The Q&A Archives: Palm

Question: My houseplant palm has a white cotton like substance on the leaves. I bought spray for it which takes care of the problem for a little while but then it comes back so I keep spraying . Not sure what to do. The plant has no problem growing. thanks

Answer: It sounds as though you're dealing with a population of mealybugs on your palm. This pest is usually brought into the interiorscape on an infested plant. Therefore, one of the best ways to manage mealybugs on houseplants is to carefully check plants being considered for purchase and reject any infested plants. Quarantine new plants for 7-10 days in an isolated spot, and check for signs of mealybugs or other household pests before adding the plants to your interiorscape.

Other suggestions for controlling mealybugs include the following:

Dabbing each insect with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab
Gently rubbing the insects from leaves or stems
Placing the plant in a tub or shower stall and knocking them off with a brisk water spray
Carefully washing plants with soapy water; one tablespoon of liquid dish detergent in one quart of water is a good ratio to use.
Spraying houseplants with a registered insecticide; active ingredients include azadirachtin, permethrin, pyrethrin, resmethrin, and rotenone. Usually more than one application is required to get good control.

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