Sometimes it feels like all of the plant bugs on the planet are trying to attack my houseplants! Until last winter, I’ve never had to deal with houseplant scale before. I have no idea where they came from, but one day I suddenly noticed that my goldfish plant was infested with scales. Gross! But don’t worry, scale is not a death sentence for your plants! I’ve successfully descaled my houseplants, and so can you!
Scale insects are very difficult to see on a plant. Even if you do notice them, scales on houseplants look more like a weird growth than a bug. They look like small brown dots or bumps, and they don’t move. Eek!
What Is Houseplant Scale?
Houseplant scale are gross looking things that suck the sap out of the leaves and stems of plants; resulting in stunted or deformed leaf growth, yellowing of the leaves, and leaf drop. The damage caused by scale insects is not as quick to occur or as devastating as it is with spider mites. If a houseplant scale infestation goes left untreated, the plant will eventually die; although it would take a long time for scale to kill a large houseplant.
Identifying Houseplant Scale
You will usually find houseplant scales hanging out on the stems and leaf joint of an infested houseplant. Scale insects can be rounded, oval shaped or flat, and can range in size from barely visible to large bumps on a plant. They like to cluster, so they are very noticeable once the population gets large. Like I said before, they don’t look like bugs so you probably won’t even notice them until the plant has become infested. Disgusting!
Related Post: How to Control Soil Gnats
How To Control Houseplant Scale
Houseplant scale control is similar to mealybugs. As with any plant pest, when you find scales on houseplants, isolate the infested houseplant and begin treatment immediately. I don’t recommend using pesticides, because houseplant scale are resistant to most pesticides. They also have the ability to develop a resistance to any pesticides they are exposed to on a regular basis. So keep your family and pets safe, and skip the toxic pesticides on your houseplants. Try these all natural pest control methods instead…
- Kill and remove as many of the houseplant scale insects from the plant as you can using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (you may need to pry some of them off using your fingernail). In order for rubbing alcohol to be effective, it must come in direct contact with the scale insects.
- Neem oil is very effective to control houseplant scale infestations, and it has a residual effect to help with future pest prevention. You can buy neem oil for pretty cheap, and a big bottle will last a long time. Trust me, it’s well worth the price! A pre-mixed horticultural oil or hot pepper wax spray also work very well when used directly on scale insects.
- As you treat a houseplant, make sure to inspect underneath all the leaves, around the leaf joints, in folds and at the base of the plant for houseplant scale. They like to hide so check the plant from several angles and under each leaf. Also brush away a little dirt and check the base of the stem at the point where it sticks out of the dirt, scale insects could also be found on the roots of the plant.
- Use an insecticidal soap or a solution of soapy water to spray directly on the scale and on the leaves of your infested plant (I use 1 tsp of Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap per 1 liter of water). If the plant is small enough, bring it to the sink or shower and wash the leaves with this soap and water solution, gently removing as many of the scales as you can as you wash the houseplant. Keep in mind that soap can damage the plant, so it’s best to test it on a few leaves before spraying the entire plant.
- Houseplant scale can live in the soil of a houseplant so if a plant is plagued by recurring infestations, you could try removing the top inch of dirt from the pot and replacing it with fresh potting soil.
- Remove the plant from the area and clean any crevices where plant pests could be hiding. Be sure check around the outside lip and inside edges of the pot and tray, and also the bottom of the pot for hiding scale insects.
- Trim any heavily infested leaves from the plant and toss them into the trash (outside of your home). Don’t trim all the leaves from a houseplant though.
It’s hard to get rid of all of the scales on houseplants the first few times you try, it will take several treatments. Even if you are able to kill all of the adults, the eggs and babies are tiny and easily overlooked. Fighting houseplant scale can be super frustrating, but it’s worth it to save your favorite houseplants.
More Information About Houseplant Pest Control
- Organic Plant Pest Control Supplies
- Neem Oil as Organic Pest Control
- How To Control Houseplant Pests
- Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
- Debugging and Cleaning Potted Plants
Organic Pest Control Products I Recommend
For more houseplant pest control tips and information, click here… Houseplant Pests
Have you ever had to fight houseplant scale? Share your tips in the comments section below.