Though your prized white-leafed caladium tropical plants are generally considered pest free, they are in danger of infestation by mealybugs. Mealybugs have the capacity to result in mild damage to severe cosmetic destruction and diminished health of your tropical plants. Provide proper care and close observation to prevent a hard-to-control mealybug problem.
Vigorous caladiums have a greater potential to elude and recover from attack by mealybug infestation than stressed plants that are already fighting for their health. Grow these tropical plants with white leaves in full sun to partial shade for optimal development. Caladiums thrive in moist, warm soil, according to the Clemson University Extension.
Mealybugs are tiny, soft-bodied, oval-shaped "sucking bugs" that insert their mouths into the plant tissue of your tropical plants to suck out tissue fluids. These pests, as well as their eggs, are often covered in a white waxy substance that makes control difficult as the wax layer is difficult to penetrate.
In addition to the damage caused by lost fluids and puncture wounds, mealybugs excrete honeydew as they feed. Honeydew, a sticky sugary substance, drips onto plant parts and encourages the development of the fungal infection sooty mold. As the name suggests, soot-colored mold develops on the white leaves, often leading to plants that appear completely black, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service. Mealybugs also transmit a saliva-carried toxin into leaves that results in defoliation.
Attempt to prevent an infestation before it occurs on your tropical plants. Purchase pest-free plants and maintain consistent care. Consider the release of predatory insects, like lady beetles, that hunt and kill mealybugs as a biological control. These insects help manage pest infestations without further harming your plants. Purchase predatory insects at garden supply stores or from catalogs.
For the removal of a few mealybugs, saturate a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and displace the bugs by hand, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service. For widespread problems, chemical pesticides are an option but pose a challenge. Though insecticidal soap and chemicals with the active ingredients acephate and imidacloprid are among effective controls, use of these pesticides by the home gardener is not advised. Contact a licensed professional to ensure appropriate application and optimal control.