How to Save your Succulents from Mealybugs

 Notice the deformed leaves on this mealy bug infested Graptoveria 'Opalina'

Let's talk about every succulent lovers nemesis, the Mealybug. We hate them. We despise them. We loathe them. Get the picture? They are the absolute worst. They can come out of nowhere and destroy beautiful succulents in the blink of an eye! Mealybugs usually look like a white cottony substance that can be found close to the new growth on your succulent. They will be on the stem, at the base of leaves or right in the middle of your plant on rosette types. Mealybugs sneak up on you, so it's good to check your plants from time to time, even if there are no visible signs of them. Most of the time, before you even notice the actual bugs themselves, you will see your leaves beginning to grow misshapen and deformed. This happens when you have pests hanging out near your new growth. 

 Aeonium tabuliforme

Sometimes, it can be harder to spot Mealybugs if you don't carefully inspect the entire plant. On a plant like this Aeonium tabuliforme, the leaves grow so close together even mealys can't squeeze their way in between them.  Instead of having a noticeably deformed plant, the bugs are hiding below, feasting on older leaves and new growth near the stem. This can be a dangerous breeding ground for Mealybugs, making it easier for them to go unnoticed as they spread to nearby plants.

Aeonium-tabuliforme-infested-mealy-bugs.jpg

The mealy situations mentioned above are bearable, and plants such as these will most likely recover quickly with a little assistance. Other times though, the plant can be so infested and damaged, that it's best to just KILL IT WITH FIRE! Not really, but definitely get it as far away from your other succulents as quickly as possible to avoid spreading the infestation. 

So now that we know how to spot the little buggers, what can we do about them? There are all kinds of insecticidal soaps and sprays out there, but are they safe for succulents? We've tried some and weren't super happy with the results. We've tried mixing dish soap with cooking oil and water. Once again, the plants seemed to suffer a visual marring as the beautiful coating on the leaves is permanently removed. Before opening our shop, when we had a lot less plants to care for, we would comb through our succulents and simply stab the Mealybugs with a pin. This option is very effective if you have a few large visible Mealybugs, but does not deal with tiny bugs that are too small to see, eggs, or mealys that might be hidden in the soil.

ladybugs-succulents.jpg

Let's talk about Ladybugs for a minute. Not only are they super cute and harmless to succulents, they are general predators that feed on a variety of problematic insects, including Mealybugs! This is a natural and organic remedy for taking care of your succulent's Mealybug problem. We purchased Ladybugs from Amazon and had so much fun sprinkling them all over our succulents and watching them feast on any aphids, mites and mealys they could find! The great thing about having these little warriors fight your battle for you is that you don't have to spend time examining every inch of your plants in search of pests. The Ladybugs are happy to inspect your garden for you, saving you time and saving your plants from potentially getting damaged in the process. 

 Isopropyl Alcohol kills Mealybugs on succulents and evaporates quickly.

Isopropyl Alcohol kills Mealybugs on succulents and evaporates quickly.

The most effective and immediate solution we have found so far is 70% Isopropyl Alcohol. This readily available and inexpensive remedy has been a lifesaver (literally) for our plants! We keep a squirt bottle full at arms reach at all times. You simply spray your entire plant, taking special care to saturate tricky areas where tiny bugs can be hiding. The alcohol completely evaporates in a few minutes and the Mealybugs should be dead. You can visibly see the cottony substance disintegrate and the grayish white bugs turn a deep red. After the alcohol evaporates we wash our plants with a strong stream of water to remove the dead bugs. You will want to check back in a few days to make sure you got them all. If not, just reapply the alcohol as needed. 

We have used 70% Isopropyl Alcohol on almost every type of succulent with great results.  We do want to note that we have seen slight burning on our Echeveria 'Blue Sky', Graptoveria 'Debie', and Graptoveria amethorum plants. All succulents are different, so if you are unsure, test the alcohol on an inconspicuous area before covering your entire plant. For the plants we mentioned above or any others that you notice a burn after being sprayed, we recommend using 50% Isopropyl Alcohol and reapply as needed. 

A lot of times, Mealybugs can be hard to spot without a microscope! So make sure to check new growth for deformities to catch them before they get out of hand. We noticed some oddly shaped leaves on this Echeveria subsessilis variegata, and sure enough, upon further inspection we found some Mealybugs. 

mealyzoom.jpg
closeupmealy.jpg

We hope this post has been helpful to you! Shoot us an email or leave a comment here if you have any questions and make sure to follow along with us on Instagram @needlesandleaves.

Happy Planting,

Tawni + Krista 

(This blog post contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of those links we get a small commission. We only link to products we have used, loved and think you would benefit from.)

Needles + Leaves 2.0

Variegated Graptopetalum Paraguayense Needles + Leaves

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly two and half years since our last blog post! How on earth did that happen?! Well, there are a lot of reasons, but mostly we've had some amazing opportunities to grow Needles + Leaves in other areas.  From creating our hearts out for local craft shows, teaching workshops, doing custom business installations, opening our online succulent retail store, and raising the six kids we have between the two of us, we've had our hands pretty full! All that being said, we unintentionally put adding to this space on the back burner for way too long! 

