Can you truly get rid of scales

ramieApril 15, 2007

My plants have what I believe are scales. It seems I have lost several plants to them over the last few years. They seems to infest a plant, sometimes I get them under control temporarily and they seem to move onto a new plants or sometimes they just kill that plant. They truly suck the life out of them.

Is there any way to really get rid of these once and for all. I have tried soap and water, I have bought insectides. I have two right now I am trying to save. Maybe I should just throw the plants out. That's so hard, as they were big beautiful plants at one time.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

ramie, it's important that you be more specific with your identification. Are you SURE that you have scale insects, or are you just guessing? It makes a big difference.

If so, you should know that these insects are very difficult to get rid of entirely. It takes a concerted effort just to keep them down to a level where they do very little damage to our container plants.

When left unchecked, scale can and do kill our house plants, so it's very important to keep up with your controls. Insecticides are rarely needed, and might even be dangerous. And there are NO 'once and for all' cures. That's for certain.

Only you can be the judge of whether or not this pest infestation has gotten out of hand. We've had people post images of a scale out break on their houseplants, and we've often ALL agreed that tossing the plant to the curb was the best thing.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 5:04PM
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Ramie, first isolate all plants with scale, they will travel to neighboring plants.
I have an olive tree that continuously had scale. I don't know why they chose this plant to hang on, but they doted on it and it was pretty infested.
It took time, but I went over the whole plant and hand-picked all visible scale. I used cotton balls and rubbing alcohol and swiped 'every' leaf. It took time, but saving the plant was important..
I also used an oil (can't recall which one) and misted whole plant..This happened two yrs ago and since there's nary a scale. My olive is tree shaped, so it's much easier to work with then bushy type plants, but if you intend on ridding these pesty bugs, it's going to take work.
Like w/any plant, I think it's important to improve the environment..fresh air and humidity.
If your plants are small to medium sized, carrying to sink and hosing off once a wk is a big start..Good luck, and don't give up..Toni

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 5:32PM
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I whole-heartedly agree with Rhizo that it's virtually impossible to rid an indoor plant of this scourge. In an indoor environment, several stages of the life cycle are present at once, meaning that what you can actually see is merely the tip of the iceberg.

An extremely important thing to remember about scale is the FACT that the insect is damaging not only the plant, but also hardwood floors and any furniture that is nearby. They suck life out of your plants; they destroy the finish on floors and furnishings by excreting their 'honey dew', which apparently drifts from the plant to adjacent surfaces, making them permanently sticky. Believe me when I say the stuff is impossible to remove short of sanding & refinishing. If the excretion should settle on any fine old furniture with original finishes, the value of the piece could plummet in very short order indeed.

The real culprits here are the gigantic pest-infested commercial nurseries/greenhouses that mass produce plants under unsanitary conditions & supply them to the various home improvement chain stores, grocers, etc who are only too happy to pass them on to you. Favorite hosts for scale these days seem to be palms, ficus & orchids.

Rhizo's statement re no 'once & for all' cure should be taken quite seriously. The curb treatment Rhizo recommends is probably the wisest possible course of action one can take to deal with scale. How I hate 'em! I'm providing a link that underscores my opinions on the subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houseplant Scale Insects

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 9:54AM
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I concur. I don't believe I will be able to get rid of this scale. I have tried for several months and have slowly watched them do worse everday. I mean I spray the plants and remove the scale, I look at the plants and don't see anything, but it always comes back.

I also totally agree 100% with you Windeaux in regards to the conditions in which some of these plants are grown. I have been raising plants for 25 years, and never had a bug or had to throw out any plants. But it seems in the past 5 years my plants have so many pest. Scales, Spider mites, Aphids. I have had to throw out many plants in the past few years. But what can you do about it? You can look at the plants in the store, but of course you can't see anything. Maybe spray them when you first get the. What do you do to try and control them. Thanks, Ramie

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 11:18AM
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Ramie -- About the only thing I do to control insects is to watch new plants like a hawk for the first few months, spray & isolate them at the first sign of trouble & trash them if the problem persists. With plants purchased from the big chains, it's a good idea to repot as soon as you purchase them, taking care to wash all the old medium away from the roots. I feel that quick repotting is especially important with larger plants and with orchids regardless of their size.

I share your observation regarding the situation with houseplants in recent years. The industrial plant operations have all but wiped-out those wonderful (usually small & privately owned) greenhouses that used to be fairly common. There are still a few of those that manage to hang on & I'm constantly on the look-out for them.

