The jade plant (Crassula argentea) is a popular choice for indoor gardening due to the fact that it needs only small amounts of water and a lot of sun. The slow-growing plant reaches anywhere from 1 to 5 feet and blooms small pink flowers from November through April if its lighting requirements are met. Yet, the mealy bug is a common pest to the jade plant. While there are over 275 species of the insect, only two (root mealy and mealy) present a problem for the plant. Fortunately, getting rid of the pests is simple.
While the mealy bug has tropical origins, it has been a problem for ornamental and citrus plants in the United States since 1879, according to Iowa State University Extension.
Mealy bugs are easy to identify as they have a white, cotton-like covering on their bodies. The bugs are small, with the adults varying in size from 2 mm to 6 mm.
Mealy bugs typically congregate along the veins of the plant’s leaves or where stems join leaves to give them easy access for feeding. The root mealy bug, as its name implies, is found on the roots of the jade plant.
The root mealy bug feeds on the roots of the plant and, if left untreated, will destroy it. Mealy bugs suck the juices from the plant’s leaves. If the bugs continue to multiply and feed, the leaves will turn yellow and then drop.
For a natural approach to controlling mealy bugs, use pruning shears to cut and destroy infested branches. A small infestation may be controlled by wiping the insects with a cotton swab that is dipped in rubbing alcohol, or wipe the leaves with insecticidal soap. It may be necessary to repeat this procedure each week until the bugs are eliminated. Root mealy bugs can be more difficult to treat. Applying heavy amounts of diazinon may help, but a jade plant heavily infested with either mealy bugs or root mealy bugs is best discarded.