Get rid of bugs on geraniums.

How to Get Rid of Pests on Geraniums Naturally (Fast and Easy)

So, you’ve got some bugs on your geraniums. And they’re eating up those precious blooms that you waited all season for.

Who can bear to watch those gorgeous purple, orange, white, blue, pink, or red blooms getting munched by pests?

These precious flowers have established themselves to be a favorite staple of gardeners.

Easy to grow, smell amazing, and have many colors for both indoor and outdoor environments. Plant beds. Hanging baskets. Or a container planted. Geraniums fit the bill.

Being so popular, they’ve also harbored a large number of pests. Budworms, caterpillars, scale, mites, thrips, aphids, snails, and…rodents?

In this guide, you’ll learn about:

  • The common bugs you’ll find eating geraniums
  • How to get rid of them naturally
  • Ways to prevent geranium bugs (keep them off)

If you have questions, post them using the comments section at the end of this guide. Feel free to bookmark it for easy reference later on.

Sounds good? Let’s get your geraniums back to business.

Last updated: 8/13/22.

Common geranium bugs

Bugs eating flowers of geranium plant.
Bugs on geraniums? Find out how to get rid of them.

Here’s a list of bugs you’ll find on geraniums. It’s important to identify what’s eating your plant first. You may find that info below.

Budworms

If you see small worms or caterpillars that curl up on the leaves of your germanium, don’t freak out!

These are budworms. Also known as geranium budworms because they’re so commonly found on these plants. The official name is “tobacco budworm”.

They’re extremely common on geranium leaves, especially in the late summertime. Some people even call them the “geranium budworm” because of how common they are- but they’re NOT exclusive to geraniums.

Helicoverpa virescens may be small, but they can do extensive damage to your plants. Geraniums are one of their favorite plants to eat because of the soft tender foliage and how easy it is to climb.

Since budworms are so common, they deserve a dedicated section with extensive detail. If you still have questions, please leave a comment.

Identification

Budworms are tiny. They’re the larvae form of moths, which means that they’ll morph into adult moths later in life.

Sadly, they do most of their damage when they’re in the worm phase. Their only job is to eat. The budworm is about 1.5 inches in size when fully grown.

They can be green, brown, yellow, or any combo. Worms are segmented with hairy bodies and a white stripe going down their back.

Damage

Damage from budworms are holes in leaves, damaged geranium flower buds, jagged edges, wilting flowers, failed blooms, and dropped foliage.

These budworms can eat entire flower buds off your plants, or chomp into the bud center. The buds will then fail to bloom. Holes in the leaves are also common as they’re not picky over what they eat.

Budworms are found in the buds of geraniums, hence the name budworm. If you see your flower buds being eaten with a skeleton left behind, these are telltale signs of budworms.

Even if the bud blooms, the petals will be damaged and have holes. Or more commonly, the bud won’t open during bloom season because of the damage from the budworms

Control

Budworms can be managed by using multiple natural home remedies.

The most effective and cheapest one? Use your fingers!

Put on your favorite pair of gardening gloves and get a bucket. Fill it with soapy water (1 squirt of dish detergent to 1 liter of water). Then start picking them off and putting them into the bucket.

The soapy water will kill the worms.

Do this every time you water your geraniums. Check on the buds regularly to see if what you are doing is working. Budworms can be found on the buds, flowers, or leaves.

Larvae will come out at dusk when they’re most active. In the daytime, they’re usually hiding at the base of the plant.

Picking by hand is kinda gross, but don’t worry about irritation. Budworms don’t bite or transmit dangerous vectors for the most part, so it’s safe to handle them.

But you should wear gardening gloves or some other protection just in case they crawled over some virus or bacteria. This way you don’t transfer them to other plants or yourself.

Other than handpicking, you can use the same DIY directly on them. Homemade bug spray for geraniums is easy to make and cheap.

Just mix a few parts of liquid dish soap with hot water. Put in some cayenne pepper. Stir until it bubbles. Then put it into a spray bottle. Spray down your geranium where budworms are present.

The soapy water will kill them slowly. You should remove any budworms you see manually and then toss them. This will prevent the budworm bodies from bringing in even MORE bugs. Yikes!

Budworms will hang out in the soil during the winter. They overwinter there to hide out from extreme dips in temperature. Therefore, they winterize right under your plants.

This is where the baby budworms (nymphs or larvae) will hide until the spring.

If you till or sterilize the soil during the winter, you can either manually remove the larvae or even kill them. Baking soil can help eliminate pests that are hiding in it.

