How To Get Rid Of Scales On Plants – Kill Those Pesty Bugs!

How to get rid of scales on plants

We all want our gardens and plants to look their very best all year round, but sometimes ‘scales’ can hamper their beauty. They can make our lush green trees look dull and unhealthy and therefore, getting rid of them becomes absolutely necessary.


So the natural question arises ‘what are scales?’ and ‘how to get rid of scales on plants?’ This article extensively discusses ‘what scales are,’ ‘how to identify them?’, ‘their harms’, and provides solutions to help readers get rid of scales on their plants.

Messy Scales on Plants & How To Get Rid of Them?

We will tell you how to make your plants scale-free but before that, you need to have some background about scales and their dirty habits.

What Are Scales on Plants?

What Are Scales and How To Identify The Scale Insect On Plants

Scale infection in plants is caused by a specific type of insect known commonly as the scale insect. They infect plants by sucking away all the important nutrients that the plant stores in its stems and leaves, making the plant look withered and decaying.


The Scale insects are extremely tiny in size but are visible to the naked eye. They are usually round or oval. Scale insects have a hard outer shell that is scaly in nature and brown in color.


These insects typically attack the leaf joints and the underside of leaves. They thrive in warm conditions, so trees in tropical regions need special care. It is fairly easy to identify these insects once you know what they look like.


What Does Scale Infestation Look Like?

What Does Scale Infestation Look Like

Scale infestation makes the plant look withered and unhealthy. It causes the leaves to lose their natural bright green color and become yellowish instead. It may also cause circular holes in leaves which eventually fall off.


Scale almost always appears in clusters. They lock themselves into place to penetrate the stem of the plant and start extracting the nutrients.


There are 2 main types of scale insects – armored scale and soft scale. Both of them are equally and severely invasive but might look a bit different from one another.


Armored scales are hard to scrape off, while soft scales excrete huge quantities of honeydew which causes black fungus to grow. Once you know what scale infestations look like, it will be easier to discover how to get rid of scales on plants.


What Causes Scales On Plants?

What Causes Scales On Plants

Scale insects on plants can appear all of a sudden. The major causes that lead to a scale infestation are –

  • Using a dirty pot to keep the plant.
  • Warm and sultry weather.
  • Reusing soil from underneath the plans that have had scale infestations previously.
  • Keeping your plants anywhere around a plant that has scale infestation.

Scale infestations are mainly spread through crawlers, that is, the offsprings of the matured scale insects. Once they hatch out of their eggs, these crawlers separate from their parents in search of new feeding grounds.


They usually attack the nearest plants and are barely visible to the naked eye. When they mature, they start feeding on the plants and cause the plant to deteriorate.


How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Outdoor Plants?

How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Outdoor Plants

Once your plant gets infected with scales, you need to know how to get rid of them if you wish to save your plant. Here are some methods that tell you how to kill scale on plants:

  • Try Pruning the infected parts – Pruning or trimming the parts of the plant that has a scale infestation is a feasible and effective method of getting rid of the scales insects.
  • Gently wiping small areas with rubbing alcohol sponges – Cleaning the plants thoroughly with a cotton swab or sponge dipped in rubbing alcohol solution kills the scales insects immediately. But while applying the alcoholic solution to the plants, we have to make sure to test it out on a small area first. With this method, you might not be able to kill the burrowed in scale insects.
  • Spray Neem oil and Horticultural oil – If you are wondering how to remove scale from plants organically, then Neem and horticultural oil is the answer. These oils contain ‘azadirachtin,’ a key component in any pesticide. It kills and keeps away all sorts of harmful insects and pests away from the plants.


Since oils do not mix with water, you can consider adding just a spoonful of dish-detergent that acts as an emulsifier. Try spraying the oils with a wide-mouthed hose as it will cover more surface area.


These tips will aid you in figuring out how to get rid of Scales on plants that grow outdoors.


How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Indoor Plants?

How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Indoor Plants

Wondering how to get rid of scale bugs from indoor plants? Removing scale from indoor plants is not vastly different from removing them from outdoor plants. However, one must be extra cautious with indoor plants because they lie close to each other. One effective way of avoiding a widespread scale infestation is to check the plants regularly for scales and keep them clean.


Once you spot a scale infestation on a plant, immediately separate it from the healthy plants. If the insects have infected only a small portion of the plant, consider pruning it and disposing the branches.


If the infestation has engulfed the entire plant, applying rubbing alcohol solution will immediately kill the insects. Some indoor plants are sensitive to alcohol. Therefore, we should always test out a small region of the plant first to see if the treatment is affecting the plant.


If it is, then you can consider more natural remedies like applying Neem Oil solution or Horticultural oils to save the plant.


How To Prevent Scales on Plants?

