How To Remove Scale on Houseplants

Clean as a whistle, this is how you want your houseplants to look when you bring them inside for winter.

Clean as a whistle, this is how you want your houseplants to look when you bring them inside for winter.

Confession: I’m not a big fan of housekeeping around the house, but for some reason I don’t mind doing a little Suzie Homemaker-ing for my plants. Case in point, I’ve been bringing in my houseplants for the winter, and noticed that a favorite ivy plant looked a bit iffy, with some yellow spots. Close inspection discovered a small brown bump on one of the  leaves. Ack! Scale!

Scale is clinging parasite that slowly sucks the life out of a plant, by feeding on its sap. The one good thing about scale is that they are easy to see and fairly easy to dislodge. Unlike a pest like spider mite that is so small you might mistake it for a sprinkling of salt-and-pepper. Scale is easy to identify. It’s round, brown and smooth. Scale insects attach to the undersides of leaves, and along stems. If you find scale, you don’t have to toss the plant, a bit of organic TLC will bring it out of harm’s way.

  • Organic pest management is best for all of us, and I only use the safest chemical treatments (insecticidal soap, etc) as a last resort. For scale control, if you catch it early, all you need is a cloth and warm water.
  •  A simple microfiber cloth is the best tool for dislodging scale. The microscopic fibers easily pick up foreign bodies on your leaf’s smooth surface, and the soft fabric won’t harm leaves. Keep one in your organic plant hygiene tool kit.
  •  Moisten the cloth with water and shape it around your index finger.
  • Hold the leaf flat with your opposite hand then gently rub the surface of the leaf pulling across the surface of the leaf.  Once you’ve scraped off some scale, rinse cloth well under warm water to clear the scale bodies off your cloth. You don’t want to redistribute any eggs or scale onto your next section of the plant you’re treating.
  • Clear vision helps, so if you need reading glasses get them out so you can see the little creatures.

A good light source is very important for this procedure. Every time I do this operation I mentally make a list to buy a high-powered lighted magnifying glass.  I don’t have one yet, but maybe one day. Luckily  for me I’m nearsighted so my close-up vision is pretty good.

Check your plant every week for the next few weeks, and repeat the procedure if necessary, to make sure you’ve gotten all of the insects and eggs.

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