There's a florist in an adjacent town that always has healthy foliage plants, although the selection is fairly limited. He is sometimes able to special-order certain plants for me from his out-of-state supplier. His plants are more expensive than the norm, but any money spent on an insect-infested plant is money squandered, so cost is relative . . .

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 10:45AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

We buy wholesale from Florida nurseries and have trouble too. I would recommend avoiding any of the arboricola/scheffleras (umbrella trees), as they seem to be scale magnets. Even with horticultural oil sprays and heavy-duty systemic insecticides, I usually can't save them once the scale takes hold.

What types of plants are getting scale for you?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 12:14PM
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Watergal:The two plants that have scales are Dieffenbachia and a Rubber Tree. These plants are quite large. The Dieff, I have had for 6 years. I know I can go and take all the scales that I see off but they just come right back. The plant just continually loses leaves. I do have another that is doing beautifully (knock on wood) so it wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to throw it out. Just a little bit ;o)
Windeax: When you say spray them do you mean with an insecticide - when you buy them. And repotting them - so these scales are also in the soil? Maybe if I repotted my Dieff. I am so very close to throwing it out - and really I probably should.

Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 7:10PM
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Scale insects are no better or worse than other houseplant pests - just messier because of the honeydew secretion.

As with other plant pests, it is important to be able to recognize them in their early stages. That will allow you to select your plants more carefully and to begin treatment much earlier in the infestation.

Scale can be hard to detect. When they are young these sucking insects are slightly oval, slightly raised, translucent bumps about an eighth of an inch long. They can be found along stems and on the undersides of leaves. They don't look like bugs and don't appear to move. As they get older, they develop a hard, dark brown shell and look like a small mole. As the infestation increases, these sucking insects will secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that falls onto leaves, furniture and floors. This stickiness is the most obvious sign of scale and the one that most people notice first.

The key to eliminating scale is to treat even the ones that you cannot see. That means thoroughly drenching all leaf and stem surfaces until they are dripping wet. Trying to remove them one at a time is doomed to fail. It is also best if you repeat this treatment all over again in 5 to 7 days to catch any crawlers (the translucent young ones) that you missed the first time. After that, you should check your plant weekly to see if they return.

I do not recommend any pesticides because they are all hazardous to use and not 100% effective against scale. The best non-toxic treatment for mealybug and scale is called Brand X Foliage Cleaner. 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. Contact me directly if you want to know where you can purchase it. (No, I don't sell it or have a financial interest in those who do.)

You may want to try spraying with rubbing alcohol that will help break through the hard outer barrier of the scale and kill it. Mix 1 part alcohol with 5 parts of water. Add a little liquid soap to help it spread. Soap and water alone is not effective.

Horticultural oil is also mixed with water and effectively smothers the scale. Complete coverage is important.

Another good non-toxic spray is hot pepper wax. Its main ingredient is hot cayenne pepper that overheats the plant pests. There is an information website for it at

Finally neem oil works similarly to horticultural oil. It should be diluted with water and Pine Sol to counteract the onion-like odor. All of these are available nationwide at plant and garden centers and also by mail order.

Important: None of these should be applied to plants in direct sun or in high temps.

Catch these critters early and treat the entire plant thoroughly and you can effectively eradicate them without pesticides.

Will Creed

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 9:03PM
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Ramie -- I spray insecticide only if I know there is a problem. However, these days it's always a good idea to use a soapy water solution to clean all new plants as soon as you add them to your collection.

As for re-potting: I think it's extremely important to do this for a variety of reasons, especially for larger plants that have been potted-up & stewing in the unhealthy environments of mass producers for longer periods of times. (I'll not bore you with a list of the critters I've found to have entered pots though the drainage holes.) And yes, you can safely assume that scale (esp in its juvenile stages) is present at least on the surface of the potting soil of your infested plants.

A number of months ago, I received a Phalaenopsis (purchased at Lowes) as a gift. Unfortunately, it soon revealed itself to be hosting an extremely well-attended scale convention. I threw the plant out, but not before scale had spread to several other orchids. Thanks to this forum, I began a frequent use of the mouthwash Cepacol as a spray to treat the other plants. Much to my surprise, I found it to be a very effective treatment for what was a relatively minor infestation caught at an early stage.

