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by Marina
(Lethbridge, AB)


sick Echeveria plants


I’ve been growing succulents for a while now, and had a lot of success – I’m in Alberta, so I have to bring them in for the winter (thank you so much for the Winterizing Succulents E-Course – that is a blessing!).

This winter after I brought them in, they didn’t seem to be doing as well as other years.

I’ve heard of something called Soil Sickness, where they don’t seem to thrive as well; do you know of this, or what else could be wrong with my Echeveria perle von nurnberg in particular – and some of the other Echeveria?

They seem to be really paling out in the center, and are stunted.

Thanks so much – I’m a big fan!

Hi Marina, thanks for the vote of confidence! And, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the e-course, it seemed like a great way to help my visitors to save a ton of money by bringing their succulents indoors, instead of buying new ones every spring.

However, you’ve discovered the bane of every horticulturist – this is not soil sickness, but mealy bugs. These pernicious creatures do a lot of damage, and as you’ve found, they’re well hidden in the crown and growing points of the plants where they are protected.

Here’s my solution to these horrible critters; take cuttings off the older leaves that aren’t showing signs of the infestation.

To make sure that you don’t just propagate the bugs at the same time as the plants, I wash the leaves off under warm water.

Apparently, they can’t withstand anything over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just about warm enough to wash your hands in.

For the main plant, once they’re this deformed, even if you could find some kind of spray to use, or a systemic pesticide, they would never recover their former glory.

Once you start to propagate them with the leaves, discard everything, pots, soil, leaves, debris; everything.

Also make sure you wash your hands before handling any other plants so you don’t just move the mealy bugs over to them.

Keep a close eye on your cuttings, and spray as needed with Safers insecticidal soap mixed to the proportions with water that is recommended on the bottle, and I add about half a cup to a liter of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) which breaks down the waxy coating that they protect themselves with.

Hope that helps with your infestation!

Learn how to root your own succulents:

Comments for Soil Sickness? or something more dire?

Jan 27, 2014

mealybug spray on echeveria
by: new collector

I have a collection of starter succulents, under lights on a timer. I have fresh air coming in on the same timer. I noticed the same deformed leaves on a couple of my echeveria. I did not notice any actual mealybugs until a few days later.

I feel sorry that I sprayed the plants with Scotts EcoSense Bug B Gone. Sadly, they have lost their powdery coating and beautiful color. Will their natural dusting come back? How soon after could I have rinsed the plants?

Thank you so much for your time

Luckily, the blue coating will eventually come back, you’ll have to be patient though because it can take a season before it is replaced. Hopefully you’ve got rid of the bugs – that’s the important thing. The ‘pruinose’ is nice, but not essential to their health.

Best of luck with your collection!