How do I get rid of white fly?

16 years ago

Help! Any suggestions that really work to get rid of white flies from hibiscus? At this point, I don't care if it's a chemical, but if something else (soapy water?) works, let me know. Thanks!

Comments (44)

  • rjj1
    16 years ago

    If you are want to use something safer than pesticides, soapy water will work. I use it sometimes when I need to spot treat small infestations.

    The problem with soapy water is I donÂt think it will kill all stages of white fly, only the adult stage. That means you will need to treat the plant about every three or four days for a couple weeks to kill the two or three generations you might have on your plant.

    I like to treat in the evening after the sun has gone down. It wonÂt burn the foliage that way and all your little friends have been tucked in for the night :-).

    When I sold hibiscus, we used a very effective product that killed all stages of white fly called Naturalus T & O. ItÂs biological fungus (much safer than most pesticides) that attaches to the pest and sucks it dry. You gotta love that part :-). ItÂs very expensive though and something you would have to get from a wholesale distributor.


  • billf1924
    16 years ago

    real simple but must do it every day for a while..use your garden hose and use strong spray on bush

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  • soundgarden
    16 years ago

    I use Ivory soap and when the bar gets down to a small chunk I put it in a sprayer bottle with water over night and then the next evening I spray really well. I did this with a gardenia and only had to spray once.
    You know what else works great for white flys? Spider webs! I saw a bunch of webs in my gardenias the other day and the were FULL of white flies.

  • wooistme
    16 years ago

    Neem oil. It's natural, the oil from a tree. I had white flies SO bad last year. I tried everything. Neem oil did the trick. Be sure to spray the soil, that's where they lay their eggs. Everytime I go to the nursery with a problem: pest, fungus, mold, etc. the answer is always Neem oil. I now start with this first. It almost makes the leaves shiny and beautiful.

  • bnewcol
    16 years ago

    I just got back from being away for a 4 day weekend and noticed a massive white fly outbreak on one of my Hibiscus as well...must be the season. Thank you for the tips.

  • tsmith2579
    16 years ago

    1- head of garlic, crushed (not a clove, a whole head)
    1 - gallon water
    1- one gallon clear or translucent glass or plastic jar with a screw on lid
    3 weeks of sunshine

    Sit garlic and water in sun for 2-3 weeks. Strain out solids. Store garlic water in a cool dark place. Put 1 cup of garlic water in a 1 quart spray mister bottle. Fill spray bottle and add 1/4 teaspoon of dish washing liquid (Joy, Dove, Palmolive or Dawn which I prefer specifically for this purpose). Spray away. The white flies can't stand this stuff (neither will you). It is good for spidere mites, too.

  • hulagal
    16 years ago

    Tsmith, are you killing white flies with all that garlic or Vampires!!!??? LOL!! Actually those little nasty things ARE vampires aren't they? Great tip. I'm gonna try it now :o)

    15 years ago

    Tried water-didn't work.
    Tried oil-didn't work.
    What next ?

  • rjj1
    15 years ago

    There are are different stages of white fly on your plant.
    You have to do the treatment on a regular basis until they are gone. Once or twice won't work.

  • bumblebees_mom
    15 years ago

    Isotox. Our Lowes sells it. Not organic, and it smells nasty for a couple days, but it works and will last longer than any of the organic methods. Randy is right, you do have to keep repeating treatments. Isotox is only for outdoor use. I had a bad infestation last fall and I used isotox and the hibs have been overwintering indoors and I have not had them come back yet.

  • Palmert
    15 years ago

    Well I got rid of the white fly problem in the front yard, I cut down and dug up the plant, roots and all.:) But as for the back yard, I really want to keep the plant. So off to ArmstrongÂs Nursery I went and sure enough, the lady recommended "Earthworm Castings." Never heard of them before, but she was sure that they work. I wish I would have checked on this before trimming the plant in the front yard.:)She also recommended to use the soap solution for several weeks to kill off the adults and new born.
    I will try both and we will see. Good luck.