The principal ingredient in Cepacol (and most other brands of mouthwash) is alcohol, so perhaps spraying that alone or in a water solution would be just as effective. If you try the Cepacol spray on large, leafy plants, it would be a good idea, I think, to add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to act as a spreader-sticker. If you can't find Cepacol, Listerine would be a good second choice, altho the ingredients do differ.

I'm posting a link to the relevant page of a blog maintained by the Canadian person who posted the Cepacol tidbit here. (Scroll down to her entry for May 15.) She also has an 'all-purpose' spray that contains Cepacol, Murphy's Oil Soap, etc. You can find the recipe for that if you poke around her blog . . .

Have to disagree with Will. I think scale ARE worse than other house plant pests -- if for no other reasons than the facts that they are harder to control & can do so much damage to plants & other things.

Here is a link that might be useful: Janet's Cepacol Treatment

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 9:29AM
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I just located the thread where I first learned of the mouthwash treatment. If you've an interest in the off-beat, check it out. ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: Witches' Brews & Sorcerers' Potions

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 9:58AM
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Windeaux, I agree with you. The scales seem to be the worst, to get rid off and to me, seem to do the most damage.

I am going to give it one last shot at saving these plants. I will change the soil and try the mouthwash. I only tried the insecticide in desperation and really didn't want to. I am also going to start a preventative program here. I will be alot more diligent with new plants I bring home and spray with soapy water and replant them right away.

Thanks to everyone who replied, this a been a wealth of knowledge on destroying my worst houseplant enemy. :o)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 10:10PM
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Ramie, after trying the mouthwash, (if that doesn't work) why not try Fish Emulsion? I swear, it makes a difference..Just add 1 capful of FE to a spray mister..spray thoroughly..Not only does it work to rid scale, but a foliar fertilizer, too..Toni

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 7:44PM
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YES, completely. But not with alcohol, insecticidal soap, ultrafine oils, systemic insecticides, q-tips dipped in anything, etc. None of those ever worked for me and believe me I tried. Several months ago I conquered a nine yr battle with scale on my potted lime tree. It spends summer outdoors and is infested every fall. A local greenhouse recommended a liberal spraying with Simple Green cleaner diluted according to label directions 30 to 1, I think. I sprayed twice, 2 weeks apart for good measure and have been scale free for 4 months. I will spray periodically when the tree goes back outdoors in June. I would recommend that you test spray a few leaves to see how each plant reacts to the Simple Green. Citruses have thick leaves and weren't affected at all. If you are considering tossing the plant, you have nothing to lose. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 5:32PM
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I am SO against using chemicals, and would probably (sadly) throw away a plant that seemed to be losing the battle with any pest, but especially scale. It also loves ferns and spider plants, believe it or not. A friends restaurant was full of those plants, they all had scale and mealies, and he had a girl taking care of them that tried for years to clean them up using all of the "natural" methods - soap, alcohol, neem oil etc. When I took over, they were so infested, I threw them all away. I was itchy for hours after watering them, and other than dosing them heavily with poison, there was nothing left to do. It wasn't worth it. Even the hard core chemicals are no match for those critters once they get the upper hand. That is why being vigilant is your best defense, make sure they don't get that upper hand!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:47PM
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FYI Simple Green is a biodegradable non-toxic cleaning concentrate FMI go to the following link to read the Material Data Safety Sheet:

Here is a link that might be useful: Simple Green MSDS PDF

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 3:22PM
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Ines, lol, you sound like me when it comes to using harsh chemicals..I too refuse dealing w/that cr*p...
If a plant is small, plucking scale by hand is one option, but to rid the crawlers is another issue..they're difficult spotting..I've never once seen crawlers, only full-fledged scale.
The only plants I'd toss, is those infested w/mealy..this has only happened to me twice, that I recall..One was a variegated Purple Passion, the other a baby banana that was sent w/these darn bugs. The mealy were inbedded between leaves in large clumps, so bad I couldn't stand it..I tossed the banana..
Scale is another issue..if you catch them before, what I consider an infested plant, there are ways to rid them, and IMO, they don't kill a plant as quickly as mealy.
Like I said above, I received an olive tree in the mail 2 winters ago, which came w/scale bug. I plucked, used rubbing alcohol, neither was only after spraying w/Fish Emusion did I rid them..It took time and effort, but eventually did the my olive is scale free. Some people swear hosing rids scale, but I might free some, but those suckers hang on for dear life. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, heck, I'll do almost anything to rescue a plant, (except use harsh insecticides) so I believe hosing has its advantages, but will NOT rid scale completely.
Guess that's why our plant books advise isolating new plants..some say up to 3 months..but that's a bit too much..A few wks should do the trick..Toni

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 3:50PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I've finally found my old family recipe for getting rid of scale insects for once and for all!

