The Q&A Archives: White Sticky Stuff On Ficus Tree

Question: Among many of my plants, I have a mid size ficus tree (indoors). Lately I noticed some kind of white sticky gooey stuff on its leaves and little brunches. It doesn't look good. It also seems to be getting worse even though there are many new leaves coming out. Is there something I should worry about? I never seen this in any of my plants.


Ficus trees can become host to scale insect and mealy bugs when grown indoors. Scales look like little bumps on the stems and undersides of the leaves; mealybugs look like little tufts of cotton and they tend to congregate on the undersides of leaves and in crotches where stems and branches meet the trunk of the tree. Both these pests are classified as sucking insects; they excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew. This sticky substance falls on lower leaves and you'll see a shiny residue on the upper surfaces of these leaves.

Inspect your ficus tree to determine which of these pests is feasting on your plant. Scale insects are difficult to control because their hard coating protects them from chemical sprays. You can scrape these critters off with your fingernail. Mealybugs can be controlled with a pyrethrin based insecticide. Both pests can be controlled if you dab them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Be sure to isolate your tree from other houseplants until you get the insect population under control!

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