Here’s a guide that covers how to sterilize your soil. It’s not written for budworms specifically, but it’s OK. The process is the same. Changing the soil completely will eliminate the next cycle of budworms.

If baking soil in the oven doesn’t sound too appetizing for you, try replacing the soil instead. This will remove the overwintering larvae in the soil of your geranium.

Use fresh, newly quarantined soil. This will reseed the soil with fresh nutrients too.

Spinosad is commonly suggested for budworms because it works well. Spinosad can be considered organic if you’re growing other organic crops in your garden. It depends on the mixture you buy. So be sure to check the label if that matters to you.

Spinosad will kill budworms effectively, but it also kills beneficial pollinators like bees. This is why I discourage using it even if it’s “natural” for getting rid of budworms on geraniums.

Bees won’t come out after dusk, so if you must use spinosad, use it then. It should be completely dry before morning so the bees won’t be killed by it.

Bacillus thuringiensis works against other caterpillars, but not budworms. Bt doesn’t work on geranium budworms because the worms don’t consume the Bt for it to be effective.

Malathion is synthetic and will kill budworms as well. But it also kills beneficial pollinators. You should avoid using it unless you have exhausted all your other options. Use as the label says.

Insecticides

If the budworms are just too much, consider using commercial insecticides.

This should be your last resort. Use natural or organic sprays when possible. Read the label. Make sure it works for budworms. Use as directed.

Pesticides that work well against budworms include compounds that include permethrin, esfenvalerate, cyfluthrin, or bifenthrin are ingredients that are effective against most geranium pests.

Here are some listings of what these insecticide products look like (links to Amazon):

Before buying, make sure that it’s suitable for geraniums and the pest you’re dealing with is listed on the label. Always use as directed. Read all warnings. Keep pets and people out of the area. Some insectaries are NOT safe for beneficial insects.

Not all products will be suitable for your specific insect! It must be listed on the label.

Insecticidal soap is effective against smaller bugs that have soft bodies. You can use it for budworms, cutworms, aphids, etc.

But it’s not as useful against larger insects or hard-shelled ones like caterpillars, mollusks (snails), or four lined plant bugs.

With these tips, you should be able to handle most of the budworm population.

Aphids

Aphid eating geraniums.
Aphid eating a precious leaf.

Aphids are everywhere. On everything. Geraniums are no exception. These guys are the size of a small winged pinhead. They feed on the sap of your leaves by piercing them with their mouthparts.

They’re usually found on the bottom of the leaf surfaces. You may even see so many of them climbing up the stem of your geranium like ants.

In higher numbers, they can wreak havoc on the plant and then suck out all the precious plant sap which can be dangerous for younger plants.

Aphids are simple to identify. If you’ve ever done any gardening, you probably already know how to spot them. See this guide to identifying aphids.

Aphids will leave behind sticky residue that turns sooty and brown. Ants will come in to feed on this mold which then really makes your geraniums ugly. The moldy substance gathers dirt which will then make your geranium leaves turn color.

Handling aphids is a multi-pronged approach. You’ll need to use a combination of different techniques in order to fully eliminate them.

Start with spraying them off with a powerful hose to blast them off. While this may seem weird, it’s wildly effective. When you water your plants, spray them at the same time.

It’ll dislodge them from the leaves and if repeated enough, they’ll leave. Be sure to check the undersides of the foliage and the other side of the stems.

You can also “wipe” your plant with a sponge. Use a mixture of soapy water to clean it. If you have sensitive plants in your garden, use plant-based soaps instead.

This will kill them instantly. If the soap you’re using doesn’t kill them, you can use a commercial insecticidal soap. The soap coats their body and then suffocates them on the spot.

Neem oil can also be handy against aphids.

Prune off parts of your plant that are infested with aphids. There’s no need to save the foliage that they’ve eaten. It’s just plant fodder for them. Cut it off so that your geraniums don’t waste energy trying to conserve it.

Also, bringing in natural predators. Ladybugs will help feed on them. If your geranium is still small, you can put it into a mini greenhouse filled with ladybugs to help eliminate the pests.

Four-lined plant bugs

Geranium being eaten by four lined plant bugs.
Four-lined plant bugs are easy to spot against a light background.

The nymphs are small with developing wings. They’re red with black wing pads. Then they turn orange with larger wing pads that have a light-colored stripe.

When fully grown, the adults are greenish or yellow with visible black stripes going down the wings (hence the name). The head is orange with green legs. Four lined plant bugs max out at ⅓ inches in length.