You will need:
A blender, one egg, 1/2 cup of veggie oil, 1 cup of water, 3 ounces of vodka.

In the blender, place your egg, oil, and water. Insert plant and blend on high until liquified. Drink the vodka. ;-)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:10PM
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LOL...!! The recipe sounds just about right Rhizo! LOL...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 5:07PM
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I have had many a battle with Scale

It has always ended badly. My advice has always been get rid of the plant before it spreads

In the past I had a small Bay tree (herb not flowering). I decided one day I was gonna get rid of them, and possibly kill my plant in the process. I got rid of the pot and soil, and then proceded to wash the entire plant in rubbing alcohol, including the roots. I even briefly soaked it for good measure. Guess what, the evil little ones came back!

Now I again have a problem, My nice big Bay tree (had it for 3-4 yrs now big and great (Again!!) is under attack, I'm guessing it came from my kafir lime tree, (had it a year now). I am going to try Will Creed's advice, it sounds like he knows what he is talking about. So I"m gonna try some of this Brand X on my 2-3 current victims, or else it's the blender with them (hmmm Kafir lime, Vodka, scale for protein, maybe I can invent a new drink)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 2:22PM
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I have a staghorn fern that is infested and losing leaves rapidly. It was so nice ......I had it in the kitchen and in the bathroom and it goes outside in the warm weather. I then found it on some flowering plants in the bathroom window. I have use a soap insecticide spray and usually I pick off the scales when I see them. But I am worried now that a new staghorn fern will get infected. It would be great if there was some kind of insecticidal stick that you could just insert into the soil to protect these plants. I think I may have to throw the plant away tho.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 2:28PM
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I am so sorry Ann!

I feel your pain. I have gotten so sick of worrying about the plants that provide great hiding places for these critters that I have almost just about rid all of the ones that these critters hide well in.

Now I only grow plants that will expose any pest I can get my hands on and kill. No more hiding places. I just threw away 3 Dracaena plants, very lovely mind you, because I found a mealy on one and they are all very close in proximity to each other. Taking no chances here.

Seems like my plant collection will continue to diminish if I should find any on my Hoya plants too:-(.
I can't wait to get them outdoors and start mass treating them.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 3:39PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mike, don't forget that you can keep a spray bottle on hand, filled with one part rubbing alcohol to three parts water (or so) to mist that hoya with. Even if you don't see any mealies, mites, or scale. The mist gets into the nooks and crannies where it would be so easy to miss an infestation getting ready to explode.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:32PM
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Ann..I posted on this thread, 4 years ago, lol. To this day, I firmly believe Fish Emulsion rids Scale. By spraying, a lovely Olive tree and two Citrus are well and alive.

The only Negative regarding Fish Emulsion is its odor. But, if you want to keep a plant, a couple days of a fishy smell is worth it. Or, if you have access to a garden, porch or patio, spraying your Staghorn Fern in one of the areas, 'outdoors, you wouldn't notice at all,' you'd hardly get a whiff.

Mike, sorry about your Dracaenas. Those darn Mealy are difficult, if not impossible ridding. For some reason, quite a few people have been dealing with Mealy this year..Wonder why??

Rhizo, you're so right. Keeping a bottle of RA or any organic insecticide, is a great preventative. Toni

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 11:50PM
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Thank you Rhizzo!

I shall have to do this if I ever see just one appear on my Hoya. What kind of spray bottle should I use? It seems that any spray bottle I use, the spray mechanism inside deteriorates with time.
Can one store this mix or should you make it fresh everytime?

I have another question if you don't mind?

What can I use on jades and other succulents? I have been told by a few to use the alcohol and water spray, but then others have told me that the mix can burn the leaves, along with oil products.....I am not sure.
Your advice and opinion would greatly mean a lot to me and be appreciated.

Thank you:-)

Hey Toni.

You are so right about using FE. Works like a charm as you told me it would years ago.
I will 4ever be indebted to you for that one:-)
I hate mealy and luckily have never had an issue with them except on those plants with many leaf and joint crevices.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 6:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

What do you mean, "if I mind"....silly boy, lol.