 Needles + Leaves succulent booth at the Carlsbad Street Faire Spring 2018

Needles + Leaves succulent booth at the Carlsbad Street Faire Spring 2018

Looking back, we wish we would have treated this blog more like a journal so that you could have come along with us on all of our succulent adventures as they happened. Plant shopping, coming up with new DIY ideas, exploring cute Instagramable (that's a word now, right?) cafés, setting up shop at craft shows, and building our home nursery, are just a few of the things we should have been documenting. 

So, what's changed? Why start now? Well, over the past couple of months a lot has changed for us. We went from spending nearly everyday together, to living about two hours apart. The move was pretty unexpected and a little devastating at first. We closed our shop and we both cried. (Which is shocking if you know me!) We figured that was the end of that.  We had some people offer to buy the business, but the more we thought about it, the more we could't imagine Needles + Leaves existing without us! I mean, we ARE Needles + Leaves! We started brainstorming on how to make it work from a distance. We came to the conclusion that a two hour drive would definitely make running a business together more challenging, but not impossible. 

 Krista taking inventory at our home nursery.

Krista taking inventory at our home nursery.

A big part of our plan to keep Needles + Leaves alive is placing a bigger focus on the blog, which is how this whole venture started for us anyways! As much as we love going through the creative process together,  blogging is something we can do together but separate. 

We are so excited to be officially re-openeing our shop in the coming days!  We love being able to bring you the most beautiful succulents Southern California has to offer.  We are always amazed to see where our customers live around the country, from down the street to New York City! We get so much joy from sharing our beautiful plants with you all. 

Please check back in to see what we are up to in the coming weeks and months! We can't wait to begin sharing projects and information with you again!

Happy Planting!

Tawni + Krista

How to Grow Succulents in Artificial Light

how-to-grow-succulents-indoors-in-artificial-grow-lights-needlesandleaves_net.jpg

Living in sunny Southern California, I don't have much experience with growing succulents in cold temperatures and dark winters. I'm lucky enough to be able to leave my plants outdoors year round with little or no damage from frost and low light. I realize that many of you live around the globe and are wondering what to do now that you've brought your plants inside for the winter. Maybe you have your plants in window sills, but they are still getting leggy, or maybe you just don't get any sunlight where you live during the winter months. Look no further! I'm so excited to have Ben Thorton, indoor plant growing expert, here with us today to share his knowledge on using grow lights to help nurture your beautiful garden no matter what your light conditions! 


Author: Ben Thorton

Lately succulents have become one of the most popular house plants, because they look very pretty, add a nice vibe to your house and also don’t require as much care and water as other house plants do. Because succulents are warmth and sun loving plants, many are afraid to grow succulents in places where the summer season isn’t that long. You might be surprised to know you can still grow your succulents year round even if you live in a climate where there are distinct seasons and winter months are cold and dark. Just bring them inside once cooler temperatures hit and use artificial lights to give your succulents the light they need. If you are on the fence about using grow lights or are afraid that you might hurt your plants by using them, here is a quick guide to growing your succulents indoors and under artificial lights.

Artificial lights can be defined as lights that are either used in addition to natural sunlight or lights that are used to completely imitate sunlight in conditions where there is actually no sunlight available. For humans, artificial light cannot replace real sunlight, because we get vitamin D from sunlight which is one of the most essential vitamins in the human body.  Plants are a little different, because the only thing they need from sunlight is the light itself.  When plants receive light a process called photosynthesis happens and they get the energy they need to grow. As long as you provide the correct amount of light, you are able to grow plants including succulents under artificial light as good, if not better, than you would outdoors in real sunlight. However, you still need to choose the most suitable lights and know a few things about how to use them, to be successful at growing your succulents in your home.

When choosing artificial lighting for an indoor garden there are a couple of things that you need to think about when you are making the decision. And these things are:

  • How bright and powerful is the light that the grow lights emit?

First and foremost you need to think about how bright the light that comes from grow lights will be, because this will determine how much light the plants get and how well they will be able to grow. For succulents, you need lights that will emit at least 2,000 lumens for each square foot of light. In direct sunlight at noon there are 10,000 lumens per square foot, but if you run 2,000 or more lumen bulbs for 14 or more hours a day, the plants will get approximately the same light exposure as they would in the heat of the summer.

  • How many watts the light consumes?

Another thing you need to think about is what wattage the grow lights you buy have, because this will affect your electricity bill. The more watts a light consumes, the more you have to pay for your electricity, so you don’t want to buy a light that is bright, but chews up a lot of watts, as that will be very expensive. Look for lights that are labeled energy efficient, because they will most likely have high lumen count and low wattage, giving you the best of both worlds – bright light for your plants and small electricity consumption for you.

  • In what color temperature is the light that comes from the grow lights?