  • scarlettdame
    15 years ago


    Same problem here...its so bad my huge hibiscus hedges look like they are haunted. I was away for 2 years and the renters didn't tend to the plants. Now they are completely covered in hanging white webs-its disgusting and I don't like getting near them either.

    Where can I buy the earthworm castings? Should I use that in conjunction with sprays?

  • zoiepoo
    15 years ago

    This is how I HAVEN't got rid of white flies.

    29 Hibiscus in a row along a 11ft block wall in red and white, (everyother plant is red, then white).

    First my husband sprayed them with ALL the different sprays he keeps in his emergency arsenol. (I BEG him not to use them anywhere but with an acre of gardens and gone to our Baja home and traveling 4-5 months a year I don't keep on top of the whole yard like I should.) NONE of them killed the white population and the neighbor asked him to stop as it was affecting her breathing the fumes were so strong.

    I called the ag. extension and was told to VACCUM them, spray them with soapy water and not to plant Hibiscus which they LOVE. Yep! I was out there with a DustBuster VACCUMING my white flies. I sprayed everything from a 12 foot ladder and climbing into the planter that is in a 5 foot high retainer wall with soapy water. I did this every week for three weeks.

    I went to a nursery and they sold me worm casting in little bags for ALOT of money to cover the ground of 29 8 foot high plants and also a bottle of Clean Leaf that is an orange oil. Directions were to spray both sides of leaves with it but I was SICK of fighting the white flies so I washed EVERY leaf I could reach - top and bottom and trimmed as much off as I could and burnt it. Any leaves that fell - I put in the bucket of water with the "Clean Leaf" to kill the larva. Just FYI - when I pulled the leaves out of the water a couple hours later - they were STILL moving!

    I continued to wash leaves every week but when we would leave for a couple months I would come home to a healthier hatch of white flies. I thought I NEARLY had them killed in the winter but was wrong.

    I just returned from the nursery with advice to use worm castings again or grow my own by asking for a kit from Agriculture Ext. Office. She sold me a $26 bottle of Bayer-Advance Garden Tree & Shrub Insect Control. By the time I mixed it with water 3 oz. for every foot of plant - I managed to treat TWO of my hibiscus. I am so desparate to get rid of them that I will have the hibiscus cut down even with the block wall (they will be 5 feet high then) and locate the largest, cheapest source of this newest cure just in case it really DOES work.

    I also started washing each leaf again with the "Clean Leaf" but it is just TOO time consuming!!! I washed down the plants with soapy water for tonight and will try ALL the suggestions I just read till I get rid of the pests. We do have Isotox in the garage - so maybe just to get a handle on these awful pests I will use it.

    I will look for Naturalus T & O, Neem Oil (though that may be what I use on our fruit trees when they are dormant. I will try the garlic water, ant sticks and the yellow plates with tangle foot which I also have. I will let you know if any or all of these cures work.

    Thank you EVERYONE for your help!

  • Datawgal
    15 years ago

    I have to second the recommendation for the earthworm castings. They were mentioned here on GW a few years back, I tried it on one Hibiscus Mutabilis (they are notarious for attracting whiteflys) and I haven't seen a whitefly since - on anything in my garden. This stuff even keeps the flys off Gardenias.

    I now mix a little bit in my potting mix; it is expensive but a little goes a long way and it is excelent fertilizer.

  • Patris
    15 years ago

    Well, lots of idea's and seems those hateful white flies have read them also. They are immune to everything. I too have used Orange oil and washed each leaf, sprayed the whole plants down with strong streams of water with no good results.

    I will give the worm castings a try. Wonder if horse manure would do the same thing?? I have a sister-in-law that has that by the truck loads.

    Thanks for all your idea's and experience. If I do run across a sure fired way to murder the white fly population you can bet I will shout it from the roof tops. What hard headed critters! If a bug cannot die when you want them to, then what good are they? LOL

    Best to all

  • Patris
    15 years ago

    Just read another cure on one of the other forums. Claims it real does work.

