How to Get Rid of Scale on Plants 2022

Scale on Houseplants

It can take some time, but it’s not impossible, to get rid of scale when you find it on plants. I’ll describe in detail how to remove scale from indoor plants in this post so that it won’t return. To treat houseplant scale, merely use these natural methods.

One of the more challenging (and inconvenient) pests to eradicate from indoor plants is the scale insect. Normal pesticide sprays are less effective on them because of their protective shells. Furthermore, their inactivity and dull coloring may prevent us from noticing them until there is a significant infestation.

This article will go over how to spot the scale on your houseplants and what to do if you do.

What is Scale / What Does Scale Look Like?

Adult scale appearance:

  • Small oval or round insect
  • Sucks sap out of leaves and stems
  • Light to dark brown, most-often
  • Can be other colors as well
  • Has a protective, shell-like coating
  • Does not move much, if at all
  • Can be found anywhere on the plant
Scale on Houseplants

Immature scale appearance:

  • Eggs are laid beneath an armored scale, protected
  • The young hatch and crawl out from under the mother to find their own spot (called crawlers at this stage)
  • Lacks a protective shell, making it more susceptible to sprays and predation

Hard-scale and soft-scale insects are technically classified into two families, but they can both be managed in a similar way.

The main differences between soft and hard scales are:

—- Soft scales are shielded by a waxy covering. Additionally, while feeding, they produce honeydew. Typically, they have an oval shape.

—- Hard scales do not produce honeydew while feeding because they are protected by an armored or hard shell. The shapes of the hard scale range from oblong to circular.

What Are Some Signs Your Plant Has Scale?

  1. Round/ovular bumps on stems or leaves
  2. Sometimes scale secretes shiny/sticky sap while feeding (called honeydew)
  3. This honeydew can allow black sooty mold to grow
  4. Can cause:

What Damage Can Scale Cause?

Scale eventually has the potential to destroy your lovely plants if it is not treated. However, because scale damage occurs gradually, there is time for intervention, treatment, and damage mitigation. If your plant is infected, it may start to exhibit distress symptoms like yellowing leaves, drooping leaves, and stunted growth.

How Do You Get Rid of Scale on Your Houseplant?

  1. Remove as many as you can by hand
    • This is the easiest way to ensure the adults will be removed since sprays do not penetrate their shells
    • Using a tool or a fingernail, one can remove adults.
    • They can also be removed by dabbing them with a cotton swab or pad dipped in rubbing alcohol, which will also eliminate them.
  2. Thoroughly wash off the plant in the sink and remove any black sooty mold if needed
  3. Spray the plant with a pesticide to control the crawlers (younger scale insects that haven’t developed a protective armor/coating)
    • Homemade option #1: 4 ounces rubbing alcohol, 1.5 tsp mild dish soap, and 16 ounces water
    • Homemade option #2: 16 ounces water, .5 tsp neem oil, .75 tsp mild dish soap
    • A premade Insecticidal soap
  4. Repeat removing adult scales and spraying the plant with a pesticide weekly until the infestation is gone

Where Do Scale Bugs Come From?

The first thing you’ll wonder when the scale is found on plant leaves is, “Where the heck did they come from?” The origin of scale insects is frequently a mystery because they are such cunning little creatures.

Don’t spend all your time trying to figure out what causes scale on plants because indoor plant bugs can come from anywhere. But, here are a few of the most common places where they may have come from…

  • A brand new houseplant that you recently brought home from the store
  • Contaminated potting soil
  • Reusing a dirty plant pot
  • Moving your houseplants outside during the summer
  • From the garden or even the grocery store, fresh produce or cut flowers are available.)
  • The crawlers are tiny, so anything could happen in an open window!

Also read: Where do Gnats Lay Eggs? (Key Places &Ways to Prevent) – New Planting

Scale insects

Treating Scale Insects

Unfortunately, when a significant infestation has started, scale insects are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate. There are two options (that I am aware of) if you discover that you have a sizable infestation and feel that the method above is insufficient.

  1. Systemic Pesticide
    • I almost never recommend this option because we are talking about VERY toxic chemicals that are bad for you and bad for the environment.

      As it attacks beneficial insects and can hurt any other life that comes into contact with your plant, I wouldn’t advise using it if your plant is outdoors. If it is indoors, this is the last resort option for me.

      Chemicals that are toxic to pests are pumped throughout the plant by systemic pesticides, which work by being absorbed by the plant through its roots. As a result, any pests that consume the plant are controlled.

      Systemic pesticides are applied by incorporating them into the potting soil’s top layer or diluting them with water. If you incorporate it into the potting soil, the pesticide will be absorbed by the plant when you water it.

      For the next few months after the plant has absorbed these chemicals, it becomes poisonous to you, your family, and the pests you are trying to get rid of.

      1. Because they are so powerful, it is very important to read the instructions and use the exact amount needed for the plant’s size as too much can hurt your plant
      2. These chemicals are very dangerous to people and pets so be sure to use them with caution and to keep the container and the treated plant somewhere away from small children and pets
  2. It may be time to let go of a severely ill plant if the infestation is out of control and putting your other plants at risk isn’t worth it. While occasionally necessary, this can be difficult.

    I’m sorry if you have to make this decision, but I must. A plant you love being so damaged by an infestation that it cannot be saved is awful.

Additional information on systemic pesticides:

How Can You Avoid Your Plants Getting Scale?

New plants that you buy or receive as a gift frequently come with a scale. Thus, it is challenging to avoid.

You can avoid spreading it to your other plants, however, by quarantining the new plant.

The recommendation is to keep a new plant away from existing plants for at least 3 weeks. You can add the plant to your existing plants if it is pest-free after three weeks.

Sadly, for those of us with numerous plants and little available space, this isn’t always possible.

If you can’t quarantine your plant, here are some other possible ways to help stop the spread of pests:

Do not allow your plants to touch one another so houseplant pests, including scale, have to work harder to move from one plant to another.

You can also pretreat plants with an organic spray to hopefully control or guard against outbreaks.

I personally pre-treat plants with the diluted neem oil and dish soap spray that was previously mentioned. In MOST of cases, this has worked for me. Pretreatment doesn’t always work to keep pests away from plants that are particularly vulnerable when they first arrive.

I just discovered a plant with aphids for the third time this week, and I’m sure it’s because the plant never fully recovered from each attack. I’ve been checking daily and I think the aphids are gone again. *fingers crossed*

Although we can quarantine, treat, and never allow our plants to touch, the truth is that pests can still find a way. However, they will have a harder time doing so, which is what we want!

Big Takeaways:

  1. Scale insects are particularly hard to treat because of the hard or waxy shell they use to protect themselves
  2. Look for sticky sap, black mold, round-ish bumps (on leaves and stems), and discolored leaves to help identify whether you have scale on your plant
  3. The best way to get rid of them is to manually remove as many as you can, followed by spraying the plant with an organic pesticide. Repeat these steps as often as necessary until the infestation is gone.