Essential Oils

Are Essential Oils Bad for Plants? Debunking Garden Myths!

Recent trends show that more and more people are open to using essential oils as natural remedies. Whether it’s for therapeutic uses, aromatherapy, or to grow healthy produce for their families. These plant-derived potions offer umpteenth benefits, from drawing in pollinators to repelling pests and weeds. This makes them a great addition to any gardening regimen. Essential oils replicate what nature does. By using them in the garden, we are simply enhancing what nature has already proven on its own. Still, the questions persist: are essential oils safe for plants? Or are essential oils bad for plants?

Unfortunately, there’s a great deal of information surrounding the topic that’s simply incorrect. Quite a few blanket statements are circulating that either contradict the facts or are too-good-to-be-true. But not anymore!

In this post, you will find the RIGHT answers to some common essential oil myths that have gained hype throughout the years. Let’s start debunking, shall we?

A gardener with a watering hose and a sprayer water the plants in the garden on a summer sunny day, gardening, are essential oils safe for plants

Myth 1: Essential Oils Are Harmful to Plant Growth

The idea that essential oils are harmful to plant growth is a common misconception. Most gardeners refrain from using these oils, thinking they would hinder plant growth or, worse, kill them. Things are quite different in reality.

Numerous studies on essential oils highlight the growth-promoting abilities of essential oils. Nutrients in these oils give the plants a much-needed boost to thrive. Essential oils also act as a secondary agent of pollination and bring in all those beneficial insects to your garden. This further encourages plant growth and increases yield.

But, because these solutions are so concentrated, remember to always dilute them in proper dilution ratios before application to the plants to best mimic nature.

Myth 2: Essential Oils Can Attract Pests or Diseases

Amateur gardeners often worry about attracting pests or creating a breeding ground for severe diseases when using essential oils. This is merely a myth, as these aromatic solutions have been proven and used for centuries for the exact opposite reasons!

Essential oils have pest-controlling properties and are a natural repellent against most insects and pests. Plants are known to produce these oils as a survival instinct and to interact with their surrounding environment. These oils have existed long before their benefits were discovered by humans as a way for healing and protecting plants from dangerous predators. They do this by various mechanisms, either by directly killing the pest or driving them away through their pungent smell.

Moreover, the antifungal properties of the oils provide protection to the plant against many fungal diseases. Simply put, essential oils are Mother Nature’s remedy to all your gardening problems. 

Learn more about the use of essential oils for pest control here!

using essential oils vs chemical sprays are natural repellent against most insects and pests

Myth 3: Essential Oils Negatively Affect Soil Quality

Essential oils were avoided for quite some time as they were believed to disrupt the balance of the soil nutrients and pH. However, with solid evidence contradicting this, that’s not the case anymore.

Despite being known as potent antimicrobial agents, essential oils can activate some soil microorganisms (beneficial bacteria). These microorganisms use them as an energy source to grow and thrive. The increase of bacteria biomass, along with the already present nutrients in the oils, improves soil quality and microbial activity.

However, the key is to use the oils judiciously and in moderation to reap the maximum benefits without any negative effects on soil quality.

Myth 4: All Essential Oils are Created Equal for Plant Care

Essential oils come in many different forms to cater to the differing plant needs of the garden. Each oil is unique on its own and, therefore, can’t be used interchangeably with each other.

Research states that the specialty of any essential oil depends on the source plant material. Because every oil is created from a different plant, each has distinct characteristics and applications.

For example, the fragrance of rosemary oil makes it excellent for attracting pollinators. In comparison, the fungicidal properties of tea tree oil improve the defence mechanism of the plants and make them less susceptible to diseases.

Make sure that the oil you choose to use has the desired components to address your specific plant concerns and is suitable for the plant variety.

Regardless of the essential oil you choose, the priority is to select a good-quality brand like Young Living essential oils. A brand that you can rely on to provide thoroughly tested, organic, therapeutic grade essential oils for your plants. After all, there should be no compromises when it comes to the health of your plants and the sprays you use around them that you then eat. I’m not keen on eating synthetic compounds in my salad thanks!

Beware of False Marketing

It’s important to be aware of false marketing when a brand claims their oils are ‘100% Pure’. There are no regulations around what ‘pure’ actually means in the industry. So a bottle of ‘100% Pure’ lavender oil can contain just 5% actual lavender and still get away with the claim! 

