The Q&A Archives: Orange Tree

Question: My orange tree has strange hard brown spots all over it. The spots are located on the leaves and where the leaves connect with the stem. The leaves are very sticky. We've tried washing them off and we've tried plant sprays. The leaves are very brittle and fall off at the slightest bump, and when I water it. Washing takes them away but they return. Could you please tell me how to get rid of them?

Answer: It sounds as though your citrus tree is infested with scale insects. Scales attach themselves to stems and the undersides of leaves and suck the juices out of the tissues of plants. They are difficult to control, especially if a huge population has become established on your plant. Try wiping them off with a wet rag or papertowel, or washing them off with warm water. If the tree is small enough to put in the shower, you can direct the spray under the leaves and all along the stems. It's possible that your tree is beyond help, especially if all the leaves fall off. Without leaves, your tree cannot manufacture food through the process of photosynthesis. Try controlling the insects and waiting to see if the tree produces new leaves. If not, replace it with a healthy specimen and check carefully every few weeks for insect or disease problems. Caught soon enough, you can correct almost any plant problem.

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