HELP! My confederate jasmine has stuff growing on it that looks like white puff paint. It is mostly on the joints, but a little on the leaves. I can not see any bugs, but the white stuff, when I move it with a pencil tip, is stringy, kind of like spiders web strings.
The white cottony ‘stuff’ in the leaf axils is home to eggs laid by mealy bugs, which eventually hatch and become microscopic orange crawlers that feed on your plant. Once they reach adult stage, they develop a white waxy coating that is impervious to water and secrete sticky honeydew which attract ants. Mealy bugs reproduce in hot dry conditions, causing yellowing leaves, premature leaf drop and weak, slow growth.
To treat this problem Dip a Q-tip or small paintbrush in alcohol and dab each white mass. This will not completely elliminate the insects because they do not all develop at the same time. They are most vulnerable in the crawler stage. A repeated spray of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% water is a more effective way to treat mealy bugs. A pump sprayer with pressure works best in penetating the waxy coat and getting into the crevices of the plant. In addition, an ultrafine oil or Neem oil will work on the crawlers. Both alcohol and oil treatment will control mealy bugs safely indoors. Be sure to apply once a week for a month even if you do not see any sign of the insect.