I use inexpensive plastic spray bottles, and not ones that have been recycled from a previous use. Yes, you can mix your alcohol solution up ahead of time and keep the bottle by the plants you may want to mist occasionally. I would not even wait until you see mealies, mites, or other pests. Sometimes you can't see the nymphs, they are so small.

I've used the alcohol on jade for years. No soap, no oil, but alcohol is fine.

Don't mist it on plants that are going to sit in the direct outside sun, it needs to dry first. There is also no need to rinse the solution off. Just like on your skin, it evaporates. No fuzzy plants or those with very fragile foliage, at least not without a good leaf test.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 11:27PM
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Mike, you're too funny.... :)

BTW, if you're looking for plastic, spray bottles, Home Depot is having a sale. 1.00 per bottle.
Don't waste your $ on Plant spray bottles in the green house.
Check the asile that sells cleaning or household products. Bottles sold for plants are 3.99. They're all the same, except when labeled for plants, the price increases. I bought 5 new bottles! lol. 5.00 plus tax, compared to 20.00 plus tax.
Hope you're well, Toni

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 1:52PM
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What about temporarily moving the plant outside? Since scales seem to be a problem for indoor plants only, would that get rid of them?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:26AM
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Greenjeans...taking an infested plant outside isn't going to solve fact, by ignoring the problem, Scale will eventually suck the life from a plant/s.

Also, Scale live outdoors. They can attack outdoor/garden plants as well as indoor.

Do you have a plant w/Scale? Toni

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:53AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Toni is so right. Scale insects can be found on many different kinds of trees, shrubs, vines, and groundcovers.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 3:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Usually, there is a significant reduction in the effects of a scale infestation, actually, any infestation of insects with sucking/rasping mouth parts, when the plant is moved outdoors; this, for two reasons.

First, there will be a significant increase in the number of predatory insects helping to keep the scale in check. Second, the biocompounds plants employ as a defence mechanism against insect predation is a byproduct of the plant's metabolism. In most cases, plants respond to being moved outdoors with significant increases in their metabolism, and thus, in their ability to defend themselves against insects.

I wouldn't expect the condition to be completely cured, but I also wouldn't consider it wishful thinking to expect a significant reduction in both the effect of the predation and in the tenacity of the bugly little thugs in a move outdoors. .... and of course, Toni is right in that scale are persistent pests both indoors and out.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 3:29PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses. I have a ficus tree that unfortunately has a nasty case of scales and based on previous exchanges in this thread am leaning towards hand-applied rubbing alcohol. I hadn't heard of outdoor scale infestations, so thought that could be an easy fix, but it sounds like that is an unreliable approach.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 4:49PM
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Scales have drawn me to become a member. The evil of scales is that you don't know you have them until it's almost too late. By the time the "crawlers" (which I've never seen crawl) have matured to the point of secreting sticky goo all over, chances are, you are fighting an uphill battle. One thing not noted here but should be obvious - trim away the worst leaves and branches before applying whatever remedy works for you. I think all have merit, but the trick is frequency and coverage. What mystifies me is how an indoor office plant with no new friends can suddenly get scale after being isolated for over a year. Are these crawlers floating around in the air?? Also, make sure you sanitize watering cans when dealing with infected plants - don't let the nozzle touch any part of a suspect plant. Any new success stories?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 4:59PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hi MichiganMike! Welcome to GardenWeb. Just to make you feel at home right away....I'm going to disagree with part of your statement, lol.

I honestly and truly don't think that these insects sneak up on us and seemingly overnight explode in population. We just aren't observant enough and/or knowledgeable enough to catch an infestation at an early onset.

The office plant mystery really isn't a mystery at all. The scale came in when the plant did! Maybe it was just a couple of adults, well hidden under a leaf. Scale can reproduce without mating, so over months or years of office life, they can reach a population that finally becomes noticeable.

What might have prevented the outbreak is occasional treaments with a horticultural oil of some kind or with mistings of alcohol.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 5:55AM
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Well, that's a welcome! :P I realize the exponential component of their reproduction, but it would seem to me that after a full year of complete isolation, I would have found these a long time ago--one little sticky spot, some sign. I dusted this anthurium from time to time and nothing noted, then in the matter of two weeks, an explosion! One thing I now see are small webs, but not from spider the "premies" generate any kind of output (or is my company's office in need of a filter cleaning? Lol). I have successfully removed scale from rubber plant, paradise plant, zamio culcas zamiifolia, and ficus because I always catch it early and that was by an alcohol scrubbing. I dread doing this manual process again so I am trying the alcohol spray. Ah, the things nightmares are made of!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:56PM
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I can tell you what worked for me with succulent plants - these included columnar, glaucous cacti (no injury to their beautiful blue colour), haworthias, Echinocactus, and the like:

