What Is White Fuzz On Succulents?


When you notice White Fuzz and wonder what is white fuzz on succulents, don’t worry as this is not a fungal bugbear, but is a mealybug infestation. These insects keep themselves alive by feeding on your plant and produce this white puffy looking substance on your plant. They breed faster thereby, leaving a muggy residue behind which develops a black fungus.

Photo: Flickr

What Is White Fuzz On Succulents?


The white fuzz on succulents, the mealybug, is certainly one of the typical bugs that makes us more concerned about our succulents.  There are over and above 7,500 species of mealybugs, although the most notable in the world is the cotton mealybug (Phenacoccus Solenopsis). This species usually attacks succulents.

What are Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are smutty, tiny, and whitish bugs about 4 mm in length that eat fresh growth on succulents. These live in a white netted substance in every corner of your succulent such as on the stem, between the roots, at the bottom of leaves or in the center of your rosette plant.

They hide mostly where the leaves and the stem join each other. That’s why they are rarely visible and are hard to kill.

Sometimes, you have to carefully search the whole plant as it’s not easy to spot Mealybugs for example, succulents with compact shapes like Echeveria or Crassula or Aeonium tabuliforme, the leaves grow so tightly closed that even mealybugs can’t get in between them. So, the bugs hide below the leaves, feeding on older leaves and new growth closer to the stem. This is a dangerous breeding space for Mealybugs because they remain unnoticed as they spread to the closer plants.

All of a sudden, they can infest and eradicate attractive succulents. Keep checking your plants from time to time as the leaves become deformed even before you notice the actual bugs themselves. 

Mealybug is harmful as it spreads faster in ideal conditions. The female lays up to 600 eggs and eggs hatch in about 6 days. Hence, if you notice any hint of mealybug, take all measures to get rid of them.

One fact about mealybug is that the females are the parasites that feed on the plant sap. Males have a short life span of a few days and have only one function i.e. reproduction. In most species, the adult females remain motionless in a part of ​​the plant to extract the sap to use as food. They develop some predator protection mechanisms as they remain unmovable and many have developed a hard and waterproof protective cover having the shape of a scale that separates its whole body from the outside.

Photo: Flickr

This cover is the main problem that various contact insecticides, like Cypermethrin, are not being so effective in controlling these pests,  only systemic insecticides are effective.

Another problem with these insects is that many species release a sugary substance that eases the multiplication of pathogenic fungi and attracts ants that shield them from predatory insects.

The males have wings to invite females for reproduction, whereas females lack wings.


How to Notice Mealybug in Your Succulents?


When you find some fluffy white,  brown, or yellow cottony substance that looks like fungus or some other matter which are actually the nests of eggs that have invaded your plant. 

Hiding beneath the fluffy stuff are tiny scale insects, the mealybugs having a reasonably long lifecycle of about two months.

Cause and effects of Mealybugs infestation

The exact cause is not known but overwatering is a common cause, also over fertilizing. They show up on indoor plants mostly due to moderate temperatures but can be seen on succulents grown outdoors too.

They are found in warmer climates and can propagate faster from plant to plant and eat the growth points. 

This will result in stunted growth of the plant and the new growth look distorted or smaller than usual, also the leaves develop some cavities.

Dying of stems and roots occurs and also there can be virus  transmission in the infected plant.

Wounds develop in tissues that are invaded by bacteria and/or pathogenic fungi.


How do I remove mealybugs from succulents?


If you have succulents , you will come across mealybugs at some point as succulent plants are most commonly infected by the Mealybugs. Let’s learn an easy way to get rid of them that is safe for the succulents as well.

Once you have detected mealybugs, separate the infected plant from other plants to prevent them from infecting the other plants as mealybugs spread faster.

After that, prepare to clean your infected plants by taking the plant out of the pot and rinsing them under a strong stream of water. Clean the pot in hot, soapy water. Let the plant and pot dry then replant with new soil. Throw away the old soil in regular trash and not the green bin.

There are many plant pesticides that will kill mealybugs, but the best solution to kill them is 70% isopropyl alcohol. Many people recommend using cotton buds to dab on the alcohol, but a spray bottle is more efficient and easier to use.

70% Isopropyl Alcohol is readily available and is an inexpensive solution. Fill a spray bottle with 70% isopropyl alcohol and spray the alcohol directly on the mealybugs to kill the mealybugs, also spray the whole plant, especially the hidden places near the stem where tiny bugs can be hiding. The alcohol will evaporate in a few minutes and the Mealybugs should be dead. You can visibly see the cottony substance breaking up and the grayish-white bugs change into a deep red. Alcohol evaporates after some time, then wash your plant with a heavy stream of water to get rid of the dead bugs. Keep checking for some days to make sure there are no more bugs on the plant. If still they are present, again spray the alcohol as per requirement.

Generally, if you detect the mealybugs early, these can be killed with just one round of alcohol spray. If you don’t sweep them all, they will spread again in a day or two. Keep on spraying them until you get rid of them.

If they are in multitude, pour alcohol over the soil, this will kill any bugs or eggs present in the soil.

