Ask the Garden Guru

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Powdery film on bromeliads

Dear Garden Guru,

My bromeliad has 2 pups about 8" tall. Is this a good time to transplant? Also, just noticed the plants looked striped, and when touched, this "powdery" film does come off. Is the plant sick? Infested? What should I do to correct? Thanks.

Bobbi in Burlingame

Hi Bobbi,

The powdery film is nothing to be worried about. Many Bromeliads are covered with fine scales that are used by the plant to better absorb water or foods. They will readily rub off, leaving the leaf shiny beneath. There is nothing you need to do. Though the pups are of good size, now is not the best time to remove them. It would be better to wait until March to repot them.

Starting a new Christmas cactus

Dear Garden Guru,

How do you make a new start from a very full Christmas cactus?

Lynn in

Hi Lynn,

You can start a new Christmas cactus by breaking off a branch at one of the joint segments and rooting it. Simply dip the moist end in a rooting hormone and stick into a sandy soil or seed starting mix. Place the cutting in a warm, well lit location. Keep the soil moist. The plantlet should begin to grow in about 2 or 3 weeks.

Leaves on my Ficus plant have a sticky feel

Dear Garden Guru,

Many of the leaves on my Ficus plant have a sticky feel to them. The plant is otherwise healthy looking and has no yellowing, or leaf drop. I have tried spraying with Earth-Tone Insecticidal Soap,and have tried wiping the leaves with wet paper-towels, to no avail. Can you suggest what the problem may be, and what may be the solution? Thank you very much.

Judith in San Bruno

Hi Judith,

If you can see no insects, the cause may be over watering. Ficus will “guttate” excess moisture from a pair of glands located at the base of the leaf. They are visible to the naked eye and appear as 2 small kidney bean shaped bumps. As the excess water dries, the stickiness is caused. This stickiness is from sugars that are picked up as the water travels through the plant. Cut back on the water and/or do not let the container stand in a water filled saucer.

To be sure there are no insects, look carefully for scale. They would appear as small tan bumps on the undersides of leaves or coating the small branchlets. Look for mealybug, they appear as cottony growths in the crotches of branches. Check for small aphids on the growing tips towards the top of the tree. If still in doubt, take the tree outside and water thoroughly then spray with an oil spray such as Bonide All Season’s Oil. This will smother any insects the tree may have.

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