So what synthetic chemical makes up the other 95%? Not only is it most likely a synthetic additive made in some factory, but by using a diluted oil you’re not benefitting from the therapeutic qualities of the plant and it simply won’t work. 

This is one of the most common reasons why people give up on essential oils. If they aren’t therapeutic grade like Young Living then don’t waste your time. 

small glasses of essential oils, young living essential oils, safe for plants

Which Essential Oils Can Benefit Your Plants?

Having addressed the myths, let’s explore some essential oils that would make great garden companions.

BasilDeters spider aphids, fleas, spiders
CedarwoodRepels aphids, fleas, ants, snails and caterpillars
CinnamonExcellent for getting rid of weeds and a good all-around insect repellent
CitronellaKeeps critters like spiders, gnats, and mosquitos away
CitrusPurifies the soil
CloveAntifungal, herbicidal, insecticidal
LavenderRepels ants, moths, and other soft-bellied insects due to its strong scent
LemonFungicidal, mix with soapy water to get bugs off your plant’s foliage
LemongrassTicks, ants, fleas, gnats, mosquitos
NeemNematodes, fungi
OrangeAttracts pollinators and repels pests with its powerful scent
OreganoAntifungal, works best against flying pests such as green flies and mosquitos
Peppermint Fungi, beetles, aphids, spiders, snails, slugs, flies, etc
RosemaryVersatile natural repellent against fleas, flies, mosquitos, and even pesky cats, attracts pollinators
ThievesCleans dust off the leaves, protects against mold development
ThymeEliminate fungi and some types of bacteria
Tea TreeAntibacterial, Fungicide, keeps parasitic insects such as ticks and fleas away

How to Use Oils Safely on Plants

Similar to how we obtain therapeutic benefits from essential oils, so do our plants. And it’s only fair that we use essential oils on our plants just like we use them on ourselves.

When directly spraying the essential oils on your plants, make sure that they are diluted in accordance with the dilution requirements. Using them straight/undiluted is when you could experience problems as they are highly concentrated solutions that can damage your plants. 

Moreover, always go with the spraying method as it provides better coverage versus applying a few drops on each plant individually. No hassle, no time wastage! Stick to the spray bottle to make gardening easier and faster.

Another crucial point, avoid plastic spray bottles as essential oils tend to break down over time in plastic containers. Instead, opt for glass bottles as they won’t react with the oil (which is why manufacturers use them in the first place).

spraying essential oils on your plants using glass spray bottles, safe for plants

Are Essential Oils Safe for Birds?

Birds behave differently to essential oils compared to garden pests. Both species have different biological systems, accounting for their varied physiological response. Pests are more delicate than avians. Therefore, certain oils can severely affect them while remaining safe and friendly for the birds.

While some strong-scented essential oils such as citronella and tea tree can drive the birds away from your area, these compounds don’t kill or harm them in any way. 

As long as you don’t spray the oil directly on birds and use them with caution, they won’t affect them or the wildlife. 

birds on a bird nest, using essential oils are safe for birds

Is Lavender Oil Safe for Plants?

Lavender oil is among the most popular and commonly used essential oils for plants. Known as a general repellent, it keeps harmful and unwanted bugs, mites, and other common garden insects away from your fruits and veggies.

Equally beneficial, lavender’s scent is one butterflies love. You can rely on some essential oils to draw beneficial pollinators to your garden to improve yield. So, yes, lavender oil is perfectly safe for your plants. Either spray this oil around your garden or apply it directly on the leaves of your plants after dilution.

Lavender oil is safe for plants, commonly used essential oils for plants, general repellent

Final Thoughts on “Are Essential Oils Bad for Plants?” 

It’s time we sum things up and answer the heated questions – are essential oils safe for plants or are essential oils bad for plants?

Good news! These organic substances are completely safe and sound for your plants. No, they don’t decline soil quality nor hinder plant growth. Instead, when applied in moderate quantities and with the right plant varieties, essential oils can blossom your greeneries in no time! The trick is to find the ones that best suit your needs and dilute them thoroughly before incorporating them into your gardening routine.

So, embrace nature’s treasured gift and watch these magical potions bring harmony and healthy growth to your garden.

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About the Author

Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.