White Fuzz On Jade Plants - Knowledgebase Question

New Paltz, NY
Question by tamarque7
December 30, 2000
My jade plants, the smaller variety, has developed a condition with white fuzz on the stems. the leaves are dropping off and the stems are withering. My aloe vera plants are also developing a condition where the leaves have dark spots on them and the tips are drying out and breaking off. I do not see any bugs in this white stuff and it feels powdery. I tried to spray the plants with alcohol. I'm not sure that I've done anything useful. The house is dry in winter due to wood heat. The plants are in filtered light where they have been thriving pretty well for quite some time. I would like an organic solution to the problem, if possible.

Answer from NGA
December 30, 2000


Your jade plant may be infested with mealy bugs (these are white and will hop if you try to catch them; tag them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to eliminate the problem) or, since you haven't seen any insects, it may be suffering from either a fungus or poor cultural conditions. These plants are also sensitive to some sprays, so always be sure anything you use on it is labeled specifically for use on jade plants. 

First off, both these plants will tolerate low light but really do best in very bright light. Too little light can stress a plant and cause it to grow weak and spindly and drop foliage. 

Next, it should be grown in a well drained potting mix, keeping it on the dry side -- overwatering can cause root rot and a multitude of problems including leaf drop. Do not overfertilize as this can cause weak growth as well; fertilizing really isn't necessary during winter when the growth rate slows naturally due to reduced light. 

Finally, these plants do well in cool to average household temperatures, so make sure they are not overheated or in a warm draft from, say, a heat vent or the wood stove. They also do well with cooler temperatures at night, even a by a drop of as much as ten degrees. I would gently wipe away the white fuzz with a clean cloth and remove any fallen leaves promptly. 

Place the plants in a brighter light in a location with good air circulation. The air circulation is important if it is a fungal infection -- the dark spots on the second plant could well also be a fungal problem. Allow them to dry out between waterings, avoid wetting the foliage, and do not fertilize until they come into active growth in the spring. (Overly succulent growth is also more susceptible to fungal and pest problems.)

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