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(December 2012)

QuestionI have a ten year old ficus tree indoors that is oozing and dripping a sticky substance on my floors. I suspect that it is caused by some sort of insect or parasite. It looks like it is very healthy and still putting out new leaves but the sticky stuff is quite a nuisance. Some leaves have small dark scale type things on them. If this is the cause is there anything I can do to rid my plant of them. I've tried spraying with insecticidal soap and removing what I see with rubbing alcohol . Maybe something systemic would work better?


AnswerYour ficus tree could have scale, just like the azaleas in the previous question, but ficus trees are also notorious for a process called guttation—where they basically sweat—they have built up too much moisture in their leaves and it has to come out somewhere. It typically occurs when there has been a major change in the plants environment-often when they are moved back indoors in the fall. They ooze excess moisture typically out of the leaf where it is attached on the stem. It is very sticky and it can stain, just like the honeydew that comes from sucking insects. If you determine that insects or scale is the culprit, there is systemic houseplant insecticide that comes in a pellet form of imidacloprid. You put the pellet into the soil and it slowly releases the insecticide and fertilizer into the soil to be absorbed by the root system. They are safe to use indoors.

(December 2011)

QuestionMy ficus tree gets indirect light and is growing well, but it has started dropping a clear, sticky substance on my floors. What's going on and what can I do?


AnswerI would say you have one of two things happening. Sucking insects such as scale and mealy bugs could be on the plant, feeding on the foliage, and then releasing a sticky substance called honeydew. Inspect the foliage to see if you see any signs of these insects. If so, you can spray with insecticidal soap or use plant spikes with Imidacloprid in them. The other problem is called guttation. It is almost like sweating. It usually occurs when there are major changes in moisture levels and humidity. The plant loses extra water from the tips of the leaves. The moisture contains natural sugars which can be sticky and can discolor the floor. Make sure you aren’t overwatering.

(Nov. 2008)

QuestionI have a large ficus tree in my foyer (southern exposure). The tree is over 10 years old, and I have kept it in the house year round for the last few years. In the past couple of months I have noticed that a lot of green leaves are dropping. When I pick up the leaves they are very sticky. Any ideas on what is going on with my tree? I'd like to keep this tree, but at the rate I'm losing leaves it may be bare in the next month or so.


AnswerFicus trees drop leaves easily, especially when there is a change in weather conditions. Keeping them inside year-round, if they are healthy helps to deter leaf dropping, but doesn't always prevent it. Two problems could be causing the stickiness--sucking insects such as scale or a natural phenomenon on ficus called guttation (basically the plant sweating). It all gets down to the fact that plants must get rid of the excess water in their leaves. Normally they do this through their pores called stomates through a process called transpiration during the day. Some plants have other specialized pores called hydathodes which can also excrete sap and you will actually see tiny beads of water forming on the tips of the leaves. It can be quite sticky. The process occurs most frequently during conditions of high humidity when the rate of transpiration is low or when there is a major shift in humidity. Check for insects, because they could also be responsible for the leaf droppage.


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