How do I treat "scale" on an office plant?

I can take it into the bathroom or outside to spray it if necessary, but I cannot use anything that smells strongly or would off-gas. I'd like to avoid anything that "looks" obvious as I don't really want people to know my plants have bugs.

The plant is some sort of fern. It was labeled as "Fern" or maybe "tropical plant" when I bought it. I believe it may be a Kangaroo Fern but I'm not 100% sure.

I have been wiping the leaves to manually remove the bugs but it seems this is not enough and each Monday I come back to see more "babies" on the plant. The little guys are really hard to wipe off without damaging the leaves.

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  • Can you add a picture of the plant which also shows the problem please?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:42
  • Photo added. I'll probably wipe the leaves down today just to get the bulk of them off... Again. It's not a good solution though :( Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 18:34

5 Answers 5


Here is a quick answer

  • Take it home
  • Cut every leaf off
  • Reduce water and wait for new growth to appear
  • When scale appears use 5 ml dish soap to one litre water
    • apply with rag or cloth three times at six day intervals
  • Yeah... I won't be cutting all the leaves off. Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:52
  • @SnyperBunny. The leaves will grow back, the existing ones are just a source of more scale
    – kevinskio
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:54
  • It took about a year to get even this big. In my office it does okay but grows VERY slowly. On average cutting the infested leaves off seems like decent advice but I'm not willing to do that. Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:56

If it's a decorative plant just use a systemic insecticide that is absorbed by the roots into the plant tissue.


  • I have used systemics, effective but smelly and hard on a plant. Also require gloves when applied according to the label
    – kevinskio
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 13:19
  • @kevinsky how smelly? Only smelly during application or does it smell for a while after? Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:58
  • 1
    Take the plant home, treat it there and bring it back when it's cured. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 3:59

This solution is a little labor intensive but soapy water in a spray bottle (just a drop or few of soap mind you) applied regularly will suffocate most pests.

it can take a few weeks at once or twice a day, depending on how thoroughly you spray all the nooks and crannies

  • I'll try this as I'd rather not cut all the leaves off as the other answer suggested. It is not the fastest growing plant. How do I know if the scale-bugs are dead? Will they drop off? Or will they simply stop breeding and thus I'll notice that eventually there are no more? Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 16:14
  • In my experience, generally you just stop seeing them. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 13:39

what I do for scale bugs, is to dip a qtip in rubbing alcohol and rub them off... then apply neem oil when I cant see any living scale bug... it usually works pretty well for control, but they are hard to really eliminate...


DO NOT cut off the growth of this plant. Mix Chrysal "Leafshine Concentrate" with water in a spray bottle. Spray the plant (safe to do in the office - I have used this product in countless offices on plants ranging from 6" planters at people's desk to 14" planters with 20 foot trees in them) and wipe clean with a clean cloth. This will not only take care of the scale problem, but it will make the plant shiny and clean, reducing the build of of dust, mites and scale. When you are done I would suggest tying that cloth up in a plastic bag and discarding it away from any plants. Be mindful to not spray any treated surfaces that could be used to walk on. It will turn a floor into "slick shoes". When you see the sheen of your plant fading away apply another application.


  • I'm not really interested in making my plant "shiny". How well does this work to kill the scale? Does it do the same thing as dish-soap by suffocating them? On average how many applications how far apart are necessary to eradicate scale? Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:55
  • 1
    I disagree, these leaf shine products eventually dry to a sticky surface that attracts dust.
    – kevinskio
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:56
  • Your plant being shiny is a bi-product of this stuff - keeps the dust down which makes it more appealing. Yes this stuff will suffocate scale. I would apply once cleaning off all the scale and if you see more scale pop up in the future then you can apply again. I've been looking through my cloud account for before and after photos of some palm trees completely covered that I cleaned, but I have not been able to locate them. Scale is hard to eradicate, but staying on top of it will lead to a healthy plant. Eventually you can just spray the plant without wiping and that will help.
    – KyloP
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 17:01
  • @kevinsky In my 20+ years in the industry I have not encountered that issue.
    – KyloP
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 17:02
  • @KyloP How much more effective is this than spraying with soapy water twice a day for a few weeks? Also, is it water-soluble? Can I spray it with plain water to remove the shine? Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 17:09

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