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Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2002
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by Merck on November 02, 2002 09:20 AM
We seem to be getting a white fuzzy sticky moldly (how's that for description) growth on several species of indoor plants in our home. This eventually seems to kill the plants but prior to that, it leaves a sticky mess on the floor around the plants and the leaves start to fall off. This was occurring to plants in our house on the south side of Houston but we moved and now it is occuring to new plants in our new house on the north side of Houston.

I have no idea how to treat this or what it might be. Can someone help? Thanks.

by Will Creed on November 04, 2002 01:22 PM
You have described mealybug, an insect pest that infests many common houseplants.

The difficulty with treating mealybugs is that there is always more to deal with than meets the eye. Young mealybugs lack the telltale cotton-like protective coating and they are skillful at hiding in nooks and crannies where leaves and stems join.

The key to successfully eradicating these creatures is to spray the ones that are out of site. That means that whatever treatment you select, you must get complete coverage, to the drip point, of all leaf and stem surfaces. If you miss a few, they will live to breed another day.

I do not recommend any pesticides because they are all hazardous to use and not 100% effective against mealybugs. The best non-toxic treatment for mealybug is called Brand X foliage cleaner (Yes, that's for real). It is available through Southwest Plantscape Products in California (ftp://ftp.southwestplantscape.com/Brandx.pdf). Their phone is 1-800-333-7977. It is a silicon-based product so it is very slippery. Its ability to penetrate is probably the key to its effectiveness because it gets into the tiny crevices that other sprays miss.

You may want to try spraying with rubbing alcohol. Mix 1 part alcohol with 8 to 10 parts of water. It is also best if you repeat this treatment again in 5 to 7 days to catch any crawlers that you missed the first time. After that, you should check your plant weekly to see if they return.

Another option is to wash the plant down with soap and water. Use the same dilution as when washing dishes. Apply in the same manner as rubbing alcohol.

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