Garden expert reveals a simple organic hack for dealing with whitefly

There’s one way to get rid of this garden and glasshouse pest, and that’s to spray it with a powerful jet of water – but does it work?

person watering peppers growing in a greenhouse using a hose
(Image credit: MAY/Alamy Stock Photo)

Whiteflies feasting on their favorite garden goodies of cabbages, cauliflowers, tomatoes, aubergines, cucumber, melons and roses can drive gardeners to distraction, but Lucy Chamberlain, Amateur Gardening's fruit and veg expert, has a simple organic hack for dealing with this persistent pest. 

'Use a strong jet of water to knock them off your plants, repeating it every few days until the numbers become acceptable,' she says. 'Grab your hosepipe, put your thumb over the end to create a jet, then obliterate them.'

It just goes to show that whether you're looking for solutions for how to get rid of ants, aphids or wasps, sometimes the simple options can be the most effective. 

Garden expert Lucy Chamberlain examining plants for whitefly in a greenhouse

Lucy Chamberlain says it's important to get on top of whitefly problems as soon as you spot them

(Image credit: Lucy Chamberlain)

Whitefly removal hack

Lucy does warn that the jet of water must be strong, but not so harsh that it damages plants: 'Tomato and aubergine foliage is fairly robust, whereas young cucumber and melon leaves can tear.

'The breeding rate of this pest is phenomenal in warm weather,' she adds. 'One week you might spot a few whitefly on your cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines – and the next, there will be clouds of them.'

Other experts agree, but some go further in their recommendations for protecting your kitchen garden and flower beds from these pests. 

'Whiteflies can be an annoying pest around your roses and brassicas, and some people recommend spraying them with a strong blast of cold water,' says master gardener and blogger Jen Stark at Happy DIY Home. 'However, we don't recommend this as it can damage your plants if you hit them dead-on.'

whiteflies on cabbages growing in a veg plot

(Image credit: Edwin Remsberg / Alamy Stock Photo)

Alternative treatments

Jen prefers to make a quick spray of one gallon of water and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap: 'Mix it up and spray it on your plant leaves. This is a mild solution that won't harm your plants or alter the taste, but the dish soap makes it hard for the whiteflies to get away once they land, and they can drown in the water. It can also stop new larvae from hatching.'

Other garden experts recommend vacuuming whiteflies off the plants, using a small hand-held vacuum cleaner. 'Suck the insects and their larvae,' says Jason White, founder and CEO of advice site All About Gardening 

'After vacuuming, dump them in a plastic bag and seal it,' he says. 'Don’t dump them unsealed in the trash bin as they will fly right back to infest your garden.'

person spraying tomato plants with a solution in a greenhouse

(Image credit: Simon Kadula/Alamy Stock Photo)

Give plants further protection

Although Lucy Chamberlain admits that the water jet method won’t totally eradicate whitefly, it will at least reduce their numbers and buy you time to use 'more thorough controls.' 

After several jet blasts over a number of days, she recommends following up with treatments such as introducing predatory wasps as a bio-control, or using sprays based on pyrethrum, fatty acids or plant oils, or SB Plant Invigorator, available from Amazon, a proprietary treatment that's inexpensive and readily available.

Will you be trying this whitefly removal hack on your raised garden beds or crops growing in a greenhouse? 

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.