Q. How can I fight scale on my indoor ficus tree?

I have a 35 year old indoor ficus benjamina tree about 8.5 feet tall. I have been fighting scale for the last 6 months by severely trimming the tree and applying 1.5 cups of Bonide Systemic Granules every 7-8 weeks and spraying each week (sometimes drenching the tree) with Mantis organic insect spray. I even spend time with alcohol and cotton swabs wiping as many individual leaves as possible - I know that's insane and could never clean the thousands of leaves that way. I'm loosing the battle. Every day a dozen leaves turn yellow and fall off. Always sticky leaves and surfaces. I use towels with very hot water to wipe the sticky stuff off the floor and outer and inner pot. The tree is in a cool and sunny area of my apartment. Please help me save this tree. What can I do?
Every leave has tiny shiny light reflective "beads" all over it and they are sticky. Photo close up does not show this very well. Also I have cut down and pruned off so many branches that the tree appears half the original size. Also have been able to control the scale spread to other small plants by wiping down those leaves with alcohol. Please help e save this tree. Many thanks. Rosemary


Hello Rosemary,

Thank you for your inquiry. Sorry to hear about your long lived ficus tree. I see you are doing your best with organic remedies that will take quite of bit of time, if they finally help is not a sure thing. Removing the scale by wiping it's hard body (oval, raised shape) is quite a task, but that's where they live on the tree,  usually seen on stems and under leaves. That sticky stuff on the leaves is the secretion from the insect. Since there are no natural predators indoors, insects like scale can continue to increase in numbers, unless cought earlier on. You would have to keep the eye out so to remove all those hard scale where they appear, again, usually on the stems. Leaves will fall when a tree is under stress. Fig trees will make new leaves though, but again it is under stress. Outdoors beneficials like lady bugs help keep the balance by devouring the scale pests. Some gardeners put their ficus tree outdoors in summer to help control problem pests, and improve the vigor of the plant as well. So all you can do is continue the process and maybe it will help, but it's very difficult, and may not remedy the problem...One technique is to house the whole plant in plastic after spraying to make sure juvenile scales (not so visible) are contacted under the bubble house for a few days. Trees weren't meant to grow indoors forever, it not their natural habitat, sorry to say.

Hope this is helpful.

Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Serice in the the LuEsther T. Mertz Library

(See the Train Show in it's 25th year in the NYBG conservatory, it's a real tradition with our members each year nybg.org)

  • Last Updated Apr 02, 2018
  • Views 3543
  • Answered By Anita Finkle

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