Four-lined plant bugs can be safely ignored if you haven’t seen visible damage from them. They’re usually harmless- only slightly affecting the appearance of geraniums. They suck the sap from plants.

Eggs hatch in late spring on the geranium leaves and the nymphs will feed on the topside of the leaves for one month. Then they molt into adults.

You may notice dark, round, or sunken spots on the leaves. The spots may become transparent with small holes. Severe feeding can brown the leaves or wilt them. The damage from four-lined plant bugs looks very similar to leaf spot.

To get rid of them, check for insets in June. These pests will drop to the soil level when disturbed. Smaller infestations are OK and can usually be ignored.

Removed plants that are damaged by gently pruning. Host plants that have eggs inserted must be removed.

Insecticidal soap can kill the nymphs, especially if they contain pyrethrin. The spray must be sprayed directly onto the pest to kill it.

Other insecticides to consider are bifenthrin, permethrin, or cyfluthrin. Use as directed by the label. Avoid using synthetic insecticides if possible. They may be dangerous to humans, pets, or other plants. Do NOT use it if you’re growing edibles in the garden.

It must be safe for geraniums and must have four lined plant bugs on the label. Some pesticides may harm beneficial insects.

Spider mites

Spider mite eating geranium.
Spider mite on geranium leaf. (By Gilles San Martin – originally posted to Flickr as Tetranychus urticae with silk threads, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Spider mites are those near microscopic mites that feed on the sap of your leaves. They’re extremely hard to see unless you look closely.

These bugs are so small that they can float in the wind. They pierce the leaves and will suck out precious nutrients. Over time, it can hinder your geranium’s ability to retain water. Younger plants are more vulnerable to spider mite damage.

Similar to other mites, spider mites can be controlled by using horticultural oils. Neem oil in particular is commonly suggested in the community. Use it to fully coat your geraniums. The neem will prevent spider mites from being able to suck up the precious plant juice.

Set up sticky adhesives to help catch the mites that are crawling around. These can catch mites that crawl across it passively. It also serves as a way to see if the spider mite population is decreasing over time.

Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on the soil surface to help dehydrate mites. Sprinkle it around the soil bed, perimeter of the container, and a ring of it on the plant stem. Use food-grade, organic diatomaceous earth –check Amazon.

See this guide for more info on spider mite control.

Tip: Since spider mites are so tiny, it’s hard to spot them. But once you see your geranium wilting, dropping leaves, or turning yellow/brown, it’s time to take a closer look. You can shake the leaves on a contrasting colored paper (white paper for red mites), then use your phone’s camera function and zoom in to see.

Thrips

Western flower thrip eating pepper plant.
Western flower thrips chew on pepper foliage and breed in the same material

If you prefer using commercial sprays, thrips can be controlled by using horticultural oils, neem oil, or insecticidal soap. Use as directed.

Whatever you choose to use, make sure it’s actually effective against thrips by doing your research. There’s no need to introduce some compounds into your garden, especially if you’re growing edibles, for nothing.

Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the primary stems of your plants can also help deter some hard-shelled bugs. Use sticky adhesives. Or lure in natural predators that eat thrips.

Thrips usually won’t do enough damage to kill your geraniums, so they’re not too bad of a threat. Thrips can be found everywhere- from inside to house to your photo frames.

They’re found in USDA hardiness zones 3-11, so that spans a wide range across the US.

Cotton cushion scale

Cottony cushion scale on geranium with ant pest.
Cottony cushion scale with their favorite partner in crime- ants!

Cotton cushion scales generally infect woody ornamentals and crops such as citrus, nandina, or pittosporum. It produces a white cotton substrate that makes it easy to ID on your plants.

Check for scale on the leaf veins of your geranium. They leave behind white honeydew which is obvious.

Scale is orange-brown with elongated white egg sacs. This is the case for females.

The egg sac contains up to 800 eggs, which can be up to 0.5 inches in length. The eggs will hatch into crawlers. They seek out leaf veins and produce white cotton.

Scale nymphs are red with black legs and visible antennae. When they deposit their honeydew, it usually will bring ants in. keep ants out by using ant baits or Tanglefoot.

Check the sticky substrate every week to stop it from turning moldy. When it becomes moldy, ants will cross it. Keeping ants off will let other predators eat the scale. Wrap the stems of the geranium using a collar of duct tape or fabric wrap. If the sticky honeydew gathers debris, it provides “highways” for other insects to cross.

