Succulent with cracked, scabby leaves

Succulent Pests and Problems Q&A Forum

Got a mystery malady?

Start with this site's Succulent Pests, Diseases and Problems resource page, where you'll find 30+ succulent concerns. For each I show a photo, explain the severity (from normal to fatal), describe the problem, and tell what action to take if any.

Not finding what you need?

Please post a comment below, so others can see it and benefit from the answer as well. Your own tried-and-true solutions are welcome, too!

This page is a forum for you to ask questions and share what works for you. 

So, if you have pests, problems or concerns that aren't answered elsewhere, do let me know...HERE please, rather than emailing me---unless you absolutely need to...

...Send a Photo?

WordPress won't let you attach photos to comments. (I think they're trying to protect me from porn.) However, you can always reply to one of my email newsletters with a photo attached. Keep it clean, ha. 

Need a Good Laugh?

If you have a skunk, here's what NOT to do. (Filmed by Jeanne Meadow in her succulent garden. Her poor husband!)

Related info

Succulent roots gone (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Uh-oh, Is My Succulent Sick? Common pests, diseases and problems, plus solutions

Succulent Pests, Diseases and Problems Keep your succulents healthy, happy and looking their very best WEEVIL ALERT: Learn More: Agave Weevil ON THIS PAGE you’ll find photos of common succulent pests, diseases and problems; and discover causes, severity, prevention and treatments. VIDEOS: On my YouTube Channel, view my Pests and Diseases playlist (eight videos) and Oh, No!…

Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment

Agave snout-nosed weevil is a half-inch-long black beetle with a downward-curving proboscis that enables it to pierce an agave’s core, where it lays its eggs. Grubs hatch, consume the agave’s heart, then burrow into the soil to pupate.

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Echeveria being sprayed (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

How to Deal with Mealy Bugs on Succulents

If you grow succulents, sooner or later you’ll deal with mealy bugs. For newbies, mealies often come as a surprise. Suddenly the plants are dotted and webbed with what looks like lint. Veterans are more vigilant. We check for

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47 Comments

  1. Lizzy on July 5, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Debra ,
    I have learned a lot from your site about succulents and their care.
    Especially helpful to me is the information you provided on the snout nose weevil.
    Unfortunately, all of my various agaves have been attacked. It took me over 3 hours to dig up around 50 in various sizes. Many more hours treating the soil for the larve and the plants. I was able to save 90 percent.
    I am so glad you included the information on the treatment and prevention. By the way, most folks I talk to are unaware of the pest even at some major nursery’s in the north county of San Diego where I reside. It’s hard to believe that most people are unaware of this garden pest!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 5, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Lizzy — I know. Drives me nuts. I do my best to get the word out, but you’re right, most folks and even nursery employees are unaware of agave snout-nose weevil. I guess no one wants to hear bad news or to be told they need to tackle an unpleasant, time-consuming task. It’s only the true gardeners—people like you, me and Jeanne Meadow—who want to know what’s threatening our private Edens and quickly take action to prevent it. But hey, isn’t it terrific that you salvaged 90%? Round of applause, girl! That’s how it’s done! — Debra

  2. Richard Slechta on July 5, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Debra,
    Such a helpful guide to those tricky pests and problems.

    What can you tell us about why Aloe tips turn brown? I’ve seen it on several varieties of mine and in others gardens, but most common on the ones with longer leaves, like Marlothii and Dichotoma. It doesn’t resemble a insect pest damage, nor from physical trauma. I’m in Los Angeles about 5 miles from the coast, so we do get dew regularly.
    Thanks for any tips you can offer.
    Cheers, Richard

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 5, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Richard — Yep. Right now I have an Aloe thraskii that has unsightly browned (then whitened) leaf tips, and I’m debating what to do about it. On the one hand, they protect the rest of the leaf and those beneath from harsh sun and temperature extremes. On the other, I’m tired of looking at them. To answer your question, leaf tip desiccation is usually an aftermath of frost or scorching sun. It can also be related to under-watering…the plant can’t manage to pump water all the way to the tips (not enough hydraulic pressure). It’s not caused by overwatering…that’s when the core rots, not the tips. Some species are prone to leaf-tip desiccation, especially spotted ones (A. maculata and hybrids) and IMHO the way the dry tips curl looks kind of cool. When trimming any pointed succulent leaf (including agaves), make two cuts to create an outward-pointing “V,” so the cut isn’t as noticeable as straight across. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Karen on July 5, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I have squirrels chewing on my succulents. Any advice?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      If you live in an area where predators like coyotes are kept out (like a gated community), bunnies and squirrels may be prolific. Some measures that can help include: Installing an owl box; dusting the plants with crushed red chilis or spraying a squirrel repellent. Also there are solar- and battery-powered electronic devices that emit a high-frequency sound that repels squirrels and the like. This one, for about $30 on Amazon, can be set for cats, dogs, skunks, squirrels and raccoons.

