Scales

Common Plant Problems: Scales

LiveTrends • April 04, 2022 • 2 min read

Seeing spots? Your plant babe may have a case of scales.

Scales kind of sounds like a medieval disease, but it’s not a weird plague from back in the day. Scales are actually a type of insect that infest plants and feed on the sap inside their leaves and stems. They can be bad news for your houseplants unless you know how to handle them.

Does Something Look Off With Your Plant?

These changes might mean scales have moved in:

  • Brown bumps on the stems and leaves, usually close to the veins
  • Shiny or wet looking leaves, caused by the scales secreting “honeydew” after eating
  • Black mold forming on leaves where honeydew is present
  • Yellowing or dying leaves

Treat Your Plant

If you see the signs of a scale infestation, move any buggy plants away from other healthy plants. Then, break out the soap — it’s time for a turf war.

  • Cover the planter and soil with plastic so any scales that fall off during the next steps can be easily discarded.
  • Mix a solution of two tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of water. Small plants can be flipped over and dunked into the solution, or you can pour it into a spray bottle to apply to larger ones.
  • Scrape off any visible scale insects and rinse the plant thoroughly with clean water.

Practice Prevention

Like most plant pests, scales are usually brought in by a new infected plant, or after an indoor plant has spent some time in the great outdoors.

  • Inspect new plants closely for pests before bringing them inside. You can even quarantine them for a few weeks before placing them near your other plant babes.
  • If you move your plants outside for some sunshine, look for bugs that want to hitch a ride indoors before you bring them back in.
  • Wipe leaves with horticultural oil, like neem oil, to suffocate any pests you may not see and shine your leaves at the same time.

Scale insects can be hard to get rid of, and usually you’ll have to treat your plant more than once to ensure they’re gone for good. But if you stay the course, they’ll get the message that your plants are not to be trifled with anymore.

Caring for Your Plant

Caring for your plant will keep it happy and strong. Find out how to avoid the most common issues.

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