The Q&A Archives: White Spots On Hibiscus

Question: My tropical hibiscus tree has developed white sticky spots on the leaves and bark. It was purchased in June and brought inside when the weather changed. It has bloomed beautifully since I bought it even with the development of the white spots. It has recently slowed down in blooming. I would like to know what it is and how to treat it

Answer: The white patches may be a fungus, brought about by less than perfect growing conditions, or they may be evidence that your plant has an infestation of mealy bugs. Try looking at the patches with a magnifying glass to see if you can tell whether the patch is a collection of little insects with cottony coatings, or just a single blotch of hairy fungus. Mealy bugs can be very difficult to control, and the first course of action is to try to remove them with a cotton swab dipped in plain water or rubbing alcohol. Or, try prying them off with a blunt knife. (You won't do any more damage to your plant than the insects are already doing.) This may leave scars that will callous over, but it will help you save your plant. As a last resort, you may have to use an insecticide to rid your cactus of the pests. Mealy bugs travel very slowly, but they can leave eggs on all kinds of surfaces. Move your hibiscus away from other plants, and be sure to wipe down the sides of the pots to get rid of any eggs.

For continued good health, keep your plant in the sunniest spot you have. Keep it out of drafts and keep the humidity around it high if possible. Expect some yellowing of leaves in protest of the move. Reduce watering and fertilizing as the plant's growth slows. Good luck with your plant!

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