Why Is My Houseplant Sticky

Scale insects on the plant are typically the culprits behind the sticky leaves. Houseplants are fed by and sucked of sap (the plant fluids) by plant scale.

They emit a material known as sticky honeydew, which leaves a sticky residue on the leaves and the ground.

All too frequently, people merely scan the top leaves. Check plants for little lumps of tan, black, or brown hue with a waxy coating on the underside of the leaves and on the stems.

Inaccessible locations where they can be left alone are where you’ll find infected plants with mealybugs or cottony masses of plant scale.

How can honeydew on houseplants be removed?

The majority of gardeners are aware of the sugary excrement of certain sap-feeding insects known as “honeydew. Many people may even be aware of the intriguing interaction between the ants that guard the honeydew-producing aphids, mealybugs, or scale insects in a way similar to a shepherd caring his sheep.

What, however, is insect honeydew? In the true bug order Hemiptera, which also includes aphids, mealybugs, soft scales, felt/bark scales, psyllids, leafhoppers, planthoppers, and whiteflies, honeydew is the excretion (waste product) of numerous insects. These insects obtain their food by ingesting vast amounts of plant sap, consuming significantly more sugar than is necessary in order to obtain the more essential components required. This allows them to concentrate the plant sugars and transform them into a variety of sugars, some of which are highly sought-after by other insects. It has been demonstrated that the honeydew produced by the four species of aphids that eat the same plant each has a distinctive blend of complex carbohydrates in varying amounts. The aphids that produce the most honeydew and precious sugars are shielded by their ant neighbors “Shepherds serve as deterrents to possible predators.

However, although ants are typically helpful in the garden as predators, they might provide a challenge when trying to safeguard honeydew producers. Both parasitoids and most predators do not depend entirely on their host bug to thrive. Instead, natural enemies frequently add nutrients from pollen, seeds, nectar, and yeshoneydew to their diet! For instance, the majority of the small Chalcid wasps subsist on that priceless, energy-rich honeydew, including the helpful parasitoids of aphids and countless other garden pests. Even some plant bugs that eat both honeydew and aphids reside amid the aphid colonies. Larger beneficial wasps and bees are frequently seen gathering honeydew, and they do it in such large numbers that some parts of the world, particularly Greece, generate wild honey that is primarily composed of honeydew from those prodigious little sap-feeders.

How do you know when you have a problem?

Benefit from honeydew by using it! It can be challenging to locate many insect colonies, especially if they are hidden within the canopy or on the undersides of leaves. A black, powdery fungus called sooty mold eventually grows on sticky, glossy honeydew that coats leaf surfaces. This reveals the precise area to look for the cause: Just gaze up from the honeydew that is falling. You can determine the insects and assess the issue after you determine the cause. The tough phase follows. You must assess the honeydew-producing insects and make a decision about what to do for the sake of your garden and the wider environment. If you are unable to identify the insect, this will probably require proper identification.

Insects that produce honeydew may play an important part in the ecosystem of your garden, therefore they are not always a nuisance. It might be necessary to take action if an outbreak happens, which indicates that the population is out of natural control and the health of the plants is declining.

What to do if you think you have a problem

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of honeydew in fostering the kinds of insects you wish to have a strong presence in your environment and in managing the insects that produce honeydew. Here are some suggestions for handling issues with honeydew. Determine what needs to be done. In order to decide what to do, ask questions. Is this a pest that is difficult to combat naturally? Is it a serious pest that needs to be dealt with right away? Will it considerably harm the plant, or is it strong and developed enough to withstand feeding? Is the expense of treatment more than the plant’s worth? Is it a little annoyance that will boost the populations of natural enemies?

Consider washing it off. If necessary, excessive honeydew can be cleaned off with warm water and a gentle cloth. Once the source of honeydew is cut off, the sooty mold will disappear. Sooty mold may dry and flake off the leaf sooner as a result of horticultural oil.

