General Discussion:

sappy fiscus benjimia

Messages posted to thread:

Carol28-Mar-03 05:32 PM EST 5a   
Susan29-Mar-03 12:25 PM EST 6a   
Will Creed, Horticulturist29-Mar-03 03:18 PM EST   
Carol30-Mar-03 07:50 PM EST 5a   
Carol31-Mar-03 07:52 PM EST 5a   
Susan31-Mar-03 08:25 PM EST 6a   
Will Creed31-Mar-03 09:39 PM EST   
Carol01-Apr-03 12:20 PM EST 5a   

Subject: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 28-Mar-03 05:32 PM EST

Hi everyone, I have a question about my fiscus benji. I purchased it March 2002, it stayed in a sunny window, and went outside in the summer to another sunny location. I have noticed that since about Jan this year it has been seeping sticky sap. I don't know if this is normal, but I know I don't want it all over the place every year. So far the plant is fairly small, (but as it grows and it seems to be growing very well otherwise,) it will create more of a sticky mess. It is about 2 to 3 feet tall right now. Carol

Subject: RE: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 29-Mar-03 12:25 PM EST

Carol - the sticky sap is not normal, especially in the quantity it sounds like you have. Odds are, you have an insect infestation. Although Aphids and mealy bugs are possible suspects, scale is probably the most likely cause. Look for small roundish brown bumps that blend in with the bark. For a really good description of scale and what to do about it, go to the Cornell University page at:

Also keep in mind that benjamina sap can cause mild skin irritation and coughing/wheezing allergy reactions so making a mess on the carpet is not the only problem it can cause....

Subject: RE: sappy Ficus benjamina
From: Will Creed, Horticulturist
Date: 29-Mar-03 03:18 PM EST

The sticky stuff comes from scale insects. Scale insects are hard to identify because they don't look like bugs and don't appear to move. They are oval, slightly raised bumps about an eighth of an inch long and are usually found along leaf stems or on the undersides of leaves. In the juvenile or crawler stage, scales are translucent and take on the color of the leaf or stem surface. As they mature, scales develop a hard, dark brown shell that is more visible. These scales are easily scraped off the plant tissue with a fingernail. As the infestation increases, these sucking insects will secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that falls onto leaves, furniture and floors. (Honeydew is not sap and it does not stain the way that sap does.) This stickiness is the most obvious sign of scale and the one that most people notice first. Favored hosts include ficus, spider plants, ferns, scheffleras, and aralias.

I do not recommend any pesticides because they are all hazardous to use and not 100% effective against scale. The best non-toxic treatment for mealybug and scale is called Brand X Foliage Cleaner (Yes, that's for real). It is available through Southwest Plantscape Products in California. Their phone is 1-800-333-7977. Go to for more information. It is a silicon-based product so it is very slippery. Its ability to penetrate is probably the key to its effectiveness because it gets into the tiny crevices that other sprays miss.

Alternatively, you may want to try spraying with rubbing alcohol that will help break through the hard outer barrier of the scale and kill it. Mix 1 part alcohol with 8 to 10 parts of water. The problem is that the young scale or crawlers are nearly transparent and very hard to see, so you are likely to miss some of them unless you carefully spray all plant surfaces until they drip. It is also best if you repeat this treatment all over again in 5 to 7 days to catch any crawlers that you missed the first time. After that, you should check your plant weekly to see if they return. This is a lot of work, particularly on large plants. Another option is to wash the plant down with soap and water (same dilution as when washing dishes) whenever the stickiness gets to be too much. This will not eradicate the scale, but it will keep it in check.

Whatever you use for treatment, thoroughness of coverage is the key to success.

Subject: RE: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 30-Mar-03 07:50 PM EST

I am so glad I asked, I will start with the rubbing alcohol, and order some brandx too. Thanks Susan and Will

Subject: RE: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 31-Mar-03 07:52 PM EST

I sprayed the plant with the rubbing alcohol and water mix, can I repeat this every day? If I spray the plant with the alcohol mixture can I sit it under the shower to rinse away all the scale stuff afterwards, or should I leave it sitting with the mixture on it and not rinse it off? Carol

Subject: RE: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 31-Mar-03 08:25 PM EST

I've never sprayed with alcohol - I'd be afraid the alcohol might damage leaves. I prefer to find the scale insects (the round bumps) and dab them directly with full-strength alcohol. It's more tedious for sure and might not be practical on a big tree. I think showering the tree would just wash the alcohol off. I think you'd be better to treat the tree for a week or two and not worry about trying to wash off the scales. Since I've not sprayed with alcohol, hopefully Will will read this thread again and say whether daily is OK for spraying. It's OK for dabbing directly on the scales but a broader spraying might cause damage to foliage if done too often...I don't know....

Subject: RE: sappy ficus benjamina
From: Will Creed
Date: 31-Mar-03 09:39 PM EST


Ficus trees are pretty sensitive and it doesn't take much for them to drop some of their leaves. Even a single spraying with a soap or alcohol might cause some additional leaf drop. However, several applications shouldn't cause any permanent damage. It is more inmportant to get rid of the scale insects.

If your concern is to clean up the scale residue, then I recommend a thorough hosing down with plain water a day or two after a thorough spraying with soap or alcohol. The soap and water do their work on contact so there is no advantage to leaving it on for more than 24 hours.

The Brand X cleaner that I mentioned in my previous post is great for cleaning up plants and is especially effective with scale insects. Ficus leaves look gorgeous after they are cleaned with Brand X, which does not leave an oily residue on the leaves.

One or two thorough applications of alcohol or soap sprays should be adequate. Daily applications are redundant and may cause more leaf drop than is necessary.

I have never found the dabbing with alcohol technique to be effective because you only treat the ones that you see. That means that many of the juveniles that you don'rt see will live to maturity and reproduce. It is only a matter of time before the problem returns.

Subject: RE: sappy fiscus benjimia
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 01-Apr-03 12:20 PM EST

Thanks your information it has been invaluable. So far my plant seems to be doing ok. I was already planning on repoting that plant, and I was going to start to fertilize. Can I still do these things and not kill the plant?

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