Spray them with Windex or Formula 409 when the plant's out of the sun and spray heavily - let sit 10 minutes or so, then blast with hosed water. It will knock them right off with no plant damage and no use of insecticides.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:24AM
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Scale insects are quite treatable if your treatment of choice is extremely thorough. Although pesticides do have some toxic residual effect on any insects pests that are not directly contacted by the spray, the non-pesticidal remedies depend entirely on direct contact with each insect in every stage.

That means that Q-Tipping and hand wiping will always miss some of the critters hiding in crevices. The result is that the few that are missed will reproduce and come back again en masse in a few months. However a thorough spraying that leaves ALL leaf and stems dripping wet and gets into the crevices has an excellent chance of permanent success.

Also keep in mind that scale insects that have been properly sprayed may remain in place even though they are dead. Sometimes folks assume they are alive and the treatment has not been effective. Therefore, wiping all of the visible scales AFTER the thorough spraying is a good idea.

Alcohol diluted with water and with a squirt of liquid dish soap has excellent coverage and spreading capacity so it works quite well. For plants that have deep crevices where the leaves attach to the stems, I recommend a product called Brand X, availabe only online. It contains silicon which has superior penetrating capacity. It is a leaf cleaner, not a pesticide.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:05PM
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I got rid of scale on outdoor plants in a rather drastic fashion. I completely de-leaved them and then manually wiped all the trunks and branches with baby wipes every day for about a week, and that did the trick. It was a case of three small potted shrubs and an orange tree, and they survived. I have been lucky enough not to have scale on houseplants so far, fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:05PM
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ok so ive got a question, im currently battling scales, actually i dont know if battling is the right word, ive only seen maybe 8 over the last week and all on 4 new plants that i just ordered, i can not seperate them from the rest of my plants so ive been treating ALL of my plants with a alcohol/water/dish sope mixture that ive been spraying on once a day. i have two hoya compactas that ive been manually spreading some of the leaves that have curled tight together and spraying into them... my question is that if im going and doing this once a day (which might seem drastic but my husband is on the verge of chucking all of my beautiful plants because of the work "pest") and the mixture is getting on the soil the plant is potted in do you think this is going to hurt my plants? all most all of the plants are either hoyas, spider plants or christmas cactus... i was kind of misting the soil on purpous because i know some of the pests will live on/in the soil, but im hoping its not too much to kill the plant... do you think i should flush the soil after doing this or would that be too much dampness for them to take? here are some pics of how my plants are kept together... i know that scales need to walk/crawl to get to other plants so im hoping that even though they are so close together the fact that they are hanging might help?

Source: Uploaded by user via Amber on Pinterest

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 2:01PM
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Hi Amber,

Scale insects don't spread among plants as readily as is commonly believed. Concentrate on treating the 4 new plants that have scale. Once they are treated properly you need not be concerned about their spreading to other plants.

A limited amount of soap/alcohol runoff into the soil will not harm your plants. However, if you are spraying daily, then the cumulative effect may not be so good. If you are truly thorough in your initial spraying, then follow-up spraying should not be necessary. Don't overreact to your husbands threats.

Scale insects do not live in the soil so there is no need to spray the soil.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 10:22PM
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I have had 3 of my wonderful plants die of scale. I just tossed out a 6 year old Boston fern, and tomorrow I will toss out a spider plant.

My question is this? Is the scale still in the house? I ask because it was 6 months ago that one of my ferns had it and I tossed it and now finally the Boston fern.

I want to buy another Boston fern but not until I can make sure it will not get scale from the other. I also plan on scrubbing the pot because it is a pot I love, and I can bleach it if necessary.