Double-sided tape can be used to catch scale nymphs. Wrap several stems near active feeding sites with clear double-sided tape. Change it once per week. Use it to catch them from crossing the parts of your geraniums.

Damage from cottony cushion scale leaves geraniums defoliate. They can lose blossoms, turn sooty black, or have decreased vitality. They suck up sap from the leaves.

Predators can help eat up some of the scale population. Natural enemies of scale include Vidalia beetles, parasitic wasps, or parasitic flies. The Vidalia beetle is a ladybug that’s excellent for cottony cushion scale control. Parasitic flies are also good predators. Both of them can be utilized to kill the cushion scale.

Mealybugs

Geranium infested with mealybugs.
Similar to scale, mealybugs deposit white residue on the foliage.

Encourage parasitic wasps to your garden to help keep mealybugs off your geraniums.

Some predators that eat mealybugs include the mealybug destroyer, ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, pirate bugs, etc. Depending on where you’re located, the availability of predators will vary.

Find out what bugs are in your zone and research how to attract more of them.

For example, ladybugs can be brought in by providing a water source, shelter, and decoy plants. Lady bugs will eat up the larvae of mealybugs without damaging your plants.

Neem oil is highly effective against mealybugs and can be purchased for cheap. Use pure, natural neem oil extract. Apply during non-peak hours when the temperatures are cool by spraying it onto your geraniums. Wash off the excess neem.

It’ll leave behind a residual layer on the surfaces of your plants which will help keep mealybugs off. Read the warnings and use them as directed. Some people or pets may be sensitive to neem, such as cats.

Insecticidal soap can be used to help kill the mealybugs. Use an organic or natural one if possible. Use it systemically and only as a last resort.

See this guide for more info on mealybug control.

Weevils

Weevil infestation on geranium.
Weevil eating geranium leaf.

Weevils love to eat tender plants. Evil weevils don’t usually show in geraniums, but if they do, the leaves will seer the roots or remove the outer layer.

This results in the geranium having stunted or poor growth with wilting leaves and failed blooms.

Vine weevils generally don’t eat geraniums unless they have no other host plants to infest. If weevils are spotted, they can be removed by hand. Setting up physical barriers works well for larger insects, such as weevils or caterpillars.

Diatomaceous earth can be scattered in the plant bed to help keep them out. Use hose water to blast them off during watering.

Pyrethrin-based sprays will kill weevils but must be used safely because they’ll also kill beneficial insects. Use as directed. Make sure the spray you use works for weevils.

Check out this guide for more info on weevils.

Snails and slugs

Snail eating flower pot.
Snails in your potted plants? They’ll wreck havoc.

Place small bowls of alcohol or stale beer around your geraniums.

The snails can’t resist the alcohol and will slug themselves into the liquid, which will kill them. The bowl should be shallow enough so that they can crawl into it easily.

You may want to bury it a few inches so the edge of the bowl is aligned with the soil surface. This is a cheap and effective way to get them off your geraniums.

Snails will only eat geraniums at night. They leave behind skeletonized leaves or holes in leaves depending on the size of the snail.

Diatomaceous earth is excellent for slow moving insects like slugs. The DE must be food-grade- organic if possible.

Just sprinkle it around your geranium’s stems so that the slugs need to touch it in order to climb up. You can also add it to the soil or on the perimeter of potted geraniums.

Diatomaceous earth is coarse so it pierces the slugs underside. Use a thick ring of it around the primary root to keep them out. Replenish in rain or heavy winds.

Do NOT use salt to kill them. It will contaminate the soil and make it extra salty, which raises soil salinity to dangerous levels for geranium.

Although slugs and snails will destroy smaller plants overnight, they rarely will do major damage to established ones.

They prefer organic matter that’s fallen into the soil and already easy to reach. If your geranium’s leaves are in good shape, they’ll look to other plant matter unless there’s nothing to eat.

Slugs will eat from the outside in, so leaves that are jagged, irregular, or chewed may be due to snails or slugs.

Get rid of places snails/slugs can hide. Remove stones, debris, or other things that they can hide under. If you have garden decor near your geraniums, relocate them.

Set up melons outside near active sites. Melon rinds can help bring them to one single area. Then you pick up the rind and catch the snails under it.

Crushed eggshells can help deter them because they don’t want to crawl on rough surfaces. The eggshells can be crushed finely and then used in the soil. Sawdust, sand, or diatomaceous earth are also good for repelling them naturally. These are safe to use for geraniums.

