Everyone loves succulents for their cute looks, vibrant colors, and how easy they are to care for.
Or a wonderful arrangement of different succulents planted close to each other so as to make the planter full of colors.
But life is not all carefree and colorful with succulents. If not care for properly, these beautiful plants may develop diseases that can hinder their growth and potentially kill them.
White spots appearing on your succulents is one such problem.
White Spots on Succulents
White spots on succulents is most often an indication of a fungal plant disease called powdery mildew. Relatively warm and dry conditions promote the growth of this fungus. Hence, succulents are particularly susceptible to the disease. In other cases, white spots may be due to insect infestation, high salt levels, or it may just be a part of the plant’s own defense mechanism.
When White Spots Are Not a Problem
It is better to discuss white spots that do not indicate a threat to your succulents first so that you do not go around treating your plants with fungicides when there is no fungus in the first place.
Some succulent species naturally develop a layer of epicuticular wax, also known as farina.
These apparent white spots on succulent leaves are a layer of wax that a plant naturally develops to deal with various problems.
Developing farina helps these plants deal with drought, as well as protect themselves from harsh sunlight and insects.
Farina is typically developed on glaucous leaves such as those of the Ghost Plant. Farina may appear in a shade of white or blue and can easily be wiped clean off the leaf.
It is essential that you do not mistake farina as something alarming or dangerous for your plants.
You should be able to identify farina if you see white spots on your plants and let it be so it can perform its natural functions.
Farina can easily be identified by observing that it is usually present on glaucous leaves and that the layer of white is evenly spread over the area.
Another way to identify farina is by observing the overall health of your succulent.
If your plant looks healthy and erect, the white spots are likely just farina and not a cause of concern.
Powdery mildew is a common problem for houseplants and is fairly easy to deal with. It exists as a white-colored powdery mold that can live both on the stems and the foliage.
Powdery mildew thrives in warm and dry conditions. These are the same conditions succulents require to thrive.
These similar growing conditions make succulents the easiest targets for a powdery mildew attack.
As compared to farina, which just exists as white spots embedded in the leaf surface, mildew exists as a coating of white powder.
Sometimes the fungal growth may turn gray with yellow, brown, or black spots.
The infection initially exists at one location but can spread throughout the plant if not treated on time.
What Does Powdery Mildew Do to Plants?
In the initial stages of the infection, your succulent may show no signs of distress despite the presence of powdery fungal growth.
The plants will grow equally well until the disease engulfs a significant part of the plant.
As the fungal infection worsens, you will notice deformed leaves or thin, deflated leaves instead of thick and fleshy ones.
The fungus does not let the plant flower and makes it shed excessive amounts of foliage. Ultimately, your succulent may die of powdery mildew.
Treatment of Powdery Mildew
If not treated in time, not only will the affected plant die, but the infection will also spread to other plants.
For treating an affected plant, use disposable gloves to remove the infected foliage and dispose of them so that the disease cannot spread to other plants nearby.
Apply fungicide on the affected plant and nearby succulents that may be at risk of infection.
Fungicides that contain sulfur or neem oil are particularly effective in dealing with powdery mildew.
If you don’t want to buy fungicide commercially, you can prepare a treatment mixture at home with baking soda and horticultural oil.
The Case of Insect Infestation
Whiteflies are parasitic insects that consume the water and nutrients from the succulents they infest. As they feed on the water and nutrients, the insects leave behind a sticky substance on the plant surface.
The insects lay eggs on the lower leaf surface, and the larvae look white and fuzzy, just like powdery mildew.
To confirm whether the white spots are due to white spots, check if the white mildew is sticky to the touch. If it has a sticky texture, whiteflies it is.
Worm castings are an excellent solution to deal with whiteflies. Not only do worm castings act as an excellent fertilizer, but they also provide a substance to the plant that kills whiteflies.
Mealybugs look like tiny cotton balls and may give the appearance of fluffy white spots on succulents when spotted together.
These insects are usually found on indoor succulents. White webs between stems and leaves may also signify the presence of mealybugs.
Mealybugs can be dealt with by spraying isopropyl alcohol over the plants.
Spider mites are also parasitic insects that feed on the nutrients of the succulents. These insects or their colonies are not white, neither are they easily detectable.
However, these mites leave signs of damage on the area of infestation that may appear white or brown.
They can be similarly dealt with by spraying with isopropyl alcohol.
Excess Salt in Water
Most succulents store large amounts of water in their leaves. Plants like Jade plants and Ghost plants have thick leaves with a lot of water inside.
When the groundwater or the water you provide your plants contains a lot of salts, the dissolved salt can travel inside the plants through the water.
When water transpires from the leaves, it leaves behind excess undissolved salt that may appear as white spots on the foliage.
Although you can easily remove the salt by wiping the leaves clean, you must provide your plants with water that has low salt levels to avoid more deep-seated problems.
Frequently Asked Questions about White Spots on Succulents
Do white spots on succulents mean they are going to die?
White spots on succulents, if spotted timely, are a solvable problem. Before you deem your succulent as unsavable and throw it away, you must determine the cause of white spots. With the right steps, almost all white spot problems can be treated, and your plants can be healthy again.
How to prevent powdery mildew?
The key to avoiding a powdery mildew infection is to improve air circulation around your succulents. If your succulents are located near a lot of other plants, separate them and move them to a windier location.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.