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White, fluffy mold problem

White, fluffy mold problem
Posted by Mick (mikyb@aol.com) from Florida on 2002-05-17 23:22:46

I live in southern Florida and some of my houseplants have developed a sort of white, fluffy cottonlike mold on the leaves and stems. None appears on the soil. Not all of my plants have developed this and I've changed the soil in some to see if that would help. One plant doesn't even use soil yet it's leaves have also gotten this mold. The only common denomenator I can see is that I use the same tap water for all of them. My house is climate controlled most of the time but is a bit more humid than average I'd guess because I live in Florida. How can I get rid of this mold........or whatever it is?
  • Mealybugs
    Posted by Will Creed, Horticulturist from NYC on 2002-05-18 11:48:18

    Hi Mick,

    The cottonlike stuff is not mold. It is an insect pest called mealybug.

    The difficulty with treating mealybugs is that there is always more to deal with than meets the eye. Young mealybugs lack the telltale cotton-like protective coating and they are skillful at hiding in nooks and crannies where leaves and stems join.

    The key to successfully eradicating these creatures is to spray the ones that are out of site. That means that whatever treatment you select, you must get complete coverage, to the drip point, of all leaf and stem surfaces. If you miss a few, they will live to breed another day.

    I do not recommend any pesticides because they are all hazardous to use and not 100% effective against scale. The best non-toxic treatment for mealybug is called Brand X foliage cleaner (Yes, that's for real). It is available through Southwest Plantscape Products in California (ftp://ftp.southwestplantscape.com/Brandx.pdf). Their phone is 1-800-333-7977. It is a silicon-based product so it is very slippery. Its ability to penetrate is probably the key to its effectiveness because it gets into the tiny crevices that other sprays miss.

    You may want to try spraying with rubbing alcohol. Mix 1 part alcohol with 8 to 10 parts of water. It is also best if you repeat this treatment again in 5 to 7 days to catch any crawlers that you missed the first time. After that, you should check your plant weekly to see if they return.

    Another option is to wash the plant down with soap and water. Use the same dilution as when washing dishes. Apply in the same manner as rubbing alcohol.

    Never spray in direct sunlight or when temperatures are above 75 degrees.

    These critters are not in the soil, so there is no need to change or treat the soil. If you have many plants infested with mealybug, it may be a big job to treat all of your plants. You may want to consider triage and discard some less favored plants and save yourself some work.

    Quoting Mick: ------------
    -I live in southern Florida and some of my houseplants have developed a sort of white, fluffy cottonlike mold on the leaves and stems. None appears on the soil. Not all of my plants have developed this and I've changed the soil in some to see if that would help. One plant doesn't even use soil yet it's leaves have also gotten this mold. The only common denomenator I can see is that I use the same tap water for all of them. My house is climate controlled most of the time but is a bit more humid than average I'd guess because I live in Florida. How can I get rid of this mold........or whatever it is?

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