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Sticky Residue From Ficus Plant

Category Plant Health
Q: One of my ficus plants is leaving a sticky residue on the floor. Can I do something to eliminate what I am calling 'pitch' on the leaves and surrounding area from this ficus? And is this plant still healthy?
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Hardiness Zone: 9a

Mrs Jean from Northern California

A: Jean,

The sticky residue you're seeing on your ficus leaves (and floor) is a common symptom of scale insect infestations. The sticky substance is the honeydew excreted by the insects feeding on the "sap" inside the leaves. These tiny insects (1/4 inch or less long) sometimes camouflage themselves to look like parts of the plant so they can be hard to see. They cause leaves to look shiny (from the honeydew) or sooty, and may cause leaves to turn a splotchy yellow color before they drop. The juvenile insects are the crawly feeder, while the adults insects will cover themselves with protective waxy coatings and appear as brown waxy bumps on the leaves.

Scale insects can spread to other houseplants so it's important to manage the problem. Insecticide soaps or horticultural oils can be effective for smothering the pests. Or try dipping a cotton swab into alcohol and rub the leaf to remove the insects (be careful not to damage the leaves). Whatever method you choose, take care to keep your pets safe from any chemicals and protect your floors and furniture from possible stains.

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