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Question
I had a Dracaena Massangeana, Yucca Elephantipes and Ficus that were in 20 inch pots, approximately 15 yrs old.  They were all healthy, including blooming on Dracaena, they had the following problems and eventually died.  I was unable to re-pot them because they would out-grow the house, but I did add a topping of compost every spring and water them with compost tea.  I have several clipping for all but the Ficus, and would like to start over but avoid the problems.

Can you tell me what may have caused the problems below on each plant?

Dracaena Massangeana- leaves began to turn yellow and fall until all were gone. Plant was located in a sun-room w/skylights 5 ft back from Southern exposure. The stalk was 12 ft.

Yucca Elephantipes-white powdery substance on the leaves.which curl, turn brown to black and hang there. Plant placed directly under the skylight with Southern exposure. It was 12 ft with one stalk that split into 4.  Watered when soil was dry with compost tea and Miracle grow and added compost toping every spring.

Ficus (Benjamin) Leaves began oozing sticky substance followed by yellowing and dropping. Plant was 11ft and in direct southern light.

At one time, I had removed several stink bugs from all the plants above using soapy spray and a vacuum.

Any advice you provide will be appreciated.

Answer
Hi Tommy,

Your Corn Plant is likely getting too much light. They are low light plants that need protection at all times from the direct rays of the sun. Yellow leaves can also be caused by improper watering and using hard water over an extended period of time.

Yuccas have a naturally occurring whitish film on their leaves that does not require treatment. They also may develop mealybug infestations that look like small bits of whitish cotton or may also appear as a powdery substance that is stuck to the leaves.

The sticky stuff on the Ficus leaves is probably the 'honeydew' secreted by either mealybugs or scale insects.

The treatment for scale and mealybug infestations is the same for both. Mix a solution of 5 parts water, 1 part alcohol and a squirt of liquid soap. The key is to thoroughly spray all leaf and stem surfaces until they are dripping wet. The immature scales and mealybugs are virtually invisible to the naked eye. That is why thorough coverage with the spray solution is essential for success.

I suggest you stop using any composting products. They work great outdoors where natural processes work to enhance their effects, but compost products do not break down well indoors. They also will attract critters, sometimes create odors and may acidify the soil over time.

I have written articles on indoor plant pests and on Corn Plant, Yucca and Ficus care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

If this information has been helpful, please click the Rate Volunteer bar below and enter a rating and nomination for me. I am a volunteer on this site so Ratings are the only compensation I receive for answering plant questions.

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Regards,
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC

Visit my website at: A link to HorticulturalHelp.com

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Will Creed

Expertise

I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.

Experience

I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

Education/Credentials
BA, Amherst College

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