Physical barriers can help keep snails out. Use copper barriers or copper foil around your geranium stems. Or build a perimeter of copper surrounding your plant bed so that snails are forced to come into contact with it.

The copper will give them a small electrical shock which will force them to turn around. Copper requires no electricity and will continue to work until the copper tarnishes.

Similar to caterpillars, snails can be removed manually and then dunked into a container of soapy water.

Limit mulch or compost as this attracts slugs to your garden.

Caterpillars, worms, and grubs

Caterpillars may show up on geraniums. Most of the time, they’re actually mistaken for budworms.

Other common germanium caterpillars include cabbage loopers (cabbage moths), leafrollers, leaf eaters, plume moths, and cutworms.

Caterpillar populations will vary depending on where you’re situated.

Severe infestations can be handled by simply using a powerful hose and then spraying them off. Doing this over and over will disturb them to the point where they’ll leave in search of other plants to eat.

Caterpillars are also large compared to other geranium pests, so they can be removed by hand.

Because there are so many different types of caterpillars, it’s going to be difficult to list each species’ profile individually. Regardless of which one is eating your geraniums, the techniques to get rid of them are the same. What works on one caterpillar should work for others.

Start with manual removal. Removing them by hand using gardening gloves will work over time. Caterpillars will feed at night (nocturnal), so you’ll need to come out at night to hunt them down.

If removing them by hand isn’t enough, try using bacillus thuringiensis. It’s a microbe that can be used for organic caterpillar control.

Bt will only kill foliage-eating caterpillars and will leave beneficial insects intact. Read the label and use it directly. Bt will take time to work.

It causes the caterpillars to swell up but will take a few days. The larger the insect, the longer it’ll take to kill it. Smaller caterpillars may be killed overnight. Bt is most effective when used early.

Some gardeners will use it even when bugs aren’t present early in the season or when pests are small. Bt will need to be reapplied when it rains or after washing off your plants.

It’s effective against tobacco budworms, geranium budworms, cabbage loopers, fall cankerworms, etc. It can kill beneficial caterpillars like butterfly caterpillars, so be wary of that.

Greenflies

Greenfly on geranium.
Greenflies closeup shot.

Greenflies are a variety of aphid. Don’t assume they’re only green- they can be white, yellow, blue, pink, or brown- some are even wingless.

They do extensive damage to the plant leaves and will cause them to grow in weird, distorted shapes. If your geranium leaves are misshapen, it may be due to these pests.

Greenflies can be controlled by system sprays. These sprays are put into the plant’s leaves which then ingest the liquid. When the greenflies eat the leaves, they ingest the spray as well.

This will kill greenflies over time. If you choose to go this route, be sure the spray you use is applied under the leaves where greenflies tend to hang out. Read the label and use it as directed.

Damage can cause leaves to become distorted or blooms can fall off.

Utilize sticky traps to catch them. Set them up so that the flies come into contact with them on active feeding sites. Over time, you should see fewer files on it if whatever you’re doing is working. If not, it’s time to change plans.

Greenflies can also be eliminated by bringing in predators like birds or reptiles.

Similar to aphids, they show up in clusters. Use insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or biological insecticides. Prune off infested parts of your plants. Spray them with a hose regularly. Get rid of greenflies using the same remedies as aphids.

Cutworms

Cutworm outdoors.
Cutworms are destructive pests that only come out at night.

Cutworms are easy to keep away from your geraniums. Get a toilet paper tube and then cut it across so it unfolds into a flat sheet. Wrap the base of your geranium with the cardboard, then tape it back up.

Push one end into the dirt so cutworms can’t dig their way through. This should be enough as a physical barrier to keep cutworms off.

You can also use the traditional means of worm control- such as permethrin-based insectaries, sticky adhesive, or using natural predators like birds or chickens. Removing them manually by hand and disposing of them into a container of water with dish detergent is also effective for smaller infestations.

For passive control, consider neem oil or cutworm insecticides.

See this guide for more tips on getting rid of cutworms.

Cankerworms

The fall cankerworm is a caterpillar-like bug that loves to feed on young, tender geranium leaves. They leave behind small holes in the leaves.

The leaves become skeletonized with just the leaf veins remaining. These worms generally show up because of other host plants but may migrate over to your geraniums.

If you have oak, ash, blackcherry, basswood, maple, or other large trees in your garden, it’s likely the source of the worms. Check there first to eliminate them. Insecticides, manual removal, pruning, and regular adhesives can get rid of them.

Sciarid flies

Sciara analis.
This fly sucks out the sap from foliage.

