At first glance, scale on cherry laurel plants looks like a collection of small, fuzzy, cotton-like clumps. Upon closer inspection, they’re tiny insects that have gathered on a plant and feed on its carbohydrate-rich sap. But how do you get rid of it?
You can get rid of scale on cherry laurel plants by using several methods, such as horticultural oil, a mixture of water and vinegar, or dish soap. You can also try traditional pesticides, petroleum jelly, introducing predators, or simply discarding the infected branches.
If you’re curious about the various methods you can use to eliminate your pesky pest problem on your cherry laurel plants, follow the steps below (in no particular order).
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1. Spray Your Plant With Horticultural Oil
The most effective way to eradicate scale bugs on cherry laurel plants is to suffocate them, and horticultural oil is your best bet in this case. It’s a gentler approach to pest control than insecticides, as it’s typically petroleum or plant-based.
Spray horticultural oil until there’s a light coating over the plant or the affected area in the case of larger plants. This will cover the insects and limit their oxygen supply, inevitably suffocating them.
This process should be relatively quick; you can simply brush the dead bugs off the plant. However, there is a risk of the oil suffocating helpful insects too, so don’t overdo it.
Complete a few applications of this oil before the first eggs hatch in spring, with temperatures above 40°F (4.44°C) but below 86 (30°C) – i.e., in the winter or early spring.
Also, avoid spraying the oil before a frost is expected, as it won’t dry properly.
Some plants are extra-sensitive to horticultural oil, but it’s perfectly safe for cherry laurel plants.
Organic Neem Seed Oil (link to Amazon) is a perfect choice for those looking to use horticultural oil. It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor plants and is certified by the Organic Material Review Institute.
Not only does it kill the insects that are already on the plant, but it also acts as a repellent for any future pests that may gravitate toward the plant.
The benefits of horticultural oils are as follows:
- They evaporate relatively quickly and leave no toxic residue that may harm people, animals, or beneficial insects.
- They’re environmentally friendly and use smothering to combat infestations rather than chemicals (source).
Remember, due to rapid evaporation, the oil has no effect after one application, which is why repeat applications are essential for consistently keeping pest populations under control.
Additionally, don’t spray the oil onto the plant’s surface on its own. This could take longer to dry and won’t spread as quickly. Therefore, create a solution using the oil and organic soap or water, preferably soap, considering oil and water don’t mix.
2. Apply a Homemade Solution
In the scale of cherry laurel, the scale may actually suck the sap out of the branches to such a degree that they become more and more hollowed out. This weakens the plant from the inside and causes it to inevitably fall apart.
Additionally, some variations of scale excrete honeydew, which encourages sooty mold. It can also draw other pests and scavengers to the tree, damaging it further (source).
You can cut costs and time by creating your own pest control solution. A few options include:
- Create a soapy solution: Mix two teaspoons (9.85 ml) of additive-free, fragrance-free dish soap with a gallon (3.78 liters) of water. Coat your plant and use a scrubbing brush if needed. Continue this treatment if the issue persists, and rinse the laurel after every application.
- Create a vinegar-water solution.
- Petroleum jelly: Smearing petroleum jelly on the affected areas can suffocate and kill the insects in the same fashion as horticultural oil. Remove the scale once they’re suffocated and remove the excess jelly, so it doesn’t affect the plant’s health.
Unfortunately, the damage done by these pests often only shows up over prolonged periods. It shows through several symptoms:
- Yellowing or chlorotic leaves.
- Drooping and lackluster appearance.
- Poor growth.
- Leaves and stems are eaten and exhibit holes and bitemarks.
If you’re looking for scent-free, additive-free soap, look no further than Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Soap (link to Amazon). It’s incredibly affordable and made strictly out of natural vegetable proteins. Dissolve in some water and spray the pests away.
3. Introduce Natural Predators
One of the easiest and most eco-friendly ways to eliminate scale bugs on cherry laurel plants is to introduce their natural predators. These are indigenous, beneficial insects such as:
Beneficial insects live on pests that eat plants, often destroying and killing them. The insects listed above feed on scale larvae, except for wasps, which feed on larger adult pests (source).
Most of the above are commercially available, and you can buy them:
- At pest control companies
- At organic gardening companies
Also, ensure you don’t use chemical insecticides alongside beneficial insects. Insecticides will almost certainly kill your beneficial insects, and while they may also kill the scale bugs, you should choose one method.
In fact, ensure that you don’t apply chemical insecticides for up to two months before acquiring the predators.
Finally, you need to release these insects as soon as you purchase them. You absolutely shouldn’t store these insects (source).
4. Discard Infected Branches
If you catch scale early enough, you can save your cherry laurel from an untimely demise. However, sometimes these plants – or parts of the plants – are beyond saving.
Disposing of plant matter is usually quite simple; you can turn organic waste into compost without spending money or throwing rich plant nutrients away.
However, this isn’t possible to do with infected branches. In the case of cherry laurel branches:
- Seal the debris in a plastic bag.
- Place the bag in a bin and keep it closed with a lid.
The issue with this method is that this bag will end up in a landfill, causing organic waste to break down and produce methane gas. It also contaminates groundwater, which can cause repercussions that span far beyond the landfill into nearby communities.
In many cases, the best solution, in this case, is to burn all diseased branches. This isn’t ideal, but it avoids the methane gas dilemma and wipes out the scale, so it doesn’t have the chance to infect other plants (source).
See How To Easily Dispose of a Cherry Laurel Plant.
5. Use Systemic Insecticides
Systemic insecticides soak up into the cherry laurel plant and are toxic to any pests that consume the plant. This is a highly effective pest-control method:
- It gets rid of pests non-selectively.
- It doesn’t harm the plant.
- Insecticides don’t get washed off and last longer than other preventative methods.
Chemical pest control methods are incredibly accessible and commonly used, and for a good reason. One application can last up to 90 days. However, there are enormous risks involving this kind of pest control method.
- They kill all bugs: They kill every insect, from pests to beneficial insects like pollinators. Xerces Society states that 50% of bees exposed to plants dosed with insecticides died (source).
- It’s not safe for consumption: Farming has become reliant on chemical insecticides, and this can cause harm to people who consume plants dosed with these chemicals, resulting in allergies and depleted health.
- Insecticides contaminate soil and water: Insecticides can easily seep out of plants and into the surrounding soil and water. This can poison nearby plants and make the soil infertile (source).
Dose your infected cherry laurel plant with the Bonide Systemic Insect Control Concentrate (link to Amazon). Once diluted with water, this concentrate excels at disposing of pests on shrubs and trees.
You may also choose to try one of those DIY natural weed-killer solutions. But first, be sure to read Do Natural Weed Killers Work? The Truth About DIY Solutions.
Scale is the bane of every gardener’s existence, but with the correct procedures and equipment, getting rid of them from your cherry laurel plants should be straightforward and have minimal impact on the environment and surrounding plants.
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