Why is Your Succulent Dusty?
What it is & How to Clean it

Does your succulent have a dusty white appearance? There are many possibilities as to what it is and how to clean it!

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Jimena Bolívar

June 06, 2021


Why is Your Succulent Dusty? What it is & How to Clean it Thumbnail

What is the Dust on Your Succulent?

Do you feel like there’s dust on your succulents? Does it look like a strong layer, some sort of thick coat? Well, the truth is, it’s not dust at all!

The apparent dust on succulents is known as farina or epicuticular wax. Bluish in color, it can form a thick layer over the stems, leaves, and fruits of various succulent plants. It aids the succulents in water-repelling, shielding against excessive sunlight and pests. Removing the wax includes simple methods like flaking or rubbing off.

Many succulent plants with a dusty appearance

While farina is not the harmful ‘dust’ on your succulents, there are two harmful ‘dusty’ coats you should be aware of:

  • Whiteflies
  • Powdery mildew

What Plants Make the Farina or Epicuticular Wax?

This farina wax may appear on a variety of succulents, but it is most commonly found in species belonging to the following genus:

  • Sedeveria
  • Echeveria
  • Kalanchoe
  • Graptoveria
  • Pachyphytum

Farina helps keep many species of succulents safe from bacteria, sunburns and dirt.

Why Does Epicuticular Wax or Farina Develop on Succulents?

The dust-resembling wax on your succulent actually protects it from water and sun damage!

A succulent near the window, in the sunlight

The epicuticular wax develops in the form of tiny crystals. The cluster of these crystals aids in shielding the plant from sunburns and water damage.

Not all plants produce the same level of thick farina. The coating may either be thin or thick or even somewhere in between, depending on the species and genus. If your succulent is prone to getting sunburnt or damaged from water, it will produce more farina naturally.

If you find a thick coat of wax on your succulent, then it belongs to that group of plants that need extra protection from excessive sunlight and water.

Should You Remove The Epicuticular Wax or Farina from Your Succulent?

You can remove the farina from your succulents if you want a greener look!

A closeup of farina on succulent

Removal of the epicuticular wax or farina is optional but not recommended. The succulent becomes prone to damage if the wax is removed. Water-repellant, pest, and sunburn-shielding tendencies may decrease or be lost completely.

Removing the thick wax layer may cause your succulents to become more sensitive to the environment. More exposure to sunlight, pests, and water damage can shorten the lifespan of your beloved succulent. So if you love the clean look of plants as opposed to the fuzzy one, it may sound tempting to remove the farina.

Warning!

Planning to remove farina from the surface of your succulent? You may have to move your plant to a different place. Lack of farina means that your plant has more chances of getting burnt in direct sunlight. Shift your plant to a partially sunlit spot.

Warning!

An uneven coat may not be a good sign!

Keep a check on how the farina of your succulent looks. If the layer is uneven, there are chances that it’s not wax but a disease!

How Should You Clean Farina from Your Succulent?

You can easily flake or rub off farina!

Two succulent plants with and without farina

Cleaning farina from the succulent involves gentle flaking. Fingers should be avoided as oils releasing from the skin can damage the layers of the plant.

If you are tempted to remove farina from your plant, ou can do it with any cloth or brush. But make sure that whatever you use to clean, does not have dirt or germs on it! A good, clean makeup brush is just the right size to dust off farina.

Help!

There is no farina on my plant!

Don’t worry, farina has the ability to grow back. It may take a lot of time but your plant will develop epicuticular wax on its own, you never need to produce it artificially.

How Does Your Succulent Care Change After Removing Farina?

Be even more gentle with your succulents after removing farina!

Carefully picking a plant from its soil

The succulent should be protected from excessive usage of pesticides after removal of farina.

From my experience, removal of farina also increases the maintenance of the succulent. When I removed the epicuticular wax off my succulents, it took a long time for it to come back.

Here’s how my succulent responded to the disappearance of its farina:

  • Being more sensitive to sunlight, my succulent plant got a few sunburns here and there.
  • I noticed that my succulents became more inviting for pests.

With time, I started noticing the epicuticular wax coating beginning to appear once again. It started from the middle inner portion of the leaves and as a gradient, moved toward the tips.

How Can You Recognize and Remove Whiteflies?

If you see an uneven spread of white tiny dots, they may be whiteflies!

A closeup of whiteflies on leaf

Whiteflies are flying insects that resemble gnats. They can infect plants and drooping and yellowing leaves are one of the major signs of a whitefly infestation.

Whiteflies can be extremely harmful to your succulents. They produce a very sticky substance, which has a very different texture and appearance compared to farina, that is more dusty rather than gooey.