Because succulents are sun loving plants, they prefer bright light over shadow which is why they also require a specific light in terms of the color temperature of the light. Color temperature is essentially the visible color that the grow lights radiate. This is measured in Kelvins.  Plants need light that is in a specific range of color temperatures to be able to give the them the light they need to grow. The optimal color temperature for succulents starts at about 5,000 Kelvins which will give your succulents cool and full spectrum light that closely resembles sunlight.

  • How much heat does the light radiate?

Lastly, it is very important to know how much heat the grow lights radiate. If they give off a lot of heat, then you could have a problem with the room where you grow your succulents being too hot, which will result in you having to spend more money on a good ventilation or cooling system. On top of that, if lights emit a lot of heat, you will also have to place your plants further from the lights, so they don’t get burned.  This can result in your plants not getting enough light. There are some common grow lights that are known to have high heat emission and some that are cool to touch even after they have been on for 24 hours. Before purchasing a grow light check to make sure it doesn’t produce too much heat. 

My recommendation: As I have worked with many different grow lights, I would recommend you to buy T5 grow lights because these tube shaped fluorescent lights that are 5 eights of an inch in diameter, have all the characteristics of a good grow light. You are able to purchase T5 grow lights in multiple configurations starting from two different lengths (2 ft and 4 ft bulbs) to many different bulb counts (from 1 to 12 bulbs in one fixture), different efficiency types (Normal Output (NO), High Output (HO) and Very High Output (VHO)) and different color temperature varieties (from only 2,900 Kelvins up to 10,000 Kelvins). I usually use High output (HO) bulbs, because one 2 foot HO T5 bulb will consume only 24 watts but will give out 2,000 lumens where as one 4 foot long high output T5 bulb will consume 54 watts but will give out 5,000 lumens worth of light.  If you combine one or the other length bulbs in a group of 2 or more bulbs and chose bulbs that are in the color temperature of 6,500 Kelvins, you get really efficient light that is perfect for succulents.

Although choosing the right artificial light is big part of successfully growing your plants in an indoors garden, you also need to know a few more things that will help you do even better at growing plants inside.

  • Know how high you need to hang the grow lights from your plant canopies

A crucial piece of knowledge is to know how high to hang your grow lights, because it determines how much light the plants get. Whether you choose T5 fixtures or you decide on different grow lights, you need to hang them up so that they are able to give the plants the maximum amount of light without burning the plants with the heat that radiates from these lights. I would recommend to first put any grow light at least 6 to 8 inches away from the tops of your succulents, because this will lessen the chance of your grow lights burning and damaging your plants. Later, if you find that your lighting doesn’t give out heat and is cool to touch (like T5 grow lights), you can place them closer to the succulents so they get more intense light.

  • Figure out the light cycles

A specificity of indoor plant growing with grow lights is that you need to figure out what the light cycle for the plants will be, as there won’t be sun that dictates when plants get the light. Light cycles are used to simulate the conditions of day and night for indoor gardens and you need to know your light cycles to grow your succulents faster. A general rule of thumb for growing any plants under lights is that the more light you give them, the faster they will grow and the same can be attributed to succulents. If you are overwintering the plants, then I would put the succulents at first on 20/4 light cycle meaning that I would leave the lights on for 20 hours a day and then turn them off for 4 hours and slowly increase the darkness period so the light cycle is 16/8 (light/dark). Succulents need to know when it is winter, so they can start their dormant process. If you use grow lights all year around for your succulents, during the summer you can have them on 24/0 or 20/4 light cycle for them to grow quickly and thrive.

  • Know how often to water your succulents

And lastly, watering too is a very important thing, because under watering and also overwatering your plants will damage them. During the summer, even if you are imitating summer with grow lights, you need to water the succulents normally, meaning that you water them once the soil is dry. It is a different story during the winter, even if succulents are grown indoors. During the winter or imitated winter, succulents are dormant, so they need much less water, because they are either growing very slowly or not growing at all. So how often to water succulents in the winter then? Generally, I would recommend to water them about every 2 weeks, but you will need to water them more often if the room you are growing them in is hot, because the heat will dry them out quicker. If you are not sure how often your succulents need water during the winter period, just look at the soil in which succulents are growing. In winter, let the soil dry out and then wait about one week during which succulents will absorb the water and only then will you want to water them, so they are not overwatered. 

Hope this guide to growing succulents indoors and under artificial lights will help you to grow and maintain your plants even during the coldest of winters. If you want to find out more information about growing plants indoors, T5 lights or maybe to just ask me additional questions, you can visit my website T5Fixtures, where I share my experience of how to grow plants indoors more successfully.

Added January 2017: 

For more information on growing succulents in artificial light, check out this article on Epic Gardening called T5 Grow Lights Guide for 2017!

 

Related

 Tips for Growing Healthy Succulents

Tips for Growing Healthy Succulents

 Shop our Premium Succulents

Shop our Premium Succulents

 How to Propagate Succulents

How to Propagate Succulents