    Paint strips of board yellow then paint on some motor oil.
    Guess it attracts the white fly there where a timely death follows.

    Sure worth a try!!

  • janet819
    14 years ago

    WOW!! The plastic yellow cup with motor oil worked great! I even found a honey motor oil at KMart $2.99 (Castie Brand)

    I tried spray soap and water on a potted tomato plant on my deck and it didn't work to get rid of the while flies. It seemed to work on my oregano I have in my kitchen though.

    Happy gardening!

  • chena
    14 years ago

    I heard the yellow card and oil trick as well as the castings cure... The great thing about the castings is it is an organic fretilizer aslo... We use that an bat gauno alot around here... Good Luck

  • torpeau
    14 years ago

    Get a product that contains imidacloprid as its active ingredient.

  • tcharles26
    14 years ago

    I second Torpeau's suggestion. It's a systemic, watered in so it's not going to hurt or discolor the leaves. provided you use according to the label.

    And I also will disagree with the earthworm castings. They may have some benefit to reducing white fly, but I bet imidacloprid is way better. That's why professional growers use marathon on crops like poinsettias and hibiscus (both susceptible to white fly). Marathon, which is the professional wholesale formulation of Imidacloprid, is super expensive and earthworm poop is very cheap. So don't you think pros would use castings if they worked as well?

    Also, castings are probably worthless for other pests, whereas imidacloprid has a wide range of effectiveness.

    Another reason not to use ocastings is that they are very fine particles. Adding fines to a container mix reduces drainage which is bad container plant culture. I have a very large hibiscus rosa sinensis "cooperi" out front in a container. I incorporated 1 lb of eartworm castings to an otherwise well draining mix when I repotted it. It doesn't drain nearly as well now. I was really surprised how big a difference a relatively small amount of castings made. Of course the chemical doesn't cause this problem.

    If you insist on this wholistic, earthy, coom-by-ya stuff try a nicotine strategy. For example, soak cigar in water, dilute, spray on bugs. imidacloprid is a molecule similar to nicotine.

  • sandy0225
    14 years ago

    Rotate your sprays, make sure that they are sprays that work in different ways--ie. attacks different parts of the pest, not just a different chemical. Some sprays are paralytical, some stop growth of the pests, some work by suffocation, etc. Often common sprays with different chemicals still work in the same way. I'm currently using a isotox/bug b gon/bayer systemic rotation, using a different spray each week. then repeat the rotation.Write it down, and don't miss any sprays. If you look up the generic chemical name on the net and each one of them works in a different way, then you don't build up resistance like you would using just one spray. And that will be a combo that will work.
    That's what my wholesale supply catalog recommended, but I'm not using the commercial strength sprays, I'm using the homeowner sprays because my operation is too small to justify spending $60 dollars a bottle on three or four different sprays, but I can afford $10 a bottle. It's working well so far.
    Its not a problem that goes away overnight because you have different stages of pests on your plant and what kills one stage will not necessarily kill another stage. Also the worst thing you can do is spray the same spray over and over because the ones that live will be the ones multiply on your bushes, and after that happens, you might as well be spraying water for all the good it'll do you. I do know how frustrating they are and have sympathy for you!

  • Kaywielgosh_att_net
    9 years ago

    DO NOT USE SAFER INSECT KILLING SOAP. It killed my Hibiscus, sweet potatoe plant and another bush with yellow flowers. I read the directions and NO WHERE did it say not to use it on the above. 1 to 2 days later saw the distress, gave it a shower 2 days in a row. They died anyway. Called the company. Go no help, "what do you want us to do about it"? Replace my plants! She put me on hold, checked on it "sorry we don't do that" I'm going to contact the CEO. These plants were Mother's Day presents and one was 7 years old. I told her they could add Hibiscus to their "don't use on" label or add "test a leaf first wait a day or two".