      • George Tabora on July 13, 2019 at 11:39 am

        I actually caught one this morning using a trap. I wanted to post a picture here but I do not know how. However, Amazon sells a similar trap for $20, called “Heavy Duty Squirrel Trap Chipmunk Trap and Other Similar-Size Rodents”. If you have a garden, you must have one of these because it is the only product I know that works every time. (Very good in catching rabbits, too). I used four pieces of almonds as bait. Any nuts, except peanuts, will do as bait for squirrels. Make sure that you release the squirrel far from your garden because squirrels will easily find their way back to your garden if released nearby. It is worth driving a couple of miles away to release this creature in the open. Good Luck!

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 13, 2019 at 1:28 pm

          Hi George — Good to know, especially about the almonds. No wonder squirrels leave my bird feeders alone. I’ve read that squirrels can find their way home if released within 7 miles. (They did studies after painting tails, transporting, and releasing.) Now here’s the thing: No one wants a squirrel released on their property, and it’s illegal to release one on public land, so where do you take it? Maybe to the beach (beyond the surf break)? Don’t answer that.

          • George Tabora on July 13, 2019 at 7:56 pm

            Hi Debra – Good point. One must check with their Fish and Game local agency office to make sure regulations are abided by when dealing with game and non-game mammals.



          • Connie Beck on December 9, 2020 at 12:07 pm

            I’m pretty sure it is against state law to take rodents and vermin off your own property. Besides, when you dump them someplace else they are in an established area for others of their kind, and those others are not welcoming: they kill the dropped off intruders. If you are going to catch them you probably should just drown them on your own property.



          • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 9, 2020 at 1:28 pm

            Yep. I agree.



  4. Monica Mosack on July 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I have raccoons in my neighborhood. My front yard is full of succulents and vegetable plants. The raccoons paw through the dirt at night looking for delicious grubs. I placed medium sized black lava rocks around the roots of my vegetable plants. The raccoons can dig for grubs in areas between the plant rows. Works for all of us. I used to have bunnies and squirrels in my backyard. Getting 4 dogs seems to have solved that problem. The only animal brave enough to go back there is the opossum who taunts the dogs from the fence.

  5. Kristi on December 6, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Help!!!! At my wits end with an infestation of what I think is mealy bugs on my beloved Jade plant. I’ve sprayed the plant with 70% Isopropyl alcohol repeatedly and still have a problem. Not too mention hard to spray in the shower with the smell!!! I live in Denver so needless to say its cold here! There is damage/scarring where the leaves meet the stem and in the middle of some of the leaves. The plant is very big and dense so its difficult to spray into the middle and hit all the leaves and underneath. The plant is very heavy but we do have some warmer weather this week that I can take it outside to spray the plant with alcohol heavily. Short of cutting off every leaf, is there anything else I can try? Is there a safe systemic insecticide to try? I have all your books, watch your You Tube videos and follow you on Instagram! I feel I am doing what I need to do but don’t seem to getting rid of these pests! Before I get overcome with alcohol or do major surgery, do you have any suggestions?
    I so appreciate your help! Keep up the good work!
    Thanks, Kristi

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 6, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Kristi —

      Once a mealy bug infestation gets that bad, conventional wisdom is to get rid of the plant. But this one is important to you, so here are some things to try:

      — Take it outside on a warm day (above 40 degrees) and hose it down. It’s OK if some leaves fall off. If they’re that loose, they probably would anyway.

      — Repot it. Mealies can get in the soil.

      — If that’s not possible, fill a bucket with water and add systemic insecticide “for sucking insects” and use per label directions. Wear gloves. Brands available on Amazon are BioAdvanced and Monterey Systemic Soil Drench. Let sit until the soil is soaked—an hour or so.

      — After it’s hosed (and/or soaked), drench leaves and stems with dilute insecticide. Let the plant dry before bringing it back into the house.

      OK, now the bugs are killed. You still need to prevent an infestation from recurring.

      — Do NOT put the plant back where it was. However, DO clean the area thoroughly, because mealies can hide in, and lay eggs in, the tiniest crevices.

      — Check other potted plants for the pests. Indoor plants can be breeding grounds. Get rid of or isolate any that have the problem. Treat with alcohol. If plants are severely infested but are worth saving, follow the steps above.

      — Good air circulation is key to keeping airborne pests from settling in. To help it recover over the winter, you might put your jade under full-spectrum lights and use a fan (both on a 12-hour timer).

      — Consider thinning it out so air circulates through the plant. Jade cuttings are as good as having new plants, they’re that easy to start.

      Keep me posted on the patient’s progress!

  6. James Maeding on December 9, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Hi Debra,
    The mealy bug topic could use some more info I think.
    How do those insects spread in the first place, besides a human moving them maybe by using contaminated soil from another plant with them? I think its ants that plant them, to then eat the sticky stuff they seem to make.
    Will they crawl from plant to plant, fly?
    Is the tiny crawling form a larvae that will turn into a fly?
    That matters as it explains how they might spread, and what stage we are killing them at, and what chemicals work on what stage.
    I use Bioadvanced 3 in 1 insect disease and mite control, not the one you listed. I use it on all plants in the yard and it works pretty well.
    However, