What are Mealy Worms

Have you ever noticed certain cottony formations on your succulents? That formation is a common pest of indoor plants called a mealybug. Mealybugs are a common pest in greenhouses that affect ornamentals, houseplants, and fruits. She enjoys eating our pasta, especially its new shoots. Although there is no obvious idea why this appears, most of the time, this happens when we overwater our plants.

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Mealybugs Image: IG@homesteadbrooklyn

What are mealybugs?

Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that do not have wings; these often appear as formations of cottony mass under the leaves, stems, and plants’ fruits. They tend to grow and develop more frequently in hot and humid climates. They feed on our plants by inserting their stylets into plants and extracting all sap from the tissue.
When this pest is at low levels of spread, the damage is usually not significant; however, when the amount increases, it can harm the leaves of our plant, weakening the stems and causing the leaves to turn yellow and curly. Besides, when this pest feeds, it usually excretes a honeydew that makes the plant sticky and helps the growth of soot. Adult specimens can be 1/4 inch long, are oval and soft insects, covered with a white or gray mealy-looking wax. The small specimens called “creepers”; have a light yellow color and do not have a wax coating.

One of the factors that make this pest so potentially dangerous is its mania for hiding under the leaves; thanks to this, it can be challenging to detect in compact-leaved succulents; we usually become aware of its presence leaves, and stems begin. To deform, this added to the fact that they can spread surprisingly quickly if they are in ideal conditions; they can weaken and consume an entire plant in a short period.
Adult female mealybugs can lay approximately 600 eggs for two weeks and then die shortly after that. These egg masses have the appearance of cotton found under the leaves. The hatching of this mass of eggs begins at two weeks, giving way to a wave of small crawlers in search of feeding sites, and, as they feed, they begin to secrete the layer of molasses that covers their bodies of a mealy appearance.

How do mealybugs affect my succulents?

As the tiny mealybugs feed on the plant through the leaves, they weaken and create open wounds that expose the plant to bacterial diseases. At first glance, the leaves are not affected initially; they retain their shape and plump texture, but, as they feed on it, it begins to acquire an irregular appearance, looking irregular across a broad extension of the plant and its center. In a short time, the leaves start to develop a yellowish color and become infected with fungi thanks to their weakness and exposed wounds. If not treated in time, these mealybugs can quickly kill an entire small garden in a matter of days.

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Isolating Mealybugs: IG@sarah.inthegarden

How can I get rid of mealybugs on my succulent?

In case any of our plants show signs of being infested with mealybugs, we must quarantine them away from other plants since the mealybugs spread to neighboring plants very quickly. We must check all the plants close to the infected one to measure how much it has spread. After we have separated all the infected plants, we must start cleaning them. For this, we will remove the plants from their containers and rinse them with a jet of healthy water. It is to remove all traces of the mealybugs possible. Besides, we also wash the pots with enough water and soap when it is dry. Replant our succulent in soil or new substrate, making sure to dispose of the old ones in the trash.

If we don’t have any extra soil or substrate, another option is to put the old soil in a heat-resistant container, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in the oven at 200 ° F for about half an hour. After this, we let it rest, and we can use it to replant our succulent. It is not a 100% method, and mealybug eggs may remain in the ground, so it is more advisable to use new soil or substrate.

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Clean with Isopropyl Alcohol: IG@vikmarcussen

Use Isopropyl Alcohol:

For the most critical part of the whole process, eliminating the mealybugs, we have a wide variety of options. Although we usually think about using chemical pesticides, these can be very harmful to our already weakened plants. However, there are other beneficial and less dangerous options that we can use. Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent example of an easy and inexpensive method; using isopropyl alcohol is a very effective method against mealybugs and not only that but also against aphids and mites. For this, we must spray alcohol on the affected areas of our plant, it will evaporate in a few minutes without damaging it, but it is strong enough to kill the mealybugs. We must repeat this process until the cottony traces begin to turn a brown color, which will mean that they are dead.

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Spray using Neem Oil: IG@guchiscobi

Use Neem Oil:

Another safe and plant-friendly insecticide is neem oil, capable of killing any mealybug stage that infects our succulents on simple contact. It will only be enough to spray the affected areas with a mixture of neem oil, soap, and water, and voila, the mealybugs will begin to perish. Highly concentrated neem oil not to be used, as this could damage or burn our plant.

When we are going to apply any of these methods, we can use a spray bottle, or, if we do not have one of these bottles at home, we can use a swab soaked in the solutions and rub it all over the area affected by the mealybugs. After a while of applying the solutions, we rinse our plant to clean all dead insects’ traces. An important aspect to consider is that it mustn’t receive direct sunlight when using neem oil or isopropyl alcohol on our plant. It could leave burn marks; moreover, it is best to suspend all sunlight for days after performing these remedies.

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Plant Isolation and clean up Area nearby: IG@leigh_botanicals

How to prevent mealybug infection?

Some preventive measures required to prevent infection of plants are detailed as follows. Firstly, isolate any new plant purchased for approximately three weeks to avoid infection. Secondly, it is also essential to regularly check all the plants to ensure no infestations. We again try to keep the area around our plants always dry, clean, and free of rotten leaves or flowers.


How to Get Rid of Mealybugs From Your Succulents

How to get rid of Mealybugs on Succulents

Growing succulents is a captivating narrative wrapped up in a pleasant storyline. Think of it, succulents are some of the most adorable plant groups nature has to offer. From their cute, unique looks to their easy to handle maintenance qualities, succulents are no doubt a living room’s required occupant.

These popular, eye-catching plants set an ambiance of tranquility and charm. These qualities make succulents almost an obsession to most plant lovers.

However, as with any narrative, there will always be a horde of antagonists— the bad boys. Succulents are not exempt from a bunch of life-sucking, little pests that spread like a plague. The most common types of these annoying, itty bitty creatures are the mealybugs. And really, they’re quite a bug to succulent lovers. Mealybugs are without a doubt, the bane in the life of every gardener.


What are Mealybugs?

Typically found in warm climates, mealybugs are teensy, fuzzy, elliptical insects that are usually grey-white or light brown in color. These wingless, soft-bodied insects form cotton-like mounds or powdery blotches on leaves, stem, and fruits of affected plants. This white cottony substance is usually the earliest sign of a mealybug invasion, commonly mistaken for mildew or fungus.

Mealybugs survive by feeding off the plants sap found in the tissues. They use their long sucking mouthparts known as stylets to draw out tissue sap. Given the fleshy nature of fat plants, it’s no brainer why succulents are their favorites.

As mealybugs feed, they secrete honeydew, a sugary substance that makes the plant sticky and promotes the growth of sooty molds. These molds attract bacterial and fungal attacks on the plant. Low levels of mealybugs don’t pose much of a threat to succulents. However, as they multiply, the result is a weak plant characterized by yellow and curly leaves.

Mealybugs are very cheeky pests. They hide in leaf crevices, joints where stems and leaves meet, and even in the soil. They especially like to hang out in new growth parts so they can get a good tissue sap suck.

How to get rid of mealybugs on succulents

Mealybugs Lifecycle

Want to battle? Know your enemy.

The mealybugs that invade succulents and other plants are either females or juveniles. The males are wingless and lack a mouth. They don’t even buzz around plants. They are short-lived, with mating as their only purpose of existence. You can easily mistake them for wasps or flies.

A mealybug will take 7-10 weeks to complete its full life cycle. Eggs hatch into nymphs in two weeks while nymphs mature to adults in 6 to 9 months.

Mealybugs can occur in multiple generations with overlapping lifecycles. This means that their populations can grow exponentially once they invade a plant. The small-sized eggs and nymphs make it hard for mealybugs to get noticed. They only attract attention once their population explodes.

Mealybugs secrete a sugary substance (honeydew) that attracts ants. These ants act as protection for the mealybugs in exchange for the sweet stuff.

These female mealybugs lay approximately 600 eggs during their entire lifetime. Good thing is that they die after they run out of eggs (albeit leaving a gazillion junior mealybugs to carry on with the cycle).

Where do Mealybugs come from?

Mealybugs sneak up on you. One day your plants are looking all neat and green then the next day a whitish mist of cotton-like substance plagues your succulents. Mealybugs can come from anywhere. Take a look at the most common causes of mealybugs below.

  • A new plant brought indoors.
  • Planing your succulents on contaminated soil.
  • Summer’s warm climate.
  • Bringing vegetables, fresh flowers, or fruits from the garden.
  • Fresh produce from the grocery store.
Adult mealybug on green leaf

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Succulents

Fortunately, due to their slight lack of tenacity, there are a couple of ways to control mealybugs. You can use one or a combination of the following methods to combat against mealybug infestations on your beautiful succulents.

Quarantine Affected Plants

This is the first step to take when dealing with a mealybug invasion. Once they start multiplying, they spread like wildfire, jumping from one plant to the next.

Therefore, move the affected plant away from your other succulent plants. Be sure that the quarantined succulent plant is NOT within the same room as your other succulent plants.

Water Pressure

You can use mechanical pressure of water to hose off adult mealybugs and hopefully their eggs too. This is the simplest and the cheapest method.

To generate the desired pressure, simply place your thumb on a garden hose. You can also use your sink’s spray-faucet. Since mealybugs like hiding, a special succulent watering bottle may be helpful in reaching them in their leaf crevices. If you don’t have a set of these in your plant care kit, we highly recommend adding one. Keep a close watch on the plants and if the mealybugs rear their ugly heads, just repeat the treatment.

This method can work best in sturdier plants like cacti and agave but is unsuitable for brittle succulents like sedum morganianum, otherwise known as the burro’s tail.

Be careful not to drown your succulent with this method. Repot if necessary to avoid plant rot.


Isopropyl Alcohol

A very effective and inexpensive solution that knocks those bad bugs off your succulents. Depending on the extent of the invasion, you can use a spray bottle or a simple Q-tip to remove these pests. For small infestations, simply dip a Q-tip in 70% isopropyl alcohol and gently scrub the affected plant.

If the majority of the plant is covered by the pests, use a wash bottle and spray the plant with isopropyl alcohol. Don’t worry about drowning the plant since the alcohol will quickly evaporate. (Obviously don’t spray it too much either, be considerate).

Pay close attention to their hiding places and saturate them with alcohol. After the alcohol has evaporated, all mealybugs should be dead in a few minutes. The grayish bugs turn deep red while the cottony substance disintegrates.

The 70% isopropyl alcohol is completely safe for succulents and they won’t get burnt or damaged. This is because succulents possess a thick cuticle, some sort of barrier found on the leaves to prevent liquids from getting in or out of them. This is the adaptation that’s behind their water-saving prowess.

3 x 950ml Bottles of 99.9+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial...
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels - 16oz Bottle for...
3 x 950ml Bottles of 99.9+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial...
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels - 16oz Bottle for...

Last update on 2022-01-17 / Amazon


How to get rid of mealybugs from succulent plants


This is an organic, broad-spectrum pest control product that is derived from neem oil. Not only is it effective against mealybugs, but also squashes aphids, spider mites, and other pests. This all-natural insecticide is highly lauded as an effective pesticide.

Azamax is dangerous to aquatic life so avoid using it near water features.


Neem Oil

We’ve mentioned this in some of our previous articles but this antiseptic and antifungal pest control solution is an excellent fit for combating mealybugs. It keeps your succulent plants safe too!

We recommend this Neem Oil from Oleavine, it’s affordable and gets the job done! For general pest control simply add 1 Tablespoon per 1 Gallon, this Neem Oil is pretty strong!

Check the product label before using as it has to be diluted before using. Applying neem oil during the day may burn your plants due to the effect of the sun on the oil. Try applying neem oil on your mealybug infested succulent plant at night instead.

Last update on 2022-01-17 / Amazon


Biological Control Methods

You can introduce predators on your succulents that would love to feast on mealy bugs. A great example is a ladybug. They feed on several problematic pests, mealybugs included.

Alternatively, you can opt for the mealybug destroyer. Not kidding, that’s what a Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri does— it will literally crush mealybugs.

Introducing predators to snuff out mealybugs is a low-effort solution. This is best practiced in your outdoor garden as it might be tricky in houseplants. (You don’t want more bugs in your home anyways right?)


How to get rid of mealybugs using ladybugs

4 Tips to Keep Mealybugs Away

  1. Regularly check for any pests. Catching pests especially mealybugs early on makes a huge difference.
  2. If you spot ants around your plant, that may be a sign that mealybugs are present. Isolate your succulent plant and begin treatment right away.
  3. Be mindful to check for pest infestation when introducing a new succulent into your succulent garden.
  4. Use a potting mix that is free of any pests or eggs to your succulents.

If all else fails, it’s okay. Sometimes we can’t fix every issue that arises with succulents but that’s the beauty of plants in general. Growing these beautiful succulents comes with growing pains.

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on Different Types of Planters or even The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully today!

If you enjoyed this article, give us a comment below! Let us know how you handle these pests, maybe we can learn something new too. Or come join the conversation in our exclusive Facebook group, Succulent City Plant Lounge. Also, be sure to subscribe and check for new activity on our Succulent City Youtube channel. We will be releasing some quality packed videos sure to delight all succulent enthusiasts. 



Why Your Succulents Keep Dying (Newbie Guide)

Why Are You Succulents Dying

Whether you’re a newcomer to the succulent world just looking for a pop of color or a long-time cactus convert, succulents and cacti can often be NOT quite the low-maintenance dream they’re cracked up to be. From root rot to mealybugs, the culprits can be varied and often times confusing. But with these quick tips to help you identify and remedy whatever issue arises, you and your succulents will be happy and healthy again in no time! (That Crassula Ovata or Jade Plant will grow like no other).

Watering Your Succulents

Overwatering Succulents

Succulents are frequently native to hot, dry climates, and therefore have evolved to take advantage of every drop of water they can. (Talk about thirsty plants).

This means that when they get too much water they are at risk of developing root rot, a condition stemming from roots sitting in standing water or high-retention soil. An overwatered succulent will start to wrinkle like a finger after too long in the bath or become spongy and yellowed.

Luckily, if caught in time it is easy to fix — all it takes is not watering your plant for several days until the soil dries out completely. In order to prevent overwatering, however, you should be sure to water your succulents only about once a week and plant them in pots with plenty of drainage and soil that doesn’t retain water for very long. 

Cactus and succulent friendly soil is readily available at hardware stores, nurseries, and even some grocery stores, and can also be made at home. Below is our general recommendation and one of the soil products we prefer to use.

Under Watering Succulents

While over-saturation is by far the more common issue, it is also possible to water your succulents too little. This can occur both if your succulents are watered too infrequently, or if they are in too tall a pot. We recommend short and stubby succulent pots. We prefer planters like this 6″ Ceramic Pot, this will give you an idea for what to look for when purchasing planters for your succulents!

Succulent and cactus roots are very shallow, so tall pots with what would generally be considered healthy drainage can draw water away from roots before they have a chance to soak it up. Under watered plants are generally relatively easy to identify, as cactuses tend to shrivel up and pucker while succulent’s upper leaves will begin to dry out and get crunchy.

The solution here is pretty clear: simply water your plant more, aiming for a good soak about once a week. It is often easiest to pick a day to be the succulent watering day, thereby making it a routine that is easy to remember and work into your lifestyle. (Plus, your succulents will look forward to this day).

Watering Succulents from Above

While this is less of an issue for cactuses, succulents often have lots of nooks and crannies near the base of the plant that will catch and retain water if watered from above. This can begin to decay the base and stem of the plant and can be challenging to notice until it is too late and the core of the plant is rotten.

If you notice leaves starting to rot from the base up it is best to pluck those leaves and attempt to remove any standing water or rotten foliage.

However, the best way to avoid this issue is to water your succulents at the base rather than with a spray bottle and avoid letting water land on the tops of the leaves.

Mineral Build Up

Tap water can be full of all manner of minerals from calcium to fluoride to chlorine. While these are all beneficial for their human uses, depending on the levels in your local tap water they can be downright harmful to succulents.

If you begin to notice a white crusty build up on your leaves or the soil around your plant, you may want to consider either switching to watering with distilled or filtered water, which can sometimes be a hassle, or simply letting your water sit for a day or so before use to let any sediments or minerals filter to the bottom of the container.

This practice, while not always necessary, can limit the amount of contact these minerals have with your succulents.

Diseases & Parasites in Your Succulent Plants

Mealy Bugs

Mealybugs are similar to the aphids that appear in outdoor gardens in that they usually show up in large numbers and leave what looks like little bits of dirt on the leaves of your succulent. Unlike aphids, however, mealybugs are generally a whitish-grey and can appear on indoor plants.

They spread quickly, so how can you get rid of mealybugs from your succulents?

The first step in quelling an infestation is always to quarantine any infested succulents. As long as that step is taken first, the follow-up treatment is relatively easy. Simply mix up a solution of three parts isopropyl alcohol to one part water and spray your succulents daily until the mealybugs clear up, usually only a couple of days.

While this may sound dangerous, this solution will not burn your plants and as the alcohol evaporates quickly, you shouldn’t run into any issues with root rot. More often than not mealybugs are attracted to succulents that have been overwatered or over-fertilized, so they are also a good sign to reassess how you’re caring for your succulent.

Having a mealybug problem? Check out our guide on How to Get Rid of Mealy Bugs

Scale Insects

Scale bugs or insects are small shelled bugs of a dark brown color that attach themselves to stems or leaves and suck the moisture from your succulents. While it is best to treat them in their larval stage, they are often hard to locate and are readily treatable in adulthood too.

Unlike mealybugs, scale insects can simply be picked off by hand if you have some time. They can also be treated with the same three to one isopropyl alcohol to water solution as the mealybugs, although they may take more time to respond to the treatment due to their protective shells. (It’s like armor to them).

If you find that the alcohol solution is simply not working you can also use neem oil, which is usually available at your local hardware store. Neem oil can be very concentrated, so be sure to follow the directions on the container to avoid burning your succulents as well as the scale bug. (We definitely don’t want to hurt our baby succulents).

Luckily scale bugs are not a time-sensitive pest as long as you begin to treat them before your succulent plant starts to shrivel, so attempting several treatment methods won’t harm your beautiful succulents.

We like to use something like this for our own succulents.

Other Succulent Pests

There are a variety of other, less common insects, fungi, and diseases that can make your succulent home, but more often than not the three to one isopropyl alcohol to water solution will kill an insect infestation and neem oil will target insects, mites, and fungi.

If you are unsure what category your infestation falls under, begin with the alcohol solution, as it can’t damage your plant. If that doesn’t work, move on to a neem oil solution while being mindful of the directions on your particular container to avoid burning your succulent.

Always begin by isolating the affected plant to avoid the issue spreading. If neither of those solutions work, consider bringing the plant into your local nursery. Like a trip to the doctors! They may be able to identify the issue more specifically and suggest another viable solution.

Succulent Home

Succulent Planter


A thriving cactus or succulent will eventually outgrow its pot, either above or below the soil. Why is that? Because they are adapted to dry environments, succulents, and cacti roots are shallow and tend to grow horizontally, so they can quickly outgrow a pot that is too small or narrow.

If you notice that your succulent isn’t growing anymore, or is beginning to die, it might be time to consider repotting. Rehoming your plant into a slightly larger, and specifically wider, pot can do wonders for growth and the overall health of your plant. Here’s an article we just wrote about the tips and tricks in repotting succulents, it’s quick and easy!

Succulent Climate & Temperature Tolerance

Succulents can be sensitive to extreme cold, so keeping them in above freezing temps is an important part of keeping your plant happy. A succulent that has gotten too cold can look burned, with parts of the upper leaves beginning to brown, droop, or shrivel up.

If you like to sleep with your windows open in the winter and you live in a colder environment, perhaps consider keeping your succulents in a different room when the weather begins to drop below freezing at night.

Succulent Lighting

Succulents thrive in bright sunlight, so housing them in places that don’t receive much natural light can cause stretching as they seek the light they need.

A stretching succulent will get much taller, with leaves spread widely up and down the stem to maximize the amount of light each leaf receives. If you begin to notice stretching simply move your plant to a location with more light, as once stretching has occurred it’s impossible for the plant to return to its original height.

Here’s a highly reviewed indoor grow light on Amazon we’ve found that is perfect for your indoor succulents. You can customize many things with this light and it has become one of our favorites.

When your succulent is in bright sunlight, it is also important to avoid leaving water droplets sitting on its leaves after watering, as the water can focus the light and it risks burning your leaves. This is another reason to be sure to water your plants from below the leaves.

It is also important to remember that it is completely natural and healthy for some leaves to die as the plant grows. So leaves at the base of your plant drying up and falling off is NOT in any way a poor reflection of your care for your succulent family.



Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on Succulent Drainage Requirements or even The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers today!

If you’re new in the succulent world, here are some beginner succulents that are quite easy to take care of when you first begin. Happy growing!