Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Urska
Jade plants are one of my favorite plants. They grow in semi-arid subtropical thicket vegetation in South Africa, where they appear to hardly ever get any pests or diseases! If you provide them with an environment similar to their natural environment, you will never experience problems. What does white sticky stuff on a jade plant mean? Probably mealy bugs. Read more to find out what this means and how to solve the problem.
What is a Jade Plant and Why is it So Tough?
Jade plants, also known as Crassula ovata, are sturdy succulent shrubs that can get to be higher than a door if kept in a large pot indoors. In their natural environment, these plants are exposed to elephant, rhino, kudu, buffalo, cows, all manner of smaller antelope, goats, humans, monkeys, baboons, bushpigs, warthogs, crazy birds and locust plagues, and an incredible diversity of pests. The result is they have evolved a powerful toolkit of chemicals to discourage being eaten by all of these creatures.
I have actually seen goats not eat this plant – they will occasionally, but generally not. It is that tough. Goats will eat nearly anything. I have seen a goat eat my crocs (the shoes).
A healthy Jade Plant produces a powerful mixture of chemicals to discourage pests. A weakened Jade Plant on the other hand is unable to muster the energy to produce these chemicals and it will subsequently become susceptible to pest infestation.
A lot of this has to do with the amount of sugar and salts the plant can accumulate in its leaves and stems. To understand this, we need to look at the plant’s photosynthetic cycle. Jade Plants use CAM photosynthesis.
This is a stop-start photosynthetic pathway that is very inefficient because plants use this method of photosynthesis to avoid having to open their stomata during the heat of the day. In their natural environment, the days are normally quite warm to very hot, and the nights are generally cooler as is common in dry parts of the world.
The plants require long hours of sunlight to enable this relatively inefficient photosynthetic cycle to work, and they require a relatively cool night. This enables the plant to be highly efficient, and produce enough sugars to drive its complex metabolism. This in turn allows it to produce toxins and waxes that chase pests away.
What Causes White Sticky Stuff On a Jade Plant?
In my experience, with a few mangy Jade plants that I once kept indoors in a very dim room, the only pests you tend to get on them are Woolly aphids and Mealybugs. These are opportunistic sap-sucking pests that get out of hand on weak plants and out of condition.
You can scrape them off with your fingers and then squish them and you will see there is a little insect inside the furry ball of white hair. I often find that these pests will occur on the same plant at the same time, and will also tend to attract ants that come to harvest the sap. Sometimes the ants will farm the pests carrying them around and planting them on new leaves.
Kids (some people list this under the previous title)
When I was a kid I remember my brother and I took a bottle of glue and for reasons, only kids can understand, put the glue all over my Moms beloved succulent collection. She was mystified as to what had happened. This mystery was resolved when my Dad discovered his wood glue was empty.
I vaguely remember getting hiding with considerable force associated!! But kids are well known to sprinkle all sorts of weird things on indoor plants. Before you conclude your jade plant has insect pests, ascertain it is not something the kids put on the plant.
How Do I Get Rid Of The White Sticky Stuff On a Jade Plant?
Jade plants are capable of getting quite large. For a small jade plant, just take a bit of tissue and wipe the leaves clean. If you wish you can spray the plant with neem oil after this you can do so and this will help inhibit the pests from returning. However, you need to get your plant healthy again and this we will deal with shorty.
For a larger jade plant that gets overrun with pests, you can use my Mothers tried and tested recipe! mix a teaspoon of baby oil into a pint of water, add a few drops of dishwashing soap and shake this until it mixes the oil into the system. Then after you have done this use a spray bottle to spray this on the leaves of the plant.
Do this three times and you will see the pests fall off the plant. You can also use poison sprays, but this is probably inside your house so I will not encourage that. Poisons are just not good things, in general, to be sprayed around in your house – one year they are considered safe, but the next year we find they cause cancer.
How Do I Stop The White Sticky Stuff On a Jade Plant from Returning?
If a jade plant had pests causing the white stuff issue, you need to get your plant healthy. After removing the pests as described above, you will need to get your plant healthy. Remember in the first bit I mentioned these plants need 10-12 hours of sunlight (dappled to direct is ok) and a cool, but not freezing night.
Place the plant as close to a window as you can, and give it supplemental lighting. Try to get the plant to the point where the sunlight and your supplemental light give it at least 10 hours, preferably 12 of light.
Water the plant once every two weeks – this is more than the plants get in nature most of the time. I have seen them survive three months of absolutely no rainfall. They seem to actually enjoy a bit of water starvation. When the leaves turn red/pink, the plant is producing plenty of toxins to inhibit herbivores and pests.
Ensure the plant has warm days and cool – but not freezing nights. South African succulents like this because that is what they are exposed to in nature. If you mimic these conditions, the plants thrive.
If kids have sprayed, dribbled, and applied sticky glue, mayonnaise, etc to your plants, I gather most countries have changed the laws such that spanking kids is not legal anymore. This definitely helped stop me from damaging plants again, so I guess in these new enlightened times you will have to find some other method of discouraging them. Maybe take away their iPads for a week.
Conclusion On White Sticky Stuff On a Jade Plant!
White sticky stuff on a jade plant is normally a symptom of a run-down, weak plant. Woolly aphids and mealybugs cause these symptoms. Remove the pests as described above and then spray the plant with neem oil and ensure it gets strong again.
To help the plant get strong, it needs 10-12 hours of sunlight (supplemental lighting in zones far from the equator) and warm days and cool (but not freezing) nights.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Way To Just Get Rid Of Aphids On My Jade Plant?
Aphids may be controlled using garden pesticides or DIY treatments, just like with Mealybugs. A bit of baby oil in soapy water works well for jade plants.
What Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Mealybugs?
Wipe them off the leaves with tissue paper. Spray the plant with neem oil. Provide the plant with supplemental lighting to give it 10-12 hours of light a day. It will recover and produce toxins that discourage pests.
Branko is the world‘s most enthusiastic gardener! He is always on the hunt for the perfect flower, bush or tree to add to his ever–growing garden. He is known for his love of all things green, and his passion for nurturing the plants he grows is unmatched. He loves to get his hands dirty and can often be found humbly tending to his garden at all hours of the day. Branko is the go–to guy when it comes to gardening advice – he is always happy to share his knowledge and wisdom with anyone who will listen. He also loves to play pranks on unsuspecting visitors, so beware if you enter his garden!