Part and parcel of being a plarent is accepting that your plant babies fall ill, and trying your best to be strong even when you're not confident that they will make it through. Earlier this year, our Sensation Peace Lily (Lily) became infested with scale. It was a tough couple of weeks, but we are happy to announce that she made it!
If you don't know how to recognise scale or have never had experience with it, it can be easy for your plants to become infested before your eyes. When we first noticed these brown shell-like bumps on the stems on Lily, we didn't think much of it. We simply thought it was just a mildly faulty xylem or phloem tube that has dried up on the exterior surface of the stem (doesn't make sense... we know).
If you don't know how to recognise scale or have never had experience with it, it will be easy for your plants to become infested before your eyes.
As the weeks passed, the lower leaves on Lily started to droop and turn yellow. We thought it was just part and parcel of ageing until we had to snip away four leaves within a span of 10 days. By that point, we were in alarm mode and suddenly—ding!—came the lightbulb moment. Could this be scale?
Despite all our prayers for those bumps to not be scale, Google sadly proved our hypothesis right. It was scale. And a really bad case of it. Later that night we realised that even the bottom sides of the leaves were heavily infested. Things were not looking good. We considered letting Lily go but remembering that she was our very first plant gave us the resolve we needed to not give up without a fight.
We considered letting Lily go but remembering that she was our very first plant gave us the resolve we needed to not give up without a fight.
Fast forward to today, we are very pleased to share that Lily is doing well, albeit being a little bare (from us snipping away the heavily infested leaves). If you are facing a scale infestation, here are some steps that you can take to kill those buggers. It has worked really well for us and we are crossing our fingers that it will work well for you too.
Step 1: Snip the heavily infested leaves
If you catch the infestation in its early stages, this may be all you have to do. However, even if the infestation is fairly serious, it is also best practice to snip away heavily infested, yellowing, drooping leaves.
Step 2: Scrub away all bumps
Did you know that the bumps are actually bugs? Scale starts off as larvae and moves up a plant to find its perfect spot. Once it sink its teeth into a plant, it begin feeding on the sap, harden and become immobile.
Scale starts off as larvae and moves up a plant to find its perfect spot.
Remove these suckers by gently scrubbing areas where you see scale with a towel dipped in rubbing alcohol. They should come off fairly easily.
Step 3: Spray with neem oil
Scrubbing off the bumps with rubbing alcohol kills the mature insects i.e. bumps, but does not kill scale when it is in its larvae stage. That's where neem oil comes in! Neem oil is a natural pesticide that offers protection against pests, while not being toxic to bees and most other beneficial insects. Give your plants a good spray all over the soil and leaves, especially at parts where there used to be scale. Be careful not to drown your plant in neem oil as it can cause leaf burn (we learnt the hard way...).
Step 4: Check and repeat
From here on, all you need to do is be consistent in monitoring your plant, removing the bumps and protecting it against future threats. Keep a close eye for several weeks to make sure no new scale appear on the plant. If it does, repeat step 2 and 3 every 5-7 days.
What was your experience with scale or other pests? How did you overcome them? We'd love to hear your story. Till next time, happy planting!