  • Jenn_red
    9 years ago

    ''If you insist on this wholistic, earthy, coom-by-ya stuff try a nicotine strategy. For example, soak cigar in water, dilute, spray on bugs. imidacloprid is a molecule similar to nicotine''

    Why not just share the expertize instead of making inappropriate judgment? I thought the comment about nicotine was very informed. Shame it was ruined it's the pre-amble. Everyone who grows things is trying to care for their environment, immediate and wider.

    Thanks everyone. I am trying to rescue a baby beech tree from white fly. Given to me by a friend, it is very special. I shall post what works in time, x


  • rleggett
    9 years ago

    Imidacloprid is also EXTREMELY toxic to bees, so unless you want to kill off the pollinators in your area too, think twice.

  • patricia_foster5_verizon_net
    9 years ago

    I have white fly on tomatoes so the nasties are out as far as treatment is concerned. Will soap work and if so what are the proportions? Will the Cornell spray work? Works like a charm on my roses and is organic so I have to spray often. Thanks.

  • katpickering
    8 years ago

    Imidacloprid works but is deadly to our precious honey bees and makes certain birds sick. I say, don't use it!

    I'm in south FLA and my yard is currently infested with white fly. I'm checking out the Neem Oil , yellow board/oil idea and the earthworm castings. I live on the water and don't want to do anything to harm the environment.

  • kiminpb
    8 years ago

    Hello. This too is upsetting because I LOVE hibiscus. I have tried all. Responding to STROP, the water doesnt work. It does, but we left out one very important part...along with spraying you must take thumb and rub the white fly off back of leave while washing. If you do this regularly for a period of time, they will get dicouraged and go to another plant.

  • fairfield8619
    8 years ago

    Imidacloprid is the one thing that will work the longest but you will have to spray repeatedly even with that- they fly in from all over. You will never get rid of them completely if there is a high population in the area. And I hate to tell you- spraying oil will kill the bees too if you spray them directly. Also, if you spray oil when it is hot you probably will kill your plants- THAT will take care of the white flies. Why should I not spray chemicals when agriculture sprays millions of gallons on everything? I won't be spraying millions of gallons. Give me a break.

  • BeeJayA
    8 years ago

    use KWAS. my newly planted miniature roses in a few days had swarms of white flies and i noticed they were begining to decline. i just started watering with KWAS and immediately all the white flies were gone. must of killed larve in the roots too because started putting on new growth and all are fourishing now. thank goodness for KWAS and it works for everything.

  • turtled
    7 years ago

    I have 3 hibiscus plants in my garden and i just noticed that they all have whitefly infestations. I'm planning on using Bayer Advanced 32 oz Tree & Shrub concentrate. The label says to use 3 oz per foot, but as my hibiscus are about 7-8' tall, I will need at least 2 containers. This seems like a lot; could it harm the plant? Or has anyone had success using less of this product at a time on whiteflies? Two of the hibiscus are moderately infected and one is severely infected.

    I will probably try spraying some Neem oil too, and prune away the diseased leaves once the flies are dead. Hopefully I can restore these otherwise beautiful shrubs/flowers to health.

  • misslanny
    7 years ago

    I just did some research on Russian KWAS (KVAS) which was mentioned earlier by BeeJayA, It sounds very promising. Here's the link with the recipe and lots of info:

    Here is a link that might be useful: KWAS

  • susy.cavegirl
    7 years ago

    I too was devastated when It looked like I had to pull out my vegetables.
    They were covered in white fly and then I read about worm casings, my friend had a worm farm, but no casings so I tried neat worm juice(tea) I used about1 pint (500mls) to around three tomato plants then watered in. I think it took around 3 days to see the difference, I used fly spray very lightly as it is an aerosol and I thought it would be easier to get 'under the plant' , but I was just so mad at the white fly invasion and would not recommend fly spray, although I did see a lot of them die. I just checked my garden this morning and there are only a few white fly. I use the worm juice once a week and now have my own worm farm. I would say, 'don't panic' and use too much worm juice, it needs a few days for the plant to 'take up' the worm juice. Stay strong and all the best.

