Common Houseplant Pests: How to Deal with Scale

The most non-bug looking pest of them all! Similar to barnacles in the ocean, they often go unnoticed as they are such strange-looking pests and appear not to be mobile. Keep an eye out for these guys as they can be just as destructible as any other pest if left to themselves for too long!

Common Houseplant Pests: How to Deal with Scale

Why does My Plant have Pests?

I’ll be straight with you: insects are almost inevitable. Once you introduce nature into your space (that is what plants are after all!), life will run its course. However, there are plenty of ways to deal with each type of potential pest, all you have to do is put in a little time and effort. Also, not every insect will affect every variety of plant necessarily, some are more prone to specific pests compared to others, but I’ve outlined solutions for you to use if or when you come into contact with one of these little nuisances.

In this series, we will talk about some of the most common houseplant pests. It is not an extensive list, I’m sure there are many more pests that are out there, but these are the insects that you will most likely run into at some point in your plant journey. Isolate any plant in your care at the first sight of a potential infestation.

The main ways that houseplants enter our homes are: 

  • Through open doors and windows (many pests come in through the air and find new homes to live and feed off of i.e. our plants)
  • Infested soil (make sure to store your extra soil in airtight containers and check the soil of any new plant you are bringing home)
  • New plants (even if you have inspected a new plant, there is always a chance of bugs still residing somewhere in the soil or on the plant. Make sure you isolate any new plant from your other plants for a little while in order to minimize any potential spread)

Something to keep in mind, sometimes a plant is beyond repair if you catch the damage too late, but we’ve provided you with this article in the hopes that you can learn to see the signs before your plant is too far gone! Don’t be discouraged if you’ve lost a plant to pests before, that’s happened to us all, but this will arm you with what you need to know for the future.

What are Scale Insects?

Scale often appear like small, brown, hard-shelled casings on mainly the stems and leaves (closest to the central vein) of your plants. They’re often seen as clumps along the stem, sucking away at the plant's juices to feed. When looking at your plant, you should see a sticky honeydew residue on the bottom of the leaves 

They are more controllable than other pests because once they reach adulthood, they are relatively immobile, meaning they cannot move from one plant to another very easily.

How to Get Rid of Scale?

Since they have a harder shell, insecticidal soaps and washes should not be your first step to elimination. Put into effect all of the following, as getting rid of scale is a multi-step process.

  • Pruning: disposing of any “too-far-gone” bits of your plant, or sections of the plant that contain a lot of adult scale on them.
  • Removal: run your fingers and hands along the stems and leaves of your plant, using your fingernails to upend the scale off of it. Otherwise, they will not be susceptible to any insecticidal soap later on.
  • Rinse: shower the leaves and stems of your plant with water beforehand.
  • Organic Pest Control: there are plenty of different recipes you can find online, but an insecticidal soap, mild dish soap, or neem oil mix applied to the plant (both leaves and stems) and soil should be effective after a few applications. 

Treat your plant several times before you are sure that the scale is gone, young scale can take up residence right where their parents used to live if you are not careful.

About the author
Hilary West
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About the author - Hilary West
Coming from an engineering background, I never thought I’d be as involved with plants as I am now. My growing collection of houseplants led me to want to work in the plant field, helping others be successful in their plant care, but also realistic. Working with lots of experienced people and doing my own research has allowed me to increase my knowledge and I want to share that with others!