Lawn & Garden Gardening House Plants

How To Get Rid of Scale on Plants

You spend a lot of time caring for your houseplants. When you notice scale, isolate your plant patient and nurse it back to health by following these simple steps.
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how to get rid of scale on plants


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Scale on your indoor plants can appear seemingly out of nowhere, but these little insects can come from several sources. Perhaps you used contaminated potting soil, left your plants outside in the warm weather months, or reused a dirty plant pot. Once you notice scale, you need to remove the infestation before it gets worse.

Scale insects are tricky, and they’re generally resistant to most pesticides. Don’t waste your time on harmful chemicals that won’t penetrate their hard outer shell. Removing stubborn scale can be a time-consuming task, but it’s worth it to make your plant healthy again. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of scale on indoor plants.

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When examining and treating your plant, try to do so in a well-lit room so you can better see the extent of the scale infestation. Keep your tools next to you as you go and make sure to wash your hands after removing scale from your houseplants. Scale can leave and come back, so make sure to also clean the area where you keep your plant.

Related: How to Get Rid of Aphids

STEP 1: Inspect all leaves, stems, and branches to identify scale insects.

Scale insects don’t resemble typical bugs. Unlike spider mites and mealybugs, scale insects look more like strange growths on your plant. There are different types of scale, which can appear in round, oval, or flat shapes. Their size ranges from barely visible to large bumps in colors such as brown, white, tan, or orange.

Scale insects suck the sap out of plants, which can cause deformed leaves, yellowing leaves, brown pock marks, or cause leaves to fall off. Without intervention, the plant will eventually die off.

Use your magnifying glass and examine every inch of your plant, including the underside of leaves. Typically, houseplant scale tends to be on the stems, leaf joints, and leaf veins of a plant, but they can be found all over.

how to get rid of scale on plants

STEP 2: Prune off parts of the plant infested with scale insects.

If you suspect your plant is infested, quarantine the plant to prevent scale from spreading. Keep the affected plant away from other plants for a minimum of 3 weeks.

For small infestations, skip this step and move on to the next one. For larger scale issues, you need to remove the diseased areas. When you spot clusters of scale insects, use your pruning shears to clip off the affected parts of the plant. In bad cases, this may mean you trim your plant way back, but with care it will come back much healthier. Once you’ve trimmed all the affected areas, do not put clippings in the compost; these need to go in the trash.

Related: How To: Get Rid of Whiteflies

STEP 3: Use a cotton swab to apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto each visible insect.

For any remaining scale left on your houseplant, dip a cotton swab in some rubbing alcohol and use it directly on the visible scale. Make sure to pour the rubbing alcohol into a small container and use that, rather than dip the swab directly into the bottle.

The alcohol will kill and remove many of the hard scale insects. For some stubborn scale, you might need to physically scrape them off your houseplant using your fingernail. This part of the process can take time as you go through each area of the plant to make sure you get them all.

STEP 4: Gently wipe off dead scale insects using a soft, damp cloth.

Some plant owners may choose to wash off their plant in the sink. If you’re concerned about overwatering your plants as you wash off the dead scale, another effective method is using a damp microfiber cloth.

Moisten the cloth under a tap and carefully wipe off the leaves and stems of your houseplants. The microfiber material should catch any dead scale that was not trapped in the cotton swab or pad. Make sure to rinse out the cloth frequently and do not use unnecessary pressure, which may further distress your plant.

Related: How To: Get Rid of Fungus Gnats

how to get rid of scale on plants

STEP 5: Spray the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap to eliminate microscopic scale larvae.

Removing the scale insects with pruning shears and rubbing alcohol only solves part of the problem. The previous steps help get rid of the adult scale insects on your houseplants. The younger scale insects aren’t visible, and they’re likely still crawling around. These tiny pests need to be sprayed with insecticide to rid your plants of them for good.

Neem oil is a natural insecticide, and it’s proven to be quite effective at getting rid of scale naturally on indoor plants. If you’re using insecticidal soap, some brands can damage houseplants. It’s recommended that you test the spray on a few leaves to see if your plant reacts before spraying the whole plant. Keep your plant in quarantine and spray weekly until you’re confident the infestation is gone.

This reliable method for getting rid of scale in houseplants is an effective way to revive scale-infested plants. Keeping your infected plant away from your healthy plants makes it harder for scale to spread. If you’re worried that scale has already spread, inspect your plants and keep them apart for a while. Diligently removing the adult insects and spraying the larvae are sure to restore your plant to health. If you’re concerned about potential scale, you can preemptively treat your plants with diluted neem oil every few weeks.