African Violets are one of the most popular small indoor plants that produce beautiful flowers. They can also be grown outdoors, depending on the climate.
Their common name originates from their seeming likeness to actual violets. Their botanical name is Saintpaulia.
African Violets gained popularity for several reasons:
- They tend to be relatively easy to care for
- An African Violet blooms for 10 to 12 months of the year
- They prefer climates comfortable to humans
- Easy to start from leaf cuttings
Like most plants found in nature, they have insect pests and disease issues. One of the more common pest issues found on the African Violet is mealybugs. Luckily, this is easily treatable.
More on What Kills Mealybugs
African Violets and Mealybugs
Mealy bugs refer to a group of small insects that feed off of the sap of plants. They are notoriously found in house plants and range in size from 1/16″ to 1/4″ inch. The mealy bugs themselves are covered in a white, sticky, powder-like substance and feed off plants’ leaves or leaf stems.
The mealybug’s sticky coating tends to leave an easy trail to identify them on an African Violet. Here are a few things to look for:
- Leaves with white specks
- Stems with white specks
- Leaves with sticky honeydew (sugary material)
- Leaves with black fungus
- Wilting leaves
- Pale leaves
- Slowed plant growth
- Visible insects
If your plant has any of these symptoms, isolate it right away to not spread mealybugs to other plants. Once isolated, follow a proper treatment based on the level of your infestation.
The most common mealy bugs attacking the African Violet are:
- Citrus mealybug – Planococcus citri
- Comstock mealybug – Pseudococcus comstocki
What Damage Do Mealybugs Cause To An African Violet
An African Violet with a mealybug infestation, displays stunted growth and/or distorted leaf shapes. If the infestation continues to grow, it can ultimately lead to plant death, so you must treat it as soon as you see it.
How to Treat a Mealybug Infestation
Before treating your African Violet, identify the severity of your mealybug infestation.
Treating a Minor Mealybug Infestation
For a minor infestation, treat with household rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol).
Follow these steps:
- Touch the insects with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol 70%)
- Lightly rinse the plant with lukewarm water
- Do not let any residual water remain on the plant
- Repeat as necessary as you see new mealybugs appear
Treating a Major Mealybug Infestation
If you have a more massive infestation, a systemic insecticide labeled for African Violet plants may be required. Here are a couple of options, but be wary as the plant themselves can be sensitive to chemicals:
- Acephate (may damage foliage)
- Malathion (may discolor flowers)
- Mix own spray using Orthene 75-S (as directed on label)
Repeat whichever insecticide treatment every four or five days until the mealybug infestation is gone.
With all pesticides, follow the manufacturer’s label directions. Failure to do so could result in damage to your plant and even ill health in you.
Alternative Mealybug Treatments
One alternative to traditional chemical treatments of heavy mealybug infestations is Neem (Azadirachtin). Neem oil is an organic insecticide that comes from the seeds off of the Neem Tree.
Neem works on African Violets by making the leaves and stems unpalatable to mealybugs. If you like a natural pest solution Neem is an excellent alternative that is non-toxic to humans.
Mealybug Prevention Methods
To avoid African Violet mealybug infestation, inspect new plants when bringing them home. Be sure to check the entire plant and the pot for insects and mealybug eggs.
NOTE: African Violet plants are also attacked by soil mealybugs hiding just below the soil surface. If watering from below take an extra check for soil mealybug infestations.
Mealybugs can be tough to get rid of, being proactive is always in your best interest.
Even when trying to prevent mealybug infestations, they may still find a way to your plant. Check your plants often, to catch an infestation early.