Ilex VS. Houseplant Scale – Schefflera Arboricola

The Schefflera Arboricola is a fairly easy Midwestern houseplant to care for. When I lived in Florida, there was one growing in my front yard, right in front of the chimney. My Midwestern version is a smaller scale!


This time of year (mid March) is the time when my butt has just about been kicked by Old Man Winter. I’m soooo over winter. My houseplants have had it also.

Here I am, a horticulturist and should have noticed this earlier. I did see the shiny leaves, but I thought it was just where I had over-sprayed some horticultural oil. Nope, not that lucky.


Next I noticed my sock stick to the floor… The floor was sticky. Remember there are signs and symptoms to all plant problems. The shiny leaves and sticky floor are signs of a honeydew producing pest. Signs are observations that are directly related to the problem. A symptom would be the leaves showing some spotting.

Ooh, look Scale!


Here’s the little guys close up, along with their honeydew which is just a sweet name for poop. In the wild, opposed to the tame of my living room, ants would be attracted to the sweet honeydew and protect the producer. Ants have been known to herd aphids (another honey-doer!) and protect them in little colonies. I’ve seen it, pretty weird!


We’re not going to have freeloaders on my plants! I promptly dragged ‘Sheffy’ into the shower for a rinse. I would have preferred to use horticultural oil, but I was out. I did have an organic insecticidal soap. Spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect.

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

21 thoughts on “Ilex VS. Houseplant Scale – Schefflera Arboricola

  1. Cool plant, is it a tree? Those scales are gross, never seen them. Probably because I have no plants in my house, yep none. I seem to kill everything. I’m trying my seeds though…hopefully, will your help, they will actually become Petunias. I put the fan on them, lightly, like you said. They are about an inch and a half tall now. When do I need to feed them?


    • Plant in my Midwest house / Tree down in Florida.
      Feed your seedlings when your first REAL leaves emerge, NOT the pudgy, oval leaves = cotyledons. If possible, find some liquid fish emulsion and follow directions. If you’re using a NPK, get one with the middle # higher than the rest, this makes roots strong. Buy a liquid also, there will surely be seedling directions on the package. Don’t sprinkle pellets or powder. I think they deserve a follow-up post!! =-)


  2. Thank you for this! I’ve never seen scale before either but now that I think about it I’m sure I’ve noticed the sticky stuff with my parents’ plants when a kid. But this post helps me most because I’ve got some rescue Orchids from Lowe’s and one of them is doing poorly. Someone online told me to check for scale and I didn’t notice anything. Seeing your post now I can further confirm that I’m not dealing with scale. Helps too to know not to use dish soap as I would have.

    When you do get scale, do they spread to other plants rapidly? Are they a big concern like I’ve heard Aphids are? You don’t seem too worried and I imagine you’ve got plenty of houseplants!

    And thanks for the link to my site! No doubt I’ll be linking back to you as the season progresses.



    • There are worse things than scale. They can move when they are in the crawler stage, but then become immobile. Just don’t let other plants touch the infected one. These will die quickly when the plant gets moved outside for the season, that is why the lack of concern on my part. Preditory insects, ease of spraying with hose and hort oil all are outside cures. Aphids are worse as they fly at some point and they get on everyone. You can see them tho, white dots.


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