So, you bring home a zebra plant, hoping to give your house a more aesthetically-pleasing look. A few weeks into its growth, however, you notice that it’s starting to discolor. Some leaves have even dropped off!
This is a classic sign of pest invasion. It’s your job to determine what kind of pest you’re dealing with so you can figure out the necessary countermeasures.
There’s no need to freak out, though. In this post, we cover the most common zebra plant pests, their effect, and how to deal with them.
Let’s jump right into it!
While zebra plants attract various pests and insects, you’ll notice a few common types that like to feed on their leaves.
With white skin and a triangular body, whiteflies can be as small as 1/12 of an inch, making them hard to identify.
Although it depends on where you live, Whiteflies prefer targeting indoor zebra plants, as the temperature is more moderate indoors, and they can’t survive in lower temperatures.
However, if winter is above 22℉ in your area, you can expect to see whiteflies in your garden. They can even reproduce outdoors if it’s not too cold.
Generally, you’ll find whiteflies on the undersides of your plant’s leaves. This is where they lay their eggs.
As they suck on your plant’s sap and moisture, whiteflies produce a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. This substance promotes fungal diseases on the leaves, like sooty mold.
Gradually, plants get weaker and paler as whiteflies feed on their juices. Not only does this stunt their growth, but it also prevents them from completing the photosynthesis process.
Your first instinct might be to use a pesticide or insecticidal soap, but we recommend using more organic ways first. Sometimes, a good water flush is all it takes to have a pest-free plant.
Unlike whiteflies, aphids come in various colors, like yellow, black, red, or green. Some of them produce a waxy, white coating, which gives them a unique look.
If there isn’t enough food, adult aphids can grow wings to travel to other food sources. Despite being small, you won’t struggle to identify aphids, as they mostly exist in large groups.
As a rule of thumb, aphids exist where they can find food, whether it’s vegetables, plants, or trees. On a zebra plant, you’ll find them on the underside of the leaves.
Like whiteflies, aphids can infect zebra plants with fungal diseases by producing honeydew.
As aphids feed on your plant’s leaves, they start curling and turning yellow. Some types of aphids produce toxic substances that kill the leaves of your plant altogether.
It’s crucial to act quickly when you identify an aphid infestation, as the viruses they carry can stunt your plant’s growth.
There isn’t one way to get rid of aphids. You might have to employ a bunch of different methods simultaneously.
Giving your plants a good water spray is a good first step. You also have to get rid of plant debris, as it’s where aphids lay their eggs.
If you find aphids in the crevices of the leaves, we recommend trimming the infected leaves to prevent a wider spread.
Luckily, mealybugs have a distinctive cotton ball-like appearance, which makes them easy to identify. They cover themselves with a layer of waxy material to keep predators away.
Different types of mealybugs prefer to live in different parts of the plant. Some of them prefer the roots of the plant, while others can invade the stem.
You’ll find that some of them prefer hidden locations like the leaf joint, while others can live on the surface of the leaves, with only a layer of wax as protection.
Mealybugs don’t eat the leaves of the plant. They merely feed on the juices inside it.
When mealybugs come in contact with zebra plants, they spread deadly diseases that kill your plant.
Besides diseases, they spread fungal infections, turn the leaves yellow, and prevent new leaves from growing.
While you can use the classic water hose to flush them off your plant, using alcohol would be more effective.
Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, then dip it in water and soap. Wipe the plant with the cotton ball, and the alcohol should be enough to kill the mealybugs.
Although some spider mites can be less than 1/20-inch long, you can easily identify them through the webs they produce on the infested plant.
Similar to whiteflies, you can find spider mites on the underside of the leaves. However, female mites don’t live in one plant for too long.
As plants become heavily infested, female mites travel to other plants looking for food. If you’re growing your zebra plants outdoors, you might find spider mites on the edge of your garden.
Spider mites become a real threat when they come in large numbers. Zebra plants show signs of damage by changing the color of their leaves.
It starts with yellow spots on the leaves. Then, the entire leaf turns yellow/red. Gradually, the leaves get weaker and drop off.
Besides flushing them out, you can use insecticidal oil or soap to kick spider mites out of your zebra plant and deter them from coming back.
Now you know what common pests target zebra plants. Each type has different effects on your plant. Some can cause discoloration. Others can weaken the leaves, forcing them to drop off. The aggressive types, like mealybugs, can even kill your plant.
So, no matter what type of pests you’re facing, it’s crucial to act quickly to prevent these pests from making permanent damage.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.