How to Identify and Remove Scale on Plants

“People sometimes confuse the scale with a disease,” says Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of Potted in Los Angeles, California. “It’s actually a pest.”

What we call scale is caused by different small insects that cling to the plant, form a protective covering and feed on the sap of the plant. When a houseplant is stressed, it is particularly susceptible to scale.

“Indoor plants are much more stressed because they’re not in their natural environment,” Gutierrez says. “These little insects are always there, looking for an opportunity.” They can enter your home in many ways, but they are often attached to new plants you bring into your home.

Identification scale

scale insects on a leaf

The scale may vary in color and texture, but will appear as lumpy bumps.

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There are several types of scales. The scales themselves will either be soft and waxy or hard and “armored.” They are small, but almost always form in clusters.

They can be different colors, but are usually tan, rust, black, or sometimes even a color very similar to the color of your plant. You may also see what looks like black dusty mold on your plant. This is proof that your plant is being eaten by these little pests.

If you notice scales or pests on any of your plants, first separate that plant from other houseplants so it doesn’t spread. If the climate is suitable for your infected plant, Gutierrez recommends putting the plant outside.

If insects are present but no scales have formed, it is usually easy to spray the plant with a pesticide such as neem oil to get rid of the insects. Once the scales have formed, it is much more difficult.

“If you have a bad infestation, you should probably just throw the plant away,” Gutierrez says. “I sometimes did that.” But, if the scale has come down on one of your favorite plants and you want to commit to getting rid of the infestation, that’s what you do.

How to prevent tartar from coming back

Once you have removed scale from your plant, the best way to prevent future infestations is to make sure the plant is not stressed. “Check in with your plant, spend some quality time with it,” Gutierrez says. Stress can come from over-watering, under-watering, over-lighting, or under-lighting.

“Especially keep an eye on it when the seasons change,” she says. “If you enter a season with more or less light, you will need to change your watering schedule. If the soil is moist, the plant does not need more water, even if you follow its typical watering schedule. .

Insider’s Takeaways

The best way to beat the scale is to prevent it from the start. Be careful when introducing new plants to your home and be sure not to overwater or underwater your plants. If your plant develops scale, immediately quarantine it, assess the damage, then discard it or plan to put it in an intensive care unit for a few weeks.

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