Although using 70% Isopropyl Alcohol is almost safe for most succulents with excellent results. But each succulent is different and with 70% alcohol, slight burning can be seen on some species like Echeveria Blue Sky, Graptoveria Debie and Graptoveria amethorum plants.  So it is better to  test the alcohol on a small area before using it on your entire plant. For the plants aforementioned and others, if you notice a burn after spray, use 50% Isopropyl Alcohol for better results and reapply when needed. 

Sometimes, Mealybugs cannot be  spotted without a microscope, so be sure to check for any deformities on new growth to trace them early.

Will the alcohol damage the succulent?

No alcohol, unlike other pesticides, is totally safe for succulents.

 Your plant will not burn or damage from the alcohol as alcohol evaporates quickly, leaving water behind. 

 Other ways to kill mealybugs

  •  Add a small amount of dish soap to water and spray or dab it on your Succulent
  • You can also use pesticides for the plants.
  • Lady bugs are also useful to keep mealybugs away. They feast on every aphid, mealybug or mite.
  • Apple cider vinegar halts the molting process of mealybugs and also helps to kill the majority of pests on the plants. Apple cider vinegar is totally safe for your plants and can be applied continuously.

All these methods are effective in killing mealybug effectively only if the bug has infected some parts of the plant. If the entire succulent is deformed due to mealybug invasion, it is better to burn the whole plant so that the other plants are safe.

White Spots or Powdery Mildew On Succulent

White spots on succulents are the symptoms of a fungal plant disease called powdery mildew, a common house plant disease that can be easily treated. Powdery mildew grows in relatively warm and dry conditions. It resembles a white, powdery mold and can live on stems and fleshy leaves of succulents.

White mold refers to Sclerotinia stem rot that mainly affects field crops like soybean and can take years to remove from farm soils. 

Sometimes, white spots can be due to some other reasons like insect infestation, high salt levels, or it can be just a part of the plant’s own defense mechanism.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew looks like the white, powdery coating that can also appear gray with round yellow, brown or black growths. The mildew can emerge as one spot, but it spreads to other parts like stems, leaves and buds of the plant.

Since powdery mildew prefers the warm, relatively dry areas just like the succulents and  both live in the same environment, succulents become the most infected types of plants. 

Photo: Flickr

Effects of powdery mildew on Succulents

Initially, powdery mildew appears safe and your succulent may live with white, mold like, fungal disease, and even flourish for some time. But as the infection starts spreading , you will find sagging, injured or distorted leaves. Leaves and stems can turn pale green and then yellow and if the succulent has an acute infection, it can lose leaves, will not blossom

 or even can die. Powdery mildew can spread from one plant to another.


How to Treat Powdery Mildew?


 Remove the infected leaves and stems that are damaged and then apply a fungicide. Fungicides containing sulfur, neem oil, or triforine may be effective at killing powdery mildew on healthy leaves, stems, and buds. Also, apply the fungicide to adjoining plants as a preventative measure. Baking soda mixed with horticultural oil is also effective in treating powdery mildew as claimed by some gardeners.

Some organic treatments to get rid of powdery mildews are:

  1. Potassium bicarbonate is a contact fungicide used to kill the spores of powdery mildew rapidly and also eradicate powdery mildew effectively. 
  2. Milk, in the presence of the sun, forms free radicals that kill the fungus.
  3. Neem oil kills powdery mildew in less than 24 hours.
  4. Vinegar is very effective in killing powdery mildew due to acetic acid, but it should be diluted enough to not burn succulent leaves.
  5. Garlic contains high sulfur that is efficient to kill powdery mildews.
  6. Baking soda, just like potassium bicarbonate, is an effective treatment for spores of powdery mildew.
  7. Copper fungicides kill the fungus but follow the instructions properly.
  8. Mouthwash can kill the fungal spores of powdery mildew.

 Best Fungicides for Powdery Mildew

You can use the following fungicides to get rid of Powdery mildew for your succulents.

  1. Bayer Advanced 701270
  2. Wondercide All Purpose-Organic Insect Control
  3. Wondercide Eco Treat-Powdery Mildew Killer
  4. Ferti- Lome 11380 Liquid Fungicide Spray
  5. Spectracide Immunox Fungus Control

Prevention

  • Separate your infected plants from your healthy plants. Remove the infected part from the plant and clean the fallen pieces on the ground.
  • Always sanitize the pruning tools
  •  Increase air circulation, by selectively pruning the plants, moving them to windier locations or using fans to circulate more air in your home, to slow down the spore production.
  • Spores need some humidity, so start watering early in the morning and bottom watering will help slow or stop the spread of powdery mildew.
  • Select a succulent plant that is resistant to powdery mildew
  • Don’t water succulents from overhead to reduce humidity
  • Spray your succulents with the fungicides
  • Keep the succulents in sunny areas, not in humid and shady areas as new growth is more prone to powdery mildew
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your succulents with nitrogen
  • Soil should be drained properly. Poor drainage can make the soil breeding ground for disease-causing organisms.

Hope you know about the White Fuzz and other issues related to your succulent. If you have any question, please write in the comments.

 

Nikita

Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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