  • petarkostov
    7 years ago

    Hello everybody!
    Please forgive my ignorance, but can anybody explain what are these worm castings the same as these produced by the red californian worm and sold as organic fertilizer? And what about "neat worm juice(tea)" - what is it and how does one prepare it?

  • Gutzmek
    7 years ago

    Worm castings are worm "poop" to be blunt. Earthworms eat organic matter and in the process will add several great materials to the soil. Pure castings are actually odor free and will eliminate odors when mixed with other materials. Depending on the materials fed to the worms, they often leave beneficial attributes. One of these is Chitinase. I have read that this actually softens an insects outer shell, and leads to the insect's "removal".

    I believe that there is an organic tea that is prepared using these same castings, because I have a recipe for it on the bag I purchased. This may be the answer to you "worm juice".

    For my hibiscus, I mix in a percentage of castings with all of my soil.

    Hope this helps,

  • petarkostov
    7 years ago

    Ed, thanks for the answer. The only commercially available product around here that I know of is red Californian worm "manure". It should be pure worm castings, right? So it should do the trick?
    Chitinase is an enzyme capable of dissolving the outer skeleton of insects made of chitin. I don't know though if it is really present in worm castings and what impact it would actually have on living insects in the soil... Interesting!

  • hummersteve
    6 years ago


    Good to hear of your suggestion of worm poop as I now have a investation of white fly and eggs. Been using a little neem. But I have my own worm castings and have used it in my gardens, but now Im going to add a few cups to the trouble area. They have hit one certain tomato plant pretty hard and got my attention this morning.

  • knowd777
    6 years ago

    Here is your answer on how to get rid of the whitefly infestation.

    The whitefly have a waxy coat so any spray on them is not very effective.
    Use the below product which is applied to the soil and uptake by the roots, the aphid/whiteflies eat it and die.

    Name of active ingredient: imidacloprid
    I bought this brand on Amazon: Systemic Tree and Shrub Insect Drench

  • nmielke
    5 years ago

    I found a solution that worked on my convolvulus mauritanicus, a low-growing ground cover that had a severe whitefly infestation this summer. I had been using a shop-vac to vacuum them up, but this was ineffective because the suction was enough to capture only those whiteflies within a few inches of the vacuum hose. Besides, it was a time-consuming hassle to get the vac set up each time. Instead, I bought an insect net (the kind on a handle) and replaced the normal netting with no-seeum netting, which is so fine-meshed that whiteflies cannot escape. Both the insect net and the no-seeum netting were from Amazon. By sweeping the net back and forth across the surface of the ground cover, I was able to catch an enormous number of whiteflies. This wasn't an immediate silver bullet, and I had to do this 10-15 minutes a day for a few weeks. But it was oddly enjoyable, and the whiteflies are 99.9% gone now. I also hosed down the ground cover with a fast spray. I'm not sure that this method would work well with anything other than ground cover, but with a ground cover the whiteflies would all fly a foot or so into the air when the leaves were disturbed, and that was right into the path of my insect net.

  • hummersteve
    5 years ago

    I get the white fly on some of my tomato plants. I will add worm castings to the soil but I really think its the neem that works best or any oil spray you have. What happens is the oil spray smothers them and they cant breathe. After spraying a couple days later I will check the plant and see the white fly on the plant but they are not moving they are dead. Just be sure you spray tops and bottoms of all leaves you get to , you may need to do it more than once.

  • Michael T
    5 years ago

    If the plant is hardy enough you can either spray with soapy water and hand wash or even spray with the nozzle of a garden hose. Many use soapy water as a gentle spray, necessary for some plants, or a combination of neem oil. I mention the garden hose nozzle as this is the best way I've found to remove them from hardy plants. You can spray the ground after it dries with neem oil or a pesticide.

