you can repeat the procedure after every few days to continue reducing the aphid population, also note that this is the best option, if the infestation is at its beginning.
– Remove Weeds and Grow Healthy Petunias
A reason for aphid infestation in your petunia plants garden is weed growth. Some weeds like sow thistle, and mustard attract aphids, and the insects start spreading to your petunias. You can begin to weed as early as after the petunia seedlings grow, and this would be a key solution for such a purpose.
Early weeding reduces the chances of insect and aphid infestation. Besides, weeding also ensures your plants have enough water and nutrients, hence healthy growth. There is less competition with the weeds, so they get enough nutrients, so be mindful of the process.
– Use Neem Oil
Neem oil is a safe method of getting rid of aphid infestation on petunias because it doesn’t have chemicals. The oil is made by pressing the seeds and fruits of the neem tree, which smothers the aphids.
When applied to the plant, the oil covers the aphid bodies, blocking their breathing ability as the oil is one that will tackle in a strong way. This causes suffocation which leads to death. The oil will also cover other pests and kill them. Keep in mind that one advantage of using this oil is that it does not affect beneficial insects like ladybugs and other pollinators.
Besides neem oil, you can also spray natural oils like rosemary oil and peppermint whenever you notice tiny white bugs on petunias. Alternatively, use homemade bug spray for petunias to eliminate the aphids, and this is when you get pure neem and mix it with water and a few drops of soap.
– Grow Plants That Repel Aphids
While some weeds attract aphids, some plants repel the aphids, and you can grow these with your petunias. You can plant garlic, chives, and leeks with your petunias. Marigolds also produce an unpleasant scent to keep aphids and other insects away.
Ensure you spread these unique plants across the petunias garden not to leave a chance for pest infestation. Also, you must be keen when choosing aphid-repelling plants not to select those that attract the insects.
– Use Pesticides
Aphids cause little to no damage to petunias so that you can ignore them. However, a heavy infestation in your petunias garden can weaken and kill your plants, hence the need for control using pesticides. Spraying insecticides on plants has many adverse effects, so you must decide the best products, and make that you aren’t harming the plant by overly saturating them.
For example, buy low-risk pesticides which pose lower risks to people and the environment. These also leave beneficial animals on the plants alive, but they kill the pests slowly. You, therefore, need to continue spraying the pesticide after every few weeks until they all die.
Examples of low-risk pesticides are insecticidal soap and horticultural oil. When using these, spray the underside of the plant leaves and flowers and on the stems.
Consider systematic pesticides if there is a vast spread of tiny bugs on petunias. These are applied at the plant base and transported to the leaves and stems. When these pests would feed on the plant sap, they die. While this product is effective, it could kill other valuable insects.
– Attract Insects That Feed on Aphids
If you are against using insecticides and cannot crush aphids between your fingers, you can attract insects that feed on aphids. These can be ladybugs and lacewings. You can also get wasps in your petunias garden to control aphids.
These insects feed on aphids without destroying your plants. You won’t also suffer environmental pollution caused when using insecticides and pesticides to control the aphids. Moreover, they will leave your plants healthy and aphid free.
– Check The Soil Conditions
One of the reasons for aphid infestation on petunias is plant stress and high nutrient content in the soil. Stress is caused by overwatering and also when you aren’t watering them the right way, which makes the plant weak and susceptible to pests and insects.
This is why you can protect your petunias from aphid infestation by providing the right amounts of water. Checking the soil regularly will help you know whether the plant is too wet or dry and plant on the next watering.
You can also test the soil for nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen attracts aphids to the plant and can cause its weakening. Reduce nitrogen content by mulching using sawdust. The mulch absorbs nitrogen and prevents weed growth, leading to the development of healthy petunias.
Knowing why aphids attack petunias is the first step to providing a solution. Some of the essential points to note from this article include:
- Petunia plants growing in nitrogen-rich soil are more likely to be attacked by aphids.
- You can control aphids naturally by crushing them between your fingers and sweeping them with water.
- Chemical methods of controlling aphids, like insecticides, should be the last choice because they kill other beneficial animals and pollute the environment.
- You can grow plants that repel aphids, like marigolds and garlic, or introduce other insects that feed on aphids.
- Ensuring your petunias are healthy keeps them away from stress and helps to reduce insect infestation.
Now that you know how to control and stop aphid infestation on your petunias, you can be sure of a healthy harvest, so consider using natural prevention methods to keep the environment safe.
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