I moved two of my other plants into another room and maybe they are okay.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 6:00PM
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I have been losing plants to scale for a couple of years now. I fought it on my peace lily, which was in my family for decades, before I finally gave up. That included hosing, soaps, alcohol, repotting. I did not know to try spraying with fish emulsion, which I have but do not use as a spray.
I have gotten to the point of just getting rid of a plant when I find scale, because it never seems to go away. Months will go by, and then another plant will be infested. Even in the kitchen where there are no plants left, I will bring in cut herbs and they will have little white bugs on them in a few days.
I don't know if it initially came from a new plant (I was mailed bamboo), or if they were on plants I inherited years earlier, and took a while to be noticeable. They could have been in this apartment when I moved in almost 3 years ago. I am afraid they are in my wood furniture now, and that even if I move they will come with me.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:19AM
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I meant to say that I fought it on my peace lily for about a year.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:23AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Imidicloprid is an over-the-counter insecticide that is effective against scale. It is available in a vehicle designed to be sprinkled on the soil, a liquid soil drench that usually has no mixing directions for indoor applications, and in preparations designed to be used as a spray, but the actual spraying needs to be done outdoors and the application allowed to dry on the plant before bringing the plant indoors. I find the later (the spray) to be most effective for houseplants, particularly for trees and other plants with woody stems. I use Bayer Advanced 3-In-1 Insect, Disease & Mite Control, which is an excellent product when scale infestations occur, and can be used against mites. The product also includes a systemic fungicide that is very effective as a prophylactic and a fixitive against most fungal infections, should you encounter one. All in all, it's a good multiple purpose product to have at your disposal for indoor or outdoor containerized plants, but remember to follow directions and particularly that the spraying is to be undertaken outdoors only.

Also effective against scale are horticultural oils that have the word(s) light - summer - or all-season in their names. When using the oils, COMPLETE coverage is required or it's likely the infestation will be recurrent. Neem oil is also very effective against scale, but requires persistence. Often, being faithful to 4-6 applications at 2-3 week intervals are required to rid the plant of reproducing adults. Home remedies like alcohol preparations and fish emulsion solutions may have some knockdown effect on predators in the crawler stage, but leave adults under their protective shells largely unaffected, leaving eradication by these methods unlikely.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:03AM
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Just joined since I have battled scale for too many years & need some good, hopefully natural, remedies other than dumping the poor thing in the trash. Have contemplated that many times and still am.

At any rate, it took reading thru the great comments and suggestions here for me to connect the fact that the "flocking" which is all I can call it, that has covered my fax machine, printer and scanner for some time now wasn't due to their being located close to an open window, so much as they were getting rained on by excrement from the scale infested fern hanging above them. I didn't realize this until it was mentioned here since I've tried to keep the scale minimized with alcohol/cotton ball treatments not noting anything sticky on the leaves, but I gather it was still enough to drizzle a sticky coating that gathered dust....hence the flocking effect. Seriously doubt it would have a commercial market so it's been done in.

As for cleanup, I found using a product called De-Solv-It by Orange-Sol worked beautifully to quickly and without scrubbing or harm to the equipment clean the gunk off. I used a Scrubbie, both sides depending on where the film was, but I think a regular sponge would be fine. De-Sol-It works wonders on stubborn stains, but I don't know what it would do to furniture. It might be wise to try an inconspicuous spot first or dilute it a bit to be safe. It used to be sold everywhere, but I can only get it now in my local Ace Hardware store. Not sure why the decrease in distribution. Anyway scale poo doesn't stand a chance against it.

As for weakening plants, fluoride can do a lot of damage to plants. Without going into all the terrible injurious things fluoride does overall to everything, among the worst is that fluoride causes disruption and inhibition of quite a number of enzymes vital to the function of all living things. I have to believe it is a likely reason our plants don't have the resistance anymore to pests like scale, with some plants being more susceptible than others. Here's a link to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.
I'm not implying this is the only source of the problem, I simply know from having studied human and animal susceptibility and the insidious and varied damage from fluoride, that plants must be affected far more than we expect them to be.

Thanks for all the good advice.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 6:04PM
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Just joined :) I finally gave up today, and threw out 8 plants because of scale. Some of them have been with me for many, many years. I never had a problem with scale until maybe 3 years ago- that's when some gift plants entered my home. :(
I'm a horticulturist. Believe me, I have tried it all but it always managed to come back, so today I finally decided it was time to let go and give up.
Hate the scale!!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I have loved reading all these different ideas and experiences. I'm trying to get rid of scale on one of my houseplants and also an orchid. It was recommended to me to get the petro-chemical insecticide, and I thought I would do it, but I just can't give money in that direction. So today I concocted my own mix in a 16 oz. spray bottle:

1 part water
1 part rubbing alcohol (70%)
a squirt of biodegradable dish soap
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops thyme essential oil
5 drops citronella essential oil.

