After over four years of back and forth battles against mealybugs on my indoor plants, I took some drastic measures this week to eradicate, hopefully once and for all, this pestilence that has both plagued me and embarrassed me for over four years.

I’m not sure how or exactly when they arrived in my sunroom, but I suspect they came in on an African violet purchased from the non-defunct Frank’s Nursery & Crafts. (Remember good ol’ Frank’s? We’ll have to reminisce about them sometime soon.)

Over these last four, or maybe five years, I’ve battled back and forth with the mealybugs. They primarily attacked African violets, Clivia miniata, Aloe, and any amaryllis I brought into the house at Christmas time. I’ve wiped leaves, tossed plants, used organic sprays, cursed, and at times, tried to ignore them. Did you know that if you ignore them, they won’t go away?

This spring, I took all the Clivia outside, five pots worth shown on the wagon in the picture above. Yes, I put them outside for the summer, thinking, hoping, that the mealybugs would see a bigger, better world out there, and go away.

They did not see a better world and leave. They hunkered down, multiplied, started villages and towns, and I’m sure made plans for how they would take over once again when brought inside.

But I fixed their wagon!

This week, I threw out all of the African violets (moment of silence, but I am now a lot younger in African violet years). I did save one called ‘Merlot’ by taking some leaf cuttings from it, but tossed the actual plant. I had to, it had an interesting leaf.

I then rounded up all the Aloe and repotted the smallest starts, after cleaning them thoroughly.

And, I threw out all but two fans of the Clivia. Those two fans likewise were thoroughly cleaned, as best as I could clean them.

Then after thoroughly cleaning the sunroom, where these all live with my other houseplants, including the night-blooming Cereus, I moved them not back in there, but into another room in the house. There they will remain in isolation until I am sure, once and for all, that they are not infested with mealybugs.

What are mealybugs, anyway?

Short answer, nasty little insects with sucking mouth parts that like to suck the life out of my houseplants. That’s all you really need to know.

Here’s a picture of some on the Clivia.

Wish me luck, that once and for all, I’ve gotten rid of them in my house.

And learn from my experience. When you buy a new houseplant, carefully inspect it for mealybugs, which look like little cottony-masses. Look closely in all the “nooks and crannies” of the plant because they are good at hiding. Then, when you bring a new plant home, isolate it from other plants for a few weeks, just to be sure.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check the isolated plants to see if any mealybugs have reappeared overnight.


  1. I hope the nasty meanlybugs will leave the night-blooming cereus alone. It would be bad if they attack the cereus because it's such a beautiful plant.

  2. Ouch! Having a plant eating cat means no houseplants. I miss having them but not the bugs! I like your thoroughness, Carol, it makes sense to isolate them.


  3. Let us know if it worked Carol! Do you have any solutions for the little flies/gnats that are forever using my houseplants as a runway? This is not an insect airport!

  4. I do wish you the best. I have some plants at work that suffered recently from spider mites. I've also been trying to save some indoor plants at my moms from something nasty that leaves a sticky substance.

    I remember going to Frank's as a kid with my aunt (and now gardening mentor!) and asking her questions about all of the flowers.

  5. So mealybugs are sort of like the indoor version of scale. Yuck. I hope you got rid of them for good.

  6. There are undoubtedly one of natures yukkiest - as sticky as wooly aphids. I have painted them with whisky which seems to work quite well as an insecticide in this case as it runs into those little crevices. (I would have thought that vodka would be equally effective although green chartreuse and chardonnay probably less so !).

  7. How terribly sad to have to throw away your Clivia plants...but still, it's worth it if you got rid of them! I do hope so!

  8. I received a gift plant from a friend that brought me mealy bugs and I'm with you -- I will never put a plant that has not been isolated for a while in with my other plants. What a nightmare; I ended up the same way you did, throwing away a lot of plants. Those darned things are a royal pain in the you know where.

    Good luck, I'm sure you got the problem licked this time.

  9. Ew! I think we had these awful things once.

  10. I hate 'em too, and I have one plant with them. It's a large Dracaena that my mom gave me last winter. So far, they haven't infested anything else, although I did find some on an orchid that I bought awhile back. Those were already present on it and I cleaned them off successfully.

    I'm going to take that Dracaena outside today and hose it off really well. They aren't really bad yet, but I don't want ANY.

    Ugh. Bugs.

  11. Mealybugs are horrid little things - they're the reason I gave up on tropical hibiscus.

    I'm sad for you right now because you lost your plants, Carol - but I'll feel jealous pretty soon when you're out having fun buying new houseplants.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. A pox upon the little buggers! Here's hoping you're rid of them for good.

  13. Carol,

    Love love love the idea of "African violet years" and your rule of ownership (on the earlier blog post). For what it's worth, I did read that African violet is considered THE plant to give on Grandparents' Day

    I think a lot of our plant selections (like everything else) are hung up in "what other people will think." Wonderful of you to disclose a corner of that secret world we share but rarely talk about.

    I'd imagine these are glory days in Indiana!

  14. Years ago when I had a huge collection of Violets and Begonias I had a terrible round of mealy bugs. I dipped a q-tip into alcohol and they sizzled. I got rid of them in this way. They would occasionally reappear but not in the numbers when I first discovered them. They are a terrible affliction for house plants.

  15. Mealybugs seem to like the outside as much as the inside. My pyracantha was infested and the bugs left a mess all over my patio. Hope you solved your problem with winter coming and moving plants inside.

  16. Good luck, Carol; I hope all those nasty little critters are gone. I have the perfect solution for mealybugs--I don't have any houseplants!

  17. I concur with the other commenters; mealybugs are evil. I have a couple very large cacti that I've been trying to remove mealybugs from for over a year now.

  18. Those nasty little suckers show up on my container plants every fall. I five them a shower and they wash right off.

  19. You didn't throw away the old neighbor's did you? I would be horrified?

    Hey, call me....

  20. All, thanks for all the comments and understanding. We are united in our hatred of mealybugs! It's been four days since I got rid of the plants they were on (including "the old neighbor's African Violet, unfortunately) and the remaining plants seem to be "clean". Here's hoping!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  21. I've been lucky..My clivia plants have never gotten bugs. Lets hope it stay that way..I have tons of clivias, seedlings...Do you want one?


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