Steps to Prevent Whiteflies

Whiteflies can easily be removed using worm castings. Worm castings are not just good for preventing an infestation of whiteflies, but they will also act as a fertilizer for your plant. Avoid using insecticides as they don’t get rid of whiteflies, but they do end up killing other predatory insects that feast on whiteflies!

Steps to Remove Whiteflies

Again, worm castings can also be used for whitefly removal. If you see whiteflies, immediately mix worm castings into the soil of your succulent. The flies will sense the enzyme in the casting and they’ll be gone before you know it!

How Can You Recognize and Remove Powdery Mildew?

Powdery mildew is not as evenly spread as farina is!

The texture of powdery mildew on leaf

Powdery mildew is created due to fungus present in the soil of the plant. It makes up an uneven, white and fuzzy distribution on various leaves of the succulent plant.

You will not find powdery mildew on every leaf of the succulent plant, as opposed to farina which is made naturally by the plant. Another characteristic to detect powdery mildew is that neither does it form a gradient, nor does it grow from the inner portion of the leaves toward the outer tips. Therefore, the appearance looks patchy instead of looking thickly coated.

Although powdery mildew is not extremely hazardous, it is good practice to get rid of it as it can weaken the plant. Powdery mildew is produced due to two reasons:

  • Succulent leaves stay wet for some time.
  • The soil of your succulent plant stays wet for too long.

Steps to Prevent Powdery Mildew

Pruning a bunch of crowded leaves can prevent powdery mildew as the plant will become more aerated. Powdery mildew is more likely to appear on leaves where the humidity is high.

Pro-Tip

Avoid spraying or pouring water on the leaves of your succulents!

Want to avoid powdery mildew at all costs? Just focus on how you’re watering your succulent. First things first, your plant should be potted in a well-draining soil mix and container. It will help drain out excessive water. Also, always pour water on the base of the soil, not on the plant itself.

Steps to Remove Powdery Mildew

There are many ways to treat powdery mildew. You can mix a number of things with water and then spray onto the succulent infected with powdery mildew. Here are a few solutions you can try:

  • Mouthwash
  • A fungicide
  • A simple baking soda hack (1 tbsp baking soda, ½ tsp non-detergent liquid soap, 1 gallon of water)
  • Mix 4 parts milk into 6 parts water (40% milk into 60% water)

Help!

What to do about the powdery mildew on my plant?

Don’t worry, just clean it with any of the above solutions. It doesn’t harm the plant immediately so there are high chances of saving your splendid succulent!

Help!

The outer leaves of my plant are dying. Is it because of powdery mildew?

It’s normal for leaves to die. Outer leaves are usually the oldest and if you see them dying, it’s probably because of age.

A Comparison of Farina With Powdery Mildew and Whiteflies

Look closely to check whether the ‘dusty’ layer on your succulent is farina or not!

Farina or epicuticular wax can often be mistaken for other thick layers found on succulents. These may include powdery mildew, which appears as splotches on the plant. Whereas, whitefly infestation is also possible.

So, let’s sum up the differences between farina, powdery mildew and whiteflies to make the recognition and cleaning process easier for you!

  Epicuticular Wax / Farina Powdery Mildew Whiteflies
Production Produced naturally by the plant. It is an internal phenomenon and has no connection with powdery mildew or whiteflies. Produced due to the presence of fungus, which is more than often caused by poor care and high humidity. Flying insects that get attracted to potential plants, whiteflies are an external threat.
Recognition Recognised by a thick white coat that looks like dust at first glance. Recognised by its patchy and uneven texture, may not appear on all leaves. Recognised by a honey-like sticky texture appearing on the leaves. This is produced by the insects, that look like white dots on the plant.
Cleaning You can wipe off farina by using a makeup brush or a neat and tidy cloth. The tool you use should be absolutely clean! You can get rid of powdery mildew by spraying prepared mixed solutions of water. Using worm castings is the easiest way to both prevent and get rid of whiteflies.
Protection/Damage Protects the succulent against sunburns, aquatic damage, pests, and diseases. Never damages the plant as it is a natural protective layer. Damages the succulent and infects it with diseases, it can cause the plant to weaken over time and even die. However, there are no immediate reactions. Damages the succulent by causing the leaves to become yellow, wither and die. Whiteflies deprive the succulent of its nutrients, which can eventually cause the whole plant to die.

So Should You Clean Farina or Not?

While it’s okay to clean farina for aesthetic purposes, it is not good for maintenance. After removal of this thick dusty coat, your succulent will be more exposed to sunlight, pests, and damage from overwatering. Remember not to confuse farina with powdery mildew, which is actually caused due to fungus!

If you’re eager to learn more about succulent care, check out out this guide on how to water succulents!

Do My Succulents Need Water? The Top Ten Tips for Watering Succulents!

Succulents are known for not having to be watered as often as other indoor plants but they still need water to survive. Lets learn more.

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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