The Q&A Archives: Controlling Mealybugs (Fuzzy White Patches on Houseplants)

Question: Some of my houseplants have developed fuzzy white patches on the stems and leaves. I remember this happening to my plants years ago. It spread rapidly and I eventually had to destroy the infected plants. I seem to recall being told that it was some kind of tiny insect but the only similar thing described in your library is "powdery mildew". Is this what my plants have? How can I save the infected plants and prevent spread to the healthy ones? Sharon Willoughby Baltimore, MD

Answer: It sounds like you are having a problem with mealybugs. These are small insects which secrete a waxy protective coating--the white fuzzy stuff you are seeing. Regular spraying with insecticidal soap should control these insects. I would spray at least once a week, directing a hard spray right at the insects where they like to hide--especially in the area where the leaves meet the stems. Insecticidal soap is quite mild, so you can even do a "preventive" spray on your healthy plants--the insects mayhave already spread to these other plants and are not yet visible. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label. You can also dab rubbing alcohol on the areas with the worst infestations.

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