House plants are great – but maintaining them can be a chore. Wondering how to prevent sticky leaves on house plants?
If you have plants in your home, you’ve probably noticed a sticky residue all over the laaves, on the floor around the plants, and even on nearby furniture.
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While unnoticeable to the naked eye, the sticky substance does cause a mess and makes every day cleaning a must. Before we dive into how to prevent sticky house plants, let’s first talk about what causes this mess.
Why Are My House Plants Sticky?
There are three insects that can possibly be the culprits behind the dull and sticky leaves. If you often notice a residue on your plants, then you should check for a scales, mealybug, or aphid infestation. These insects suck the sweet sap from the leaves and leave behind a residue called honeydew.
Preventing and Treating Scales
Scales don’t necessarily harm the plants, but they are a hassle to deal with. They can also stunt your plant’s growth, which is why it’s best to get rid of them at the first sight of them. You won’t be able to see them as they take refuge on the backside of the leaves. However, their presence is marked by the presence of honeydew.
If you notice the plant looking dull, and you notice dirt sticking to the leaves, the first thing to do is to turn the leaf over. If you notice small light and dark brown or black protrusions on the leaf, then you’re dealing with a scale infestation.
Scales have an outer shell that protects them from insecticidal sprays. To rid your plant of these insects, you need more than just a good quality spray. Here’s how you can get rid of them.
- You can suffocate scales by applying a horticultural oil or soap to these plants. The oil or soap doesn’t penetrate through the shell but creates a layer over it, cutting off the air supply. The scales eventually suffocate to death.
- You can also dissolve their shell with the use of dish soap, water, and rubbing alcohol.
- Dissolve two tablespoons of dish soap in a gallon of water.
- Rub the mixture over the leaves and then wash it off with clean water.
- Take a piece of cotton with rubbing alcohol and gently run it over the scales, carefully avoiding contact with the leaf.
- You can also pick these insects off with the use of tweezers. Make sure to catch them all in a sealed container, or you may end up prolonging their stay.
Before going in with the alcohol, do cover the soil of the plant with a plastic wrap to catch all the insects that fall off. You may need to do this multiple times to completely get rid of the insects.
If you want to prevent an infestation, then wash your plant with dish soap and water once every week and stay on the lookout for brown and black bumps on the back of the leaves. Identifying and dealing with scales as early as possible is your best defense against these insects.
Preventing and Treating Mealybugs
Mealybugs are tiny white creatures that can best be described as looking snowflake-like. A plant with a mealybug infestation looks like it walked out of a snowstorm. A full-blown attack from these insects is harder to deal with, but you can take certain steps to tackle the situation.
Make sure you wear gloves before you begin the procedure. Also, remove any other plants lying near the infected one.
- For a light infestation – Use dish soap and water to treat the plant. Mix two tablespoons with a gallon of water and use that to clean the plant using a piece of cloth. The soap suffocates the bugs, effectively terminating them.
- Neem oil works best for a light to medium infestation. It is an organic, non-toxic oil with anti-bacterial and anti-insecticidal properties. Douse a piece of cotton with the oil and use it to wipe away the bugs.
- Once you are done cleaning the leaves, spray the entire plant with neem oil to kill all the larvae. Continue to spray once a week to prevent them from coming back, and you should be good to go.
- Neem oil, though effective, does not work well for a heavy infestation. For a full-blown attack, you need to bring out the big guns and use rubbing alcohol. Wipe away the critters using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
- Once you are done wiping, spray the plant with a diluted alcohol mixture. Make sure to avoid spraying the soil. Continue to do this twice a week till you no longer see signs of the insects.
There are no preventive measures you can take when it comes to these bugs. If you want to avoid them setting a home in your plants, then regularly spray your plants with neem oil. Doing so will prevent the bugs from ever setting up roots.
Preventing and Treating Aphids
Aphids are soft-bodied insects that show up during growing season and reproduce at an incredible pace. When we talk about how to prevent sticky leaves on house plants, the best way is to keep a lookout for aphids during the growing season and treat your plants at first sight. Here’s how you can do that:
- You can plant mint and dill weeds near your other house plants. These herbs attract ladybugs that eat aphids. This is both a preventive measure and treatment all in one.
- You can also kill them by hand when you see them. Do make sure to put on some gloves before you attack them.
- If you notice a particular portion of the plant is heavy with an aphid infestation, cut it off and dip it in boiling water. Doing so will effectively kill the insects. Cut off any leaves that appear to have suffered damage at the hands of aphids.
- If the numbers keep growing, you should switch to aphid control sprays. Regularly coat the plant with a light sprinkling of the aphid control until you no longer see the critters.
- You can also use one tablespoon of dish soap with a quarter cup of warm water as a DIY insecticidal spray. Use this moisture to mist your plants regularly. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes and then wipe it away with clean water.
Caring For Indoor Plants
Now that we’ve provided detailed instructions on how to prevent sticky house plants, let’s talk about a basic indoor plant care regime to help prevent insect infestations.
Do not over water your plants. Soil that is too moist acts as the perfect breeding ground for various insects. It can even cause your plant to develop fungal infections.
Use organic pesticide sprays to deal with insects. Neem oil is an excellent organic pesticide spray that proves effective against various insects. You can also use Diatomaceous earth to deal with certain creatures.
Powdered sulfur works particularly well as an organic fungicide. Eliminating fungus can also terminate the risk of a lot of critters establishing their roots in your house plants. If you can prevent scales, aphids, and mealybugs from feasting on your indoor plants, you will never have to worry about how to prevent sticky leaves on house plants.