House Plants/Ficus tree


What causes my indoor Ficus tree leaves to get very sticky?

Hi Alma,

Stickiness on Ficus trees is caused by either scale insects or mealybugs. Scale insects appear as tan colored, slightly raised bumps about the size of match heads on the undersides of leaves and along stems. They rub off easily with a fingernail. Mealybugs look like tiny bits of white cotton on stems and leaves.  Neither insect pest looks like a bug so they are often overlooked. Although mealybugs and scale insects look very different, they are close relatives and are treated in the same manner.

The mistake that most folks make in treating these pests is treating only the ones that are visible. The juveniles pests are nearly indivisible, so they are often overlooked. They will survive, reproduce and the problem will come back to haunt you. The key to successful treatment is spraying all leaves and stems until they are dripping wet. It is a messy process and is best done outside, but not in the direct sun.

Mix a solution of 5 parts water, 1 part rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and a squirt of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Thoroughly spray this solution on all leaf and stem surfaces of the tree until those parts are dripping wet. Complete coverage is most important. If you are thorough, one treatment is all that is required.

I have written detailed articles on indoor plant pests and on Ficus care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.

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

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Will Creed


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.


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.

BA, Amherst College

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