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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Mealybugs, Scale insects, Insecticidal soap, Crassula, Insect pests--Control, House plants

I have been nursing a Jade plant cutting that dropped off an overwatered and rotting larger plant. It has been thriving in my windowsill for 6 months or so, and has grown a lot already.

In the last week or so, I have noticed a strange white speckling on the upper surface of almost all of its leaves. Upon close inspection, it does not look like insects; it looks sort of like a detergent residue, and if I scrape my nail against the surface of the leaf, a lot of it will come off, albeit with effort.

Do you know whether this is something I need to treat?


I wouldn't assume the spots are a problem. As the following link to North Dakota State University Extension mentions, it might be salt crystals that you are seeing:
"Those dots are salt crystals and can be wiped off with a damp cloth or just ignored because they are not causing any harm to the plant. All water (except distilled) contains some salt. When fertilizer is added to the root system, the plant takes up the nutrient salts with the water. As the water moves through the leaf pores during transpiration, the salts often are left behind on the surface."

However, if you were to use a hand lens (not just the naked eye) and discover insects, there are resources with information on identifying and treating insect problems on indoor plants.

1. http://www.succulent-plant.com/pests.html

2. Washington State University's PestSense site lists several common houseplant pests, with information about treatment.

Always test any spray on one leaf before spraying the entire plant.Wait a few days after the test spray. Some plants are more sensitive to various soaps or oils.

3. The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides also has a guide to Growing Houseplants Without Using Pesticides.

Date 2019-05-10
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Scale insects, Euonymus, Insect pests--Control

Have you heard about a problem with Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) getting a mildew this year? The leaves have turned yellow green with small spots of lighter yellow discoloration.


Powdery mildew is a common and usually not life-threatening problem with Euonymus. Make sure the plant has good air circulation, and be sure to clean up and destroy fallen leaves which are infected. However, the symptoms of this fungal problem would be whitish coating on the leaves, rather than yellowed leaves. This makes me wonder if it is a different problem such as scale (which is actually an insect). Check and see if there are small bumps on the leaves or stems. Scale can cause yellowed leaves. If your plant has a small infestation, you can try scraping the scales off with your fingernail, prune out the most infested parts of the plant, and then apply dormant oil to the trunk and branches before growth starts next spring, or apply superior oil during the growing season. There are also other fungal and bacterial problems that could be causing the spots.

See this fact sheet from Penn State for more on Euonymus scale.

Here is a link to additional information, which comes from University of Illinois Extension. Excerpt:

Burning bush (also called Winged Euonymus): Euonymus alatus

Cold injury - Winter injury may be caused by very low temperatures as well as drought stress. With excessively low temperatures, the moisture in the cells freezes (due to chemical compounds in plants, moisture freezes at various degrees below freezing). Drought stress already has resulted in limited moisture in the plant cells. Dry, freezing winds during the winter reduces the moisture level even farther, often resulting in dead plant tissue. Diseases can help magnify or increase susceptibility to winter kill. Nectria canker kills the sapwood tissue thus reducing or even cutting off moisture to tissue further out on the plant. Winterkill also makes plants more prone to infectious diseases and insect problems.

Dieback/canker - See bridal wreath spirea. In addition Botryosphaeria dothidea will infect and kill for similar reasons.

Winged euonymus scale - Lepidosaphes yanagicola occasionally occurs in the southern half of Illinois on burning bush. It is an armored scale. And will attack several trees as well. This scale can cause premature leaf drop, branch die back and cause the plant to become more prone to winter injury. It is found between the "wings" - the bark ridges. It does not move to the plant's leaves. The scale over winters as an adult and lays its eggs in June. Eggs may be laid for up to a month. Mating occurs before frost.

Euonymus scale - Unaspis euonymi - females are black and males are white. The scale causes the foliage to develop yellowish green spots. Heavy infestation results in early foliage drop and often stems are killed. Eggs survive by over wintering in the female body. The eggs hatch about early June in Northern Illinois. Crawlers emerge and move onto new growth or can be blown by wind to other plants.

Since I cannot diagnose the problem remotely, it makes sense to take plant samples to a Master Gardener Clinic.

Date 2019-05-09
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