Question: I have a houseplant, sticky leaves are the only way I can describe the foliage. No matter what I try the cure never seems to happen.
Should I get rid of the plant? Do you know if it’s a disease or know of a plant encyclopedia free online I can use to find out the cause and cure? April, Oregon
Answer: April, sticky leaves is one houseplant problem that isn’t unique.
Since you did not mention the indoor houseplant you’re experiencing the sticky leaves on, here’s a general overview of the problem.
After you’ve brought your house plant home and its gone through the acclimation process of leaf loss, adjusting to a new watering schedule and happy with its new indoor life – it seems to happen.
One day on the way to grab your breakfast you notice the area around your plant is tacky or sticky, a sticky couch, sticky floors, and the leaves are sticky too. You step back, scratch your head and ask a few questions…
- Did the kids spill a soft drink?
- What caused it?
- Do I have enough time to clean it up?
Cause of Sticky on House Plant Leaves
Usually the causes the sticky leaves is Scale on plants. Scale is an insect that enjoys sucking the juices out of houseplants. The sticky stuff on the leaves and floor is what they secrete and is referred to as honeydew.
Too often people only look at the top leaves. Take a look at the undersides of the leaves and on the stems for slight bumps of tan, black or brown color.
Scale insects hide in out of the way places and out of sight where they can be left alone.
Sticky Leaves Treatment – Controlling Scale
Generally controlling scale insects isn’t a big problem. Scale “breathes” through their “armor”. The easiest way to kill the scale is by suffocation.
Usually a safe horticultural oil will do the trick. A word or warning – When applying any chemical, indoors or outdoors, do it carefully and follow the label exactly.
A good plant soap is also an option. The most popular plant soap goes by the name “Safer Soap” and should work well if infestation of scale isn’t extensive.
Before attempting to handle the pest issue check with your local nursery or garden center – and remember … FOLLOW THE LABEL.
Another “safe option” is to try Neem oil for plants for your insect control. Neem oil is a great overall natural product which can take care of fleas on animals.
Controlling with a spray indoors, especially in public areas adds an additional risk. Many interior plantscaping companies control scale and other pest problem with systemic chemicals.
Systemics work through the root system. The chemical for control is normally applied to the soil or buried in the soil where the plant absorbs the chemical through the root system and distributes the chemical throughout the plant.
As the scale feast on sucking the plant’s juices out they take the chemical into their bodies which kills them. The systemic process take time – six to eight weeks is not uncommon.
The systemic process is used primarily on large trees found in hotels and malls.
How to Clean Up the Sticky
Cleaning the furniture versus the floor can get a little tricky.
You first must remember to pick up and clean up as much of the sugary honeydew goo as you can. Start by using VERY WARM water, apply to the area with a damp mop or cloth and rinse frequently in HOT water.
Some professionals recommend using Murphy’s Oil Soap and others rubbing alcohol and swabbing the area.
Make sure you test your cleaning potion on an “inconspicuous area” before you start pouring it on. You could discolor material or strip off the furniture finish.
The most important thing to remember is maintenance – once you have control, maintain it by regular scouting of your plants.
Growers always keep on the look out for ants. Ants are great farmers and farm the scale and aphids for the honeydew they produce.
Finding potential problems early help prevent really big problems you’ll have to deal with later, not to mention the sticky floors and furniture.