Don’t spray right away. Be mindful of two serious hazards if you decide that insecticides are required. First off, persistent, broad-spectrum insecticides have the potential to be deadly to natural enemies and, over time, worsen pest infestations. Second, even if the insects that produce honeydew are not instantly killed, minute amounts of systemic insecticides may be concentrated in honeydew, killing bees, wasps, and other insects. Most of the time, using insecticidal soaps or low-risk horticultural oils is enough to get rid of the pest completely. Bear in mind that sometimes less is better. Take into account the soil fertility and fertilizer use. Home landscapes frequently overfertilize, but this practice doesn’t just lead to pollution of the environment. When you observe the plant growing quickly and succulently, an abundance of nutrients may appear to be advantageous. However, an excess of nutrients, especially nitrogen, benefits insects that feed on the plant and may contribute to outbreak conditions as the population of herbivores increases out of proportion to natural enemies.

A plant health consultant with a focus on integrated control of landscape plant pests and diseases is Matthew Borden, DPM.

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What is the substance that sticks to plants?

Do you notice any plants, particularly those that are close to trees, or vehicles that are covered in sticky material? Certain insects make this gooey material, known as honeydew, which they defecate after feeding on plants. The honeydew on plant leaves may be so thick that it drips off the leaves and onto the ground or other plants below, giving the leaves a sparkling appearance. And occasionally, sooty mold, a black, powdery fungus, develops on it, giving the plant’s leaves a dirty appearance.

Here is a list of the potential offenders that may be producing the problem at this time of year, many of which we have already discussed in our blog:

On hackberry trees, the hackberry woolly aphid is a serious pest. The honeydew of the aphid drips everywhere, leaving a gooey mess in its wake. What’s that Sticky Stuff on My Car has further information on this annoyance.

Numerous additional varieties of aphids feed on the juices of plants and produce honeydew on other plants. To learn more about them, their host plants, harm, and treatment, go to the UC IPM Pest Notes: Aphids.

Another pest that produces honeydew is the psyllid, and you may have heard of one in particular: the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). ACP is notorious for having the capacity to spread the citrus-killing, huanglongbing, disease. Read the article Invasive Spotlight: Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing Disease to find out how to inspect your plants for this pest.

Secretion from Insects (Honeydew)

Sticky secretions on plant leaves are typically caused by insects like mealybugs, aphids, and scale.

By sucking sap from the plant’s phloem, these sap-sucking insects consume the nectar of the plants.

Sugars and other metabolic products are transported to other areas of vascular plants by the living tissue known as phloem (source).

By sucking food directly from the leaves, these insects rob the plant of the food it produces in the leaves and transfer it to other areas of the plant.

After the insects have digested the sugars from the plants, they generate honeydew, which is faeces.

The honeydew sticks to the plants and occasionally drips onto the lower leaves, luring ants and other unwelcome insects to the plant.

On the surface of leaves, mold and other fungus can grow and in some cases completely cover them as a result of insects drawn to honeydew. As soon as you see the leaves are sticky, you should clean them off.

In this instance, the pest is the main issue, so it needs to be dealt with right away.

With these affordable microfiber cloths from Amazon, cleaning plant leaves has never been simpler.

A sticky residue is left behind by spider mites?

Sticky spider plant leaves are a sign that scale, a piercing, sucking bug, has settled on your spider plant and is causing it to become sticky. All scales, which come in various varieties, are imperceptible to the human sight until they gather in large colonies. A sticky substance is left behind when colonies develop on spider plant leaves. Colonies can be seen as little brown spots, typically hidden beneath the sticky spider plant’s leaves. Mealybugs with a white, cottony glob appearance are occasionally scale insects.

Honeydew is the chemical that makes the leaves of spider plants sticky. Aphids or spider mites may also be to blame for sticky spider plant leaves. You may be able to identify the pest you’re dealing with by looking underneath spider plant leaves that have sticky residue.

How can sticky residue on houseplants be removed?

