I have a small citronella plant that used to look very leafy and green. All of a sudden, the plant started turning brown, and the leaves were dying.

So I looked at it today, and found some white stuff in the roots. I've included some pictures. I assume it's mealybugs.

I had another citronella plants many months ago that died from this stuff. Here's the thread. I tried washing it but it ended up dying anyways.

I would like to try another solution besides removing the mealybugs with soap and water since it didn't work the first time. Maybe I can spray some home-made & safe solution?

What do you guys suggest?

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  • Is there a way to get an even closer picture of this white stuff. I can't see mealy. To me it looks like white fungus from decaying matter (does not attack plants). Also can you please show us a picture of the actual plant. Are you in a warm area, somewhere this plant will thrive outside this time of the year? I looked at your other photos, but none of them are very close shots either. Is is cottony when you touch it?
    – GardenGems
    Nov 8, 2019 at 5:49
  • Did you recently (just before the leaves started browning) bring the plant indoors for the winter? Or, conversely, outside for the summer?
    – Jurp
    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:53
  • I'm in the Caribbean. I'll try to take more pictures.
    – rbhat
    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:58
  • @Jurp: As a matter of fact, the plant had been in an open outdoor rooftop until last week. I took some days off, so I brought it downstairs. When I came back to the apartment this week, it looked like that.
    – rbhat
    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:59
  • @Jurp: just yesterday I moved it back upstairs.
    – rbhat
    Nov 8, 2019 at 13:00

2 Answers 2


Here is what I would do. First I would dig it up and take it outside or into my bathroom and wash it with water. Then I would replant it with fresh sterile potting soil.

That being said, it is unlikely that the small amount of mealy bugs you have shown in this picture could do that kind of extensive damage to your plant. What is more likely is that you are not watering it properly or it is starving for sunlight.


I've looked at the other thread regarding your scented geranium (Pelargonium) too, but on that one, it looks like mealybug all over the stems. On this one, you say you can see them at the root, but the roots are not visible above ground - I can see (though the image is relatively blurry under magnification) what look like little white insects in your image rather than fungal growth, low down on the stems, above soil level, but I'm not really seeing white cottony masses. These geraniums can get both root mealybugs and mealybug which infests the topgrowth - the treatment is different for both.

To check if there is root mealybug, turn the plant out if its pot and inspect the rootball thoroughly. If you see mealybug in there, follow the directions in this link (scroll down) https://www.joyusgarden.com/fungus-gnats-root-mealybugs/. When you repot, use new potting soil and either a new pot or a cleaned and sterilised (with a scrubbing brush, hot water and soap, rinse thoroughly) pot.

If the mealybug is restricted to the upper parts, above soil level, then, given the lack of success with your previous efforts using soap and water, I'd recommend you seek out an appropriate insecticide that treats for mealybug as well as whitefly, in case it's the latter. Information on Pelargonium pests/diseases here http://www.geraniumsonline.com/pelpests.htm

One other thing - there is a hint of webbing in one or two places on the plant - hard to know if that's from ordinary spiders outdoors or whether its spider mites actually living on the plant, but when you look for an insecticide to spray with, get one that covers spider mite as well as mealybug/white fly.

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