White Stuff On Fittonia & Fig Fail To Fruit

Question:

The leaves of my silver-veined Fittonia have developed patches of white, fuzzy stuff along with being sticky. It sits on my office desk, and now my co-workers have noticed that it is sick looking. You can imagine my embarrassment! I've been rubbing the white puffs away when I see them, but it keeps returning. I'm wondering if it may be a 'Micro Spider' and what I can do to stop this?

Answer:

  • A. workplace is stressful enough without having your plants embarrassing you. I'd take the Fittonia home for recovery and replace it at the office with one that is lush and thriving. The overnight revival will make a great water-cooler conversation.
  • The white stuff on houseplants is usually one of two things, Powdery Mildew or Mealybug and not a 'Micro Spider.'
  • Powdery Mildew is a fungus disease that covers the leaf surface with a white film. It can cover the entire leaf or be in random spots. In severe cases, it will also coat the leaf petiole and stems. I do not believe this is your problem as Powdery Mildew is not sticky to the touch while Mealybug can be.
  • Mealybug is a sucking insect like Aphid. It produces white-stringy filaments to cover itself. At a glance, it looks more like a cotton ball. Mealybug feeds on the plant juices.
    • These juices are secreted as a clear, sticky substance called 'Honey Dew.' It's a problem with indoor herbaceous plants, palms, and other tropical plants.
    • With a persistent problem, I'd control the Mealybug with a Systemic granular Insecticide instead of the typical insect spray.
    • Systemic granules are applied to the soil and available at most garden centers. The insecticide is then transported throughout the plant controlling the Mealybug when they attack. 

Question:

We planted a small fig tree from a nursery several years ago. It had three figs about three years ago and has since stopped. It's tall and sparse. A gardener told me to top it so it would fill out more and start producing, but that didn't work. What would you suggest to get it to fruit again? 

Answer:

  • Typically, Figs fail to fruit because they're too young or overfed. But, I don't believe that's the reason in your case.
  • Instead, I'd look at water stress as the cause. Water stress could be too much or not enough or a little of both during the growing season.
  • Water stress will send the tree into a survival mode, and the tree will simply not have the energy needed to invest in making fruit. Poorly draining soil and frequent waterings will prevent the fruit from forming. I'd review your watering pattern.
  • After the rainy season ends, I put a good size watering basin around the tree. It should be six inches tall and extend from the trunk to beyond the drip line. I'd fill it up several times a week with average temperatures and more often when it's warmer. I'd also feed it once in the spring with an organic, fruit, and shade tree fertilizer.