How To Prevent Scales on Plants

Apart from knowing how to kill scale on plants, there are also several ways of preventing a scale infestation from happening on your plant. Let’s have a look at some of them:


  • Applying Insecticidal or Medicinal soap: Applying Medicinal soaps on well-watered plants kills the larvae of the scale insects and prevents them from growing and latching on to the plant. This prevents a scale infestation and saves your plant. So the very first step you should take after spotting crawlers or nymphs is applying medicinal soap to stop them from growing.
  • Spraying with Neem Oil and Horticultural Oil: Spraying Neem oil and horticultural oils is the most organic method of preventing a scale infestation. You can make it a part of your gardening routine to spray the plants regularly with Neem oil or Horticultural oil.


It will repel all sorts of scale infestations even before they affect your plant. It also won’t harm your plant.


  • Regular Watering – Timely water your plants to keep them stress-free during the summers. Stress enhances the growth of scales.
  • Use Predators – Though keeping burrowing animals like rabbits out of garden helps you protect your yard, some natural predators such as ladybugs can help you eliminate scales by feeding on them.


Precautions To Be Taken While Removing Scales

Precautions To Be Taken While Removing Scales

Now that we have answered ‘how to kill scale on plants’ we need to understand what necessary precautions to take while removing scales. These precautions are fundamental while figuring out ‘how to treat scale bugs.’


  1. While applying the alcoholic solution to the plants, you have to first test it out on a small area. This is because some plants are sensitive to alcohol and might die.
  2. If you are pruning the infected branches, be sure to dispose of them far away from your other plants so that they do not climb up those plants. Do not prune away a large chunk of the plant, making it difficult for the plant to survive.
  3. Scraping off the insects needs to be followed by spraying with horticultural oil to get rid of the crawlers that are most likely still clinging to the plant.
  4. Apply the medicinal soaps only to hydrated plants, or else they can be easily damaged. Keep the plant away from direct sunlight before applying insecticidal soaps. Make sure the temperature is well below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


Read here how to care for frosty fern and save brown arborvitae.


How To Get Rid Of Scales On Plants – FAQs

Q. How to get rid of scale insects on houseplants ?

Ans: Scale infestation spreads rapidly on indoor plants because they lie close to each other. This can be prevented by moving the healthy houseplants away from the infected ones as soon as you spot a scale insect. To get rid of scale infestation, rubbing the underside of the leaves and leaf joints with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol solution is advisable.


Q. Do scale bugs live in soil?

Ans: Scale bugs do not live on soil. They only live on plants to extract their food from the plants.


Q. Do scale bugs fly?

Ans: Scale bugs can barely fly. Some male scale bugs have wings but can fly very low for a very short span of time, but they can spread very fast with the help of crawlers.


Q. How quickly does scale spread?

Ans: Scale infestation can spread rapidly from one plant to another after the crawlers or nymphs are born. It takes about one to three weeks for a crawler to mature into an adult and start affecting the plant.


Q. Does cold weather kill scale?

Ans: We have already stated that scale insects prefer living in warmer conditions, but it does not mean that cold weather kills them. Scale insects can survive in fairly cold conditions.


Q. If I scrape off the scale insects, will they get back on my plant?

Ans: Whatever insects you scrape off will not get back on your plant, but it must be noted that Scale insects breed on plants.


Therefore, even if you scrape off the insects visible to the naked eye, tiny nymphs known as crawlers might still cling on and infect your plant. Hence, the next time someone asks ‘how to remove scale from plants?’ you know that scraping off the insects is not the most effective solution.


Q. What plants do scale insects like?

Ans: Scale bugs feed on all kinds of plants, but some of their preferred plants are fruiting plants that bear citrus fruits like Lemon, Olives, Oranges, etc. Other types of scale insects prefer flowering plants like roses and lilies. Remember, Scales can affect any sort of plant irrespective of its type.


Q. What conditions help them to reproduce?

Ans: Scale insects are able to reproduce under any condition. However, warm and sultry conditions can act as a catalyst to the process of reproduction among scale insects.


Q. How do Scale insects damage the plant?

Ans: When scale insects attach themselves to a particular plant, they pierce into the softer part of the plants’ stems (usually the underside of the leaves or leaf joints).


The insects then extract all the nutrients that are being transferred from the roots of the plants to their leaves. This deprives the leaves of the necessary nutrients.


Therefore the leaf fades and becomes yellowish. The plant that does not receive any nutrients now shrivels up and loses most of its leaves. It becomes patchy, brownish and can eventually die.


Q. Can scaled insects live and breed in carpeting inside a house?

Ans: Scaled insects do not live or breed in carpeting inside a house. They always live on indoor and outdoor plants in order to suck the sap of those plants.


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Final Word

This article has extensively discussed and answered questions like ‘how to remove scale from plants?’ Having this knowledge is instrumental to possessing healthy plants and a beautiful garden. Knowing how to kill scale on plants and how to treat scale bugs will help you to take care of your plants better than ever before.


However, if the situation is beyond repair, do take professional help.