My idea is that the alcohol will hopefully kill the eggs and ones in the bump stage, and the essential oils will hopefully kill or deter the crawlers. If I keep at it for the next few weeks, I hope to get them in all stages. I think also that plants that are struggling for nourishment in some form are more susceptible to pests, so I'm also addressing that.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 9:14PM
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you got me! i was getting ready to cut-n-paste...great vodka solution! i'll need it soon :) as post-battle recovery.
over the years i've been loosing plants to scale continuously, more then for any other reason. so when i see scale i go ballistic.
the only thing that worked for me was systemic with imidacloprid: i use bonide indoor systemic for safety , so it's not as strong as outdoor formulation. and since it takes up to a week for the plant to absorb it - i also manually remove the nursery-leaves (those with most dew /scale on them); pick off the adult scale that i can see + spray heavily with insecticide soap and repeat spraying at 5 day intervals - up to 3 times or until i cannot see any visual signs of infestation.
that said, new solutions are always welcome.
i will spray houseplants that are coming in this year with FE at weekly intervals for sev weeks before they come in (that seems to be a good preventive solution) - that is in addition to my systemic preventive for all coming in 2 weeks prior; and insecticidal soap on last day.
i have sev questions to posters too.
do you use regular original WINDEX with ammonia or the one without?
how do you use Brand X - by itself as 'coating solution' that deters infestation/chokes scale? or instead of dish soap ?
as far as light horti oil goes,
it burns young leaves on a lot of my indoor/outdoor plants, even in mid summer when they are hardened - so though it's s effective for mite scurge i refrain from using it. it completely killed my 2 crotons; destroyed leaves completely on hydrangeas and damaged ivy leaves, especially young, but also pitted the old leaves quite unsightly. so i am scared of using it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 11:54AM
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I have problems with scale on my orchids. I use a tobacco tea. It doesn't hurt the orchids and the scale hates it. I repeat it every 10 days until I don't see scale anymore. I do have to repeat every so often during the year. I just put a wad of tobacco in about 4 cups of water and nuke it for a while and then I let it sit for a while until it is cool.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:29AM
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thanks for all the helpful hints. one cure that i have found to be effective, and that i did not see in reading through, is that for smaller plants, complete submersion in water for 24 hours, including both the plant and the pot of dirt, drowned all scale in all stages, never to return. the plants were fine with the treatment.
i also found that here in the northeast, when putting larger houseplants outdoors in the summer, some insect seems to be very effective in cleaning all the scale off the plants, and the plants thrive, giving them a better chance in the fall if the scale return when the plants come back indoors. good luck!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 8:39PM
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I want to second what goddenfents said; submerging a plant for 24 hours has been the only thing that's made any of my plants scale-free. (Note: I've also tried neem, alcohol, and soap-- but not fish emulsion, nor Cepacol, Brand X, nor any sort of alcohol/soap mix).

Sigh. I have two gorgeous scheffleras submerged in buckets now. Fingers crossed that it works again.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 1:29AM
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The water method for getting rid of scale has my interest! Are you under the impression that this can work for all plants? I have many beloved and very old hoya plants (indoor) that are clearly suffering.

I am going to take them out of their containers, submerge in their entirety for 24 hours, and then replant in fresh pots, albeit that Goddenfent indicated pot and all. Are you only using water for this purpose?

Yes! I shall try this on one plant, and then pray I don't lose it!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 2:56PM
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Hi! I don't know much about hoyas, but I think they could take immersion, looking at their photos. I do want to report back on the latest two plants I treated by immersion. Both plants are doing beautifully, but I have also seen signs that both plants still had a few scale left on them. I've been keeping an eye on the leaves and cleaning them, and in the last week I've definitely found one or two that did not appear dead. So, either they got re-contaminated, or immersion doesn't work quite as well as I thought. :( However, you'll get MOST of the scale off, if you're prepared to be a bit vigilant afterwards. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Thank you! I can deal with a few issues, and might employ an alcohol treatment afterwards. I'll post after I begin the process.

Best to you!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Maybe the immersion technique would work better if you soaked the plant not just in plain water but in a solution of neem oil, detergent and water? I think you may be on to something with the soaking treatment since years ago I was once able to seemingly eradicate scale from a Sansevieria by soaking it in a solution of water with systemic pesticide mixed in.

I suspect it also improves the odds of success if you use a completely new pot, soil, and move the plant to a new location in your house since I suspect the scale insects can probably live on furniture or windowsills for a while waiting to reinfest after you've treated the plant.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 11:22AM
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