Controlling plant scale bugs is often not a huge issue. Scale can breathe through their protection. The scale can be killed most easily via suffocation.

There are a number of natural ways to get rid of scale insects on indoor plants.

When a light infestation is in its early stages:

  • 1 quart of warm water should be combined with 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish soap.
  • Dish soap and warm water mixed together; dip a cotton swab into it.
  • Clean the place entirely.

Spray the entire plant with the mixture in order to completely cover the affected parts if the infestation is severe.

The spray composition also includes the following additions:

  • An effective soap insecticide for plants. The name of the most often used plant-based soap is “If there isn’t a severe scale infestation, safer soap works well.
  • Another “Neem oil spray for plants is a secure bet. Neem oil is a fantastic all-natural product that can be used to get rid of fleas on pets as well as spider mites.
  • Addition of a secure horticultural oil will work. a message or caution Any chemical application, whether indoors or out, should be done carefully and according to the label’s instructions.

Check with your neighborhood nursery or garden center before attempting to solve the insect problem, and always remember to FOLLOW THE LABEL.

NOTE: I would apply neem oil or an insecticidal soap on indoor plants. On outside plants, horticultural oil performs better.

Sooty mold is frequently seen outside along with the sticky residue. Neem oil, insecticidal soap, and horticultural oil can all be utilized outside, as was already explained.

Be aware that these controls will also kill natural predators and that they should not be used when the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Honeydew—is it harmful to plants?

Sugars and other compounds found in the plant are the source of honeydew sap. You might be wondering if the honeydew, which the feeding insect secretes, harms plants. While the honeydew itself does not harm the plant, the insects that it attracts and causes can severely weaken the plant.

Use Water to Remove Them

You can soak the entire plant in water to get rid of the aphids if the plant’s fragile leaves won’t withstand spraying. Flip the plant over and submerge the foliage in a pail of fresh, room-temperature water.

Try Insecticidal Soap

You can buy insecticidal soaps (like Safer’s Insecticidal Soap) or make your own by mixing Ivory Liquid dish detergent with water. Look for a product devoid of chemicals and scents that could hurt plants.

Water should be combined with soap at a low concentration (starting with 1 teaspoon per gallon and increasing as necessary). Spray plants, paying special attention to the undersides of the leaves.

Use Neem Oil

Neem oil is 100% organic because it is made from neem trees. Use as directed by the label. Neem oil works as an insect repellant and alters an insect’s ability to feed. Neem is safe to apply on both ornamental and edible plants, according to the Environmental Protection Association.

Use a Homemade Spray

One garlic bulb, one small onion, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper should be processed into a paste in a food processor or blender to make a batch. Steep for an hour after mixing into a quart of water. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap after passing the mixture through a cheesecloth. Mix well. The combination can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Aphids can be controlled by two more forms of DIY sprays.


The “Rodale’s Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control” describes the all-purpose insect spray that the editors of Organic Gardening magazine created.

Use Sticky Traps

Any insects that come to visit your plants will be captured by sheets or strips of sticky paper strung around them. Both garden centers and online vendors sell sticky traps.

Use Chemical Sprays

If a severe infestation of a prized plant leaves you with no other choice, try low- or no-chemical solutions first, but if those fail, treat the infestations with a spray that contains pyrethrins, imidacloprid, or pyrethroids. Consider using low-toxicity sprays with pyrethrin bases to reduce potential injury.

Why is the sap on my plant dripping?

Another explanation for indoor plants leaking water from their leaves is guttation. Droplets of xylem sap are released from the tips or margins of a plant’s leaves, causing this phenomena. Indoor gardeners frequently mistake this sap for water, but it’s actually something quite different.

While guttation can happen to a variety of vascular plants, grasses, and fungus species, calla lilies are particularly prone to it inside. Guttation is a symptom that you overwatered your plant when it happens. The rest of the plant is put under pressure by the saturated roots, causing it to release moisture in the form of sap. Reduce watering and the sap-releasing of your plant should stop.