Ask a Question forum: What is wrong with our house plant, and can it be saved?

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Feb 28, 2017 2:55 AM CST
Hello knowledgeable people!

I wondered if you could help - I have recently noticed that the leaves of one 'branch' of our house plant are covered in patches of what appears to be mold.

I would be extremely grateful if anyone could help us to identify the problem, and if it's possible suggest a solution?

Thank you in advance!

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Name: Lin
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Feb 28, 2017 6:02 AM CST
Hi Craig, Welcome!
That looks like a leaf from a Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) and it looks to be infested with mealybugs. To remove just a few you can use a Q-tip/cotton swab dipped in Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and dab it on each white blob to kill them. If there's a large infestation you can try spraying them off with a garden hose or spray with an insecticidal soap found at most local garden centers, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, etc.
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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Feb 28, 2017 9:30 AM CST
Yep. Definitely looks like mealy bugs to me too. And Lin's suggestion for dealing with them is the same that I'd make.
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Name: Cheryl
Texas (Zone 9a)
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Feb 28, 2017 10:40 AM CST
Welcome! Welcome! I agree D'Oh! D'Oh!
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Feb 28, 2017 1:30 PM CST
I agree I would do similarly as Lin suggested. But try to do it early part of the day if you can, not in direct sun.
Name: Critter (Jill)
Frederick, MD (Zone 6b)
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Feb 28, 2017 6:25 PM CST
With "tough" leaves (those tha thave a thick or waxy cuticle -- think hoya, aloe, and yes I think palm should be fine), you can also spray a solution of rubbing alcohol directly onto the whole leaf. I've used straight 70% on a lot of plants, especially when drastic measures were needed for an infestation that started galloping before I spotted it.

If just a couple of leaves are that badly infested, consider trimming them off, then spray the rest (insecticidal soap, alcohol, pick something based on how bad the plant looks). Spray again every week or two, because once the bugs get big like that they'll have been laying eggs... and you need to get those as they hatch, although alcohol often gets most of the eggs as well, in my experience.

If you're unsure about spraying with rubbing alcohol on a particular plant, try a single leaf/stem first to see if it damages the plant tissue. You don't want the cure to be worse than the disease!
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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Feb 28, 2017 8:29 PM CST
Mealybugs are tough to get rid of, especially on plants like Sago Palms. I have gotten desperate enough to rip the plant out of the pot, remove all the soil, cut off all the leaves, and soak the entire plant in Beyers 3 in 1 for half a day.

I scrubbed the pot inside and out and soaked it in Beyers 3 in 1 also. The Sago Palm grew new leaves in a month or so. Less than a year later, the plant is covered in mealybugs, AGAIN! No plants near it are having this problem.

My next attempt will be to put the plant in a bag with a No-Pest Strip. Right now, I have settled for cutting off all the leaves, and spraying with full strength rubbing alcohol - again.

The problem with mealybugs is that they can hide anywhere: the pores of the inside of a pot, the woodgrain in a tabletop, the cracks and crevices in the bark of plants.

The problem with insecticides like Insecticidal Soap and even Beyers 3-1, is that the mealybugs quickly become resistant. They do not develop resistance to alcohol and my other favorite home grown insecticide, good old 409.

I managed to stop an outbreak in a terrarium full of Masdevillas by sealing a No-Pest Strip in the tank for a week. But, I had to repeat 3 times before I was successful (successful for now....).

When my brother called to report his palm was covered in 'feathers', my first question was "How much do you like this plant?" If you really like this plant, get it far, far away from all your other plants and try to treat it. Expect this will be a battle forever. If you don't care, toss it BEFORE the mealybugs drift to your other plants.

Rant over (for now) Smiling

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost


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