Sciarid flies are small, tiny black flies that almost look like fungus gnats.

You can find them on the compost level of the plant where their larvae will eat the roots. They love peat-based compost, so if you’re using one for your geraniums, it’s a big target.

Even though sciarid flies are scary looking, they rarely do enough damage to kill geraniums. They’re only active for about 1-2 months during the growing season, so they don’t have enough time to do major damage to established geraniums.

Younger plants can use some help by reducing watering, regular pruning, or using some diluted Jeyes fluid.

Geranium sawflies

Sawfly larvae eating geranium.
Sawfly larvae look like small caterpillars. You can find these on the leaves of geraniums.

Sawflies are just as common as budworms IMO. These sawflies start out as caterpillars. They’ll eat your geranium leaves as they feed. Later on, they spin a cocoon to change into their adult form.

The caterpillar offspring will do the majority of the damage.

Sawfly larvae are dark green with darker heads. They’re found on the leaves of geraniums (but don’t feed on them exclusively).

Sawfly larvae will damage the plant foliage, stems, and sometimes flowers. Holes in geranium leaves are the common telltale sign that sawflies are present.

The thing to note about sawflies is that they’re excellent at escaping. As soon as you go near the plant and start looking for them, they’ll drop from the leaves into the soil.

So this can make manual removal extremely difficult. Sure, you can catch them by placing a bucket under the plant. But it’s a hassle to do so.

Younger plants are especially at risk compared to established geraniums. Sawflies can kill seedlings if extensive damage is done.

They eat the leaves, which means less energy for photosynthesis. The plant loses vigor over time. Sawfly larvae have big appetites as their only goal is to eat until they’re ready to evolve.

To get rid of sawflies from your geraniums, you should start with handpicking. Yes, it’s frustrating to do, but using a large surface area container down below will make it easier.

You can also lay out some tarp around the base of your geranium then shake or poke the larvae off. They’ll fall down and you can clean up. Removing them manually is perfect for small infestations.

Neem oil works well against sawflies. It’s a good start if you don’t want to use synthetic compounds in your garden. Use pure neem oil extract once per week. Use when the sun is down and wash off the excess. It should form a residual barrier on the leaf surfaces.

People or pets may be sensitive to it, so use it as directed. Neem oil is an effective natural horticultural oil when used properly. Note that it will kill beneficial pollinators.

Neem should never be used during sunny times of the day because it overheats the plant. Coat all surfaces such as leaves, stems, etc. with it. Use it in the early morning or dusk.

Getting more birds into your garden will also help. Birds are natural predators of sawfly larvae. Set up bird feeders near your geraniums to encourage birds to show up.

Once they realize there’s a source of food in your garden, they’ll return on their own. So it’s just the initial setup. Birds are beneficial because they can help reduce insect numbers.

You may be considering using Bt, but it’s not that effective against sawflies because they’re not actually caterpillars. Don’t waste your time or money. It is good against budworms, but less effective against sawflies.

Spinosad will work against sawfly larvae. If you choose to use this, do it before your geraniums go into the season. Use as directed. Again, only use commercial-based synthetics if absolutely necessary.

Pyrethrin is another ingredient that’s highly effective against sawflies. If spinosad isn’t available in your area, pyrethrin-based sprays can be another consideration.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies on geranium leaf.
These whiteflies are eating like it’s nobody’s business.

Whiteflies are usually found in warmer zones because they can’t survive the cold outdoors. This generally limits them to indoor environments or greenhouses.

If your geranium is in either of these setups, whiteflies can show up. Greenflies are much more common on geranium plants IMO, but in warmer regions, whiteflies can overpopulate. They show up in mid to late summer for most zones.

They leave behind a sticky residue known as honeydew, which can cause fungal issues. Similar to aphids, they use piercing mouthparts to suck plant juice.

With heavy feeding, plants will become weak and unable to generate energy. The leaves of your geranium will turn pale or yellow or it may be students.

Dropped leaves are a telltale sign of whiteflies paired with sooty mold on the foliage. They tend to hide under the leaves, especially around the veins. Whiteflies are white. They swarm when disturbed, so they’re quite easy to ID. These tiny white bugs on geraniums don’t go unnoticed.

To get rid of them, there are a few things you can do. First, if you’re growing geraniums indoors or in a greenhouse, move them outside in the winter. This will instantly get rid of them.

Of course, you’ll want to harden them off first so they don’t get plant shock.