  • dclasikwashington
    5 years ago

    There are various methods you can implement to get rid of white flies. One suggestion is that you wash your leaves. I know, this method is highly tedious but guess what, it is free as can be. Additionally, you did mention soap and water. Yes, you can use insecticide soap and water. It's a very powerful solution to an infestation by whiteflies. Then there are beneficial predators that you can introduce to your garden. However, be careful about this method. You don't want to implement anything that will later harm your plants. I've attached a source for reference to this comment in case you want more info. All the best.

  • lwdecor
    4 years ago


    I'm an organic gardener in zone 7.

    I've been gardening for many years, but the last dozen or so I've gotten a lot more serious (and had a lot more challenges, and fun.)

    At the beginning of June this year, I discovered whiteflies (for the first time ever) in three distinct garden areas of our property, each area separated by a good deal of lawn (well, the yard has SOME grass, but it's mostly weeds & clover.)

    One area was very active with whiteflies, the other two somewhat less so, but it was clear they were dispersed throughout the property.

    I read and read and read and came up with this protocol, which I hope will help anyone else who runs into the same pest.

    First, I suspended my weekly spray of a gentle foliar feeding solution (spray n grow & bills perfect fertilizer) to slow down the plant growth that whiteflies find so appealing.

    Then, every evening for a full week, I sprayed every plant and shrub in my gardens with the following blend:

    1 gallon Ivory soap water

    1 gallon water

    8 tsps take down concentrate

    2 cups commercial

    concentrated deer repellent (primarily garlic/clove/mint/egg centric)

    (We live in a VERY high deer pressure area so I was already spraying my .66 acres of gardens & shrubs with a rotation of deer repellents every evening, two gallons a night.)

    For perspective, I used three batches of this whitefly action brew (so six gallons total) every night.

    The Ivory water wasn't carefully measured. I took a large bar of Ivory soap, left it in a gallon of water overnight, and used that. Then I used the same bar in successive gallons. That one bar lasted the whole time I sprayed.

    I sprayed the outsides of everything, of course, but also shoved the sprayer nozzle into the middle of each plant/shrub, doing my best to get to the undersides of the leaves & stems, too.

    Five evenings into my spraying, I noticed no more whitefly activity.

    Interestingly, the pollinators remained abundant, active, & happy throughout the entire spray period.

    This may be because it was relatively early in the season.

    This may also be because I sprayed in the evening, after most of pollinators had gone to sleep.

    And lastly, this may be because I used the mildest but still effective takedown solution -- just 1%.

    (And maybe all the clover in the yard helped too, by giving them a consistent alternative food source.)

    After the week of whitefly brew spraying ended, I did nothing (other than my nightly rotation of deer repellent spraying) for about 10 days.

    I still saw no evidence of whiteflies. Then I released beneficial insects:

    Ladybugs, which start eating right away;

    Lacewing eggs, which take a few days to a week to hatch & start eating;

    And, praying mantis eggs, which take weeks to hatch & start eating.

    I purchased enough beneficials to populate our entire yard and followed the directions for timing, conditions, etc for their release.

    A couple of notes:

    I opted not to use neem oil on the property because I had previously used it and it does not like begonias, bleeding hearts, fuscia and other somewhat delicate plants, all of which were liberally interspersed amidst my perennial beds and containers.

    I was VERY reluctant about using the takedown given my love of pollinators but I realized I had to make a tough call and decided the best course was to save my garden for the pollinators who would come by later in the season. I truly didn't expect so little impact on them during my spray period. I was very relieved to see them thriving the entire time!

    In addition, everything I read suggested it was best to use multiple beneficial insects so I opted to include praying mantis in the mix, despite the risk to some pollinators, concluding, again, that saving my garden overall was the better course.

    I also bought a bug blaster nozzle (Amazon has it) and a watering wand. The bug blaster delivers a 360 degree forceful spray of water. I'm not going to use it now, but it's here for next time. I want to see if alternating washing the plants during the day and spraying the plants in the evening will let me solve the problem using even less takedown.

    Stopping whiteflies takes real diligence, but it's doable! Good luck!

  • PRO
    Caldwell Home & Garden
    4 years ago

    dawn dish soap + water + spray bottle = bug free hibiscus