Prune off infested foliage and dip it into soapy water. This will kill the nymphs/adults/eggs on the leaf. Whiteflies tend to feed on the underside of leaves, so check there.

Using an insecticidal soap can be handy for eliminating them. Use as directed. Spray in the evening so midday heat doesn’t burn the foliage. It also helps prevent killing pollinators.

Spray them off with a powerful hose. This will get them to scatter and get rid of their eggs. It’s more effective than you think. Doing it repeatedly will disturb them to the point where they’ll leave in search of other host plants.

A tablespoon of dish soap in a gallon of water can be used as a DIY insecticidal soap. Spray it in cooler temperatures, such as during sunset. The soapy water can be used to spray on active feeding sites to kill whiteflies.

You can help stop whiteflies from ever infesting your geraniums by doing some basic practices:

Mulch early in the season with aluminum mulch. This will deter them from infesting your plants. Reflective aluminum mulch makes it harder for whiteflies to infest host plants.

Keeping natural predators in your garden is always good. Ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, hummingbirds, damselflies, lizards, and dragonflies are excellent for whitefly predators.

Inspect new plants for pests before implementing them in your garden. Quarantine for at least 2 weeks. This will give you time to see if they’re nested.

Use cayenne pepper. Cayenne spray can be made simply by mixing water, dish soap, and some cayenne pepper. This is effective against most pests because they can’t stand the heat from the pepper.

Spray directly onto caterpillars, budworms, aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, scale, snails, slugs, or mites. Never spray into the flower buds as it can burn your geranium.

You can adjust the pepper level to add more if the bugs aren’t being wiped out. If your plant is noticeably changing color from the pepper, use more water to dilute it.

See this guide for more information on whitefly control.

Deer

Deer closeup shot.
Deer don’t usually eat geraniums. They repel deer.

Deer have been known to be a common wildlife nuisance for geraniums.

Although deer generally will opt for other flowers instead, they’ll consume the buds if there’s nothing else preferable to eat. Most geraniums will regrow damage caused by deer.

This hardy plant can withstand heavy pruning, whether by pruners or the teeth of a deer.

The strong fragrance and slightly hairy texture aren’t palatable by deer, so it’s unlikely that they’ll stay around and continue to eat your geraniums.

However, you can do some things to keep the deer out:

  • Build a fence to physically keep them out of the geranium plant bed
  • Switch to hanging geraniums
  • Use deer repelling plants to keep them out
  • Use commercial deer repellents

Geranium itself is considered to be deer repellent. So you probably won’t have any issues with extensive feeding from deer. The geranium “Rozanne” is excellent for keeping them out of your garden.

Preventing geranium pests

Purple pest free geraniums.
Geraniums in full bloom. Look at the purple majesty.

There’s no single way to keep bugs off geraniums.

It’s always a combination of best practices to reduce the chance of pest problems overall. To keep your geraniums free of pests, here are some things you can do:

Plant geraniums in full sun. This will help dry out the soil between watering sessions so that the water doesn’t pool. As you know, water that doesn’t quickly drain will cause fungal issues and bring in pests. Planting in full sun will help evaporate the water.

Water with the right frequency. Geraniums only need a few inches of water per week. Water deeply at the base of the plant. Adjust for rain or drought. Overwatering is just as bad as underwatering.

Prune regularly. You should be cutting the spent flowers off and removing excess foliage once a month. This will help stop bugs from coming to eat the spent blooms.

Pruning damaged foliage may help remove eggs or nymphs. It also helps water evaporation so it doesn’t mold or grow fungus. Besides, cutting back spent flowers (deadheading) will encourage a second bloom!

Check often for pests. Whenever you work with your geraniums, do a check for bugs.

Quarantine new plants, soils, etc. Buying new merchandise from the nursery is fun, but dealing with hitchhiking bugs is not. So don’t forget to quarantine new plants or materials from the garden center. If you see pest activity, return it.

Bring in natural predators

Birds eat geranium pests.
Birds are a primary predator of geranium bugs.

There are plenty of predators that’ll gladly eat the bugs off geraniums.

Depending on your hardiness zone, you can look up what natively lives there and find out how to get more of them into your garden.

Some of the most effective natural predators include the following:

  • Predatory mites
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Parasite flies
  • Predatory gall wasps
  • Minute pirate bugs
  • Flower flies
  • Lacewings
  • Birds
  • Lizards
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Ants
  • Big eyed bugs
  • Ladybugs
  • Chickens (ideal for eating bugs)
  • Ducks
  • Guinea fowl
  • Geese
  • Ground beetles
  • Turtles
  • Snakes
  • And pretty much whatever eats small bugs

If you put in the effort to bring in more of these natural bug hunters, it can help eliminate a lot of different pests from ever establishing a population in your garden- not just on your geraniums.

Local garden nurseries may have info on what natural predators you can introduce to your garden.

See what lives in your area and set up favorable environments to bring them into your yard. Some of these can even be ordered online (such as these ladybugs on Amazon).

If your geranium is container grown, you can get a mini greenhouse for it. Put it inside, then release the beneficial bugs inside. They’ll feed on the geraniums bugs inside until they’re gone. Then you can release the bugs.

Utilize pest-repelling plants

Some plants are excellent at repelling pests and keeping your geranium safe.

Planting these nearby vulnerable plants can be more effective than you think- especially with plants that emit strong aromas.

Think oregano, basil, garlic, onion, marigold, neem, lemongrass, petunias, lavender, mint, chrysanthemums, catnip, and floss flowers. See what grows well in your USDA hardiness zone and then plant it as a defensive plant.

Don’t overwater

Overwatering your geraniums is never good. It pools the water and this brings in more bugs that seek moisture. Only water when necessary.

Get on a scheduled watering regimen that changes depending on the weather outside. If you notice fungus or bugs, reducing watering should be the first thing you do. It helps limit the number of bugs your geranium can support. So never overdo it.

Don’t overfeed

Don’t over-fertilize. Just like overwatering, overfeeding your geraniums will build up nutrients in the soil, which will bring in bugs.

Use a water solution to plant food. Start with half dosages to see how your plants react. If it’s OK, then use max dosages as directed.

Similar to limiting watering, you should avoid plant food if possible. Only fertilize your geranium if absolutely necessary.

Otherwise, don’t use it. If your soil doesn’t drain well, the nutrients from the fertilizer get stuck and then build. This is what bugs love.

Use well-draining soil

Use well draining soil. This is obvious. The soil you choose to use should be well draining so that water doesn’t pool. It can help prevent root focused pests.

Your soil should drain well and never pool water. If it does, it’s time to replace it. Geraniums are easygoing, gorgeous flower that requires soil that drains well.

This will help prevent fungal issues, pests, and viruses, and help your plant thrive. Never use soil that’s clumpy or hard. Only use rich, fertile soils with moisture retaining properties.

If your soil is depleted, dry, hard, or doesn’t drain immediately, you need to replace it. Thankfully, geraniums can easily be swapped into newly replenished soil.

If grown in containers, just swap the container with new soil. If garden sown, the plant needs to be uprooted first. Dig from the outside in, being careful of the roots. Then uproot it, swap the soil, then replant it.

Use decoy plants

Some plants can be sacrificed so that pests will leave your geraniums alone.

Think of hardy, leafy plants that can be easily grown or purchased cheaply:

  • Catnip
  • Chives
  • Alliums
  • Marigolds
  • Impatiens
  • Celosia
  • Ivy
  • Verbena
  • Canna
  • Spider plants
  • Ferns

The idea is to plant them near your geraniums or around the perimeter of your garden. This way, bugs that come in will gravitate towards these scarecrow decoy plants instead of your prized ones.

Consult a professional

When you don’t have the time or the energy to deal with geranium pests on your own, consider getting some help from a professional pest control company near you.

Yes, it’ll cost you money should you decide to sign up for their services. But at the same time, time is money. If they can take care of the issue on the first go, it saves you time that could be spent doing other productive things.

Consult with local pest control companies. Read reviews. Get quotes. You know the drill.

See if they offer guarantees or organic/natural pest control. This should be your last resort if you just can’t get rid of the geranium bugs. They can get rid of them using compounds not available to the general public. The experience is what you pay for.

Some people will be reluctant, but if you just can’t shoo those geranium bugs, then it’s worth thinking about.

Further reading

The following references may be helpful if you need more info:

Did you get rid of the bugs on your precious geraniums?

Geranium blooming.
Pest free geraniums? Yes.

 

You now know how to eliminate the most common pests you may come across on geraniums. Armed with this knowledge, go forth and see what you can do!

Smaller nations should be pretty manageable using these basic DIY home remedies. Larger infestations may require you to break out the commercial sprays or even hire someone to get rid of them.

Do you have questions regarding a specific bug problem on your geranium plants? Post your comment using the section below and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.

What do you think of this guide? How can I improve it? Did you get any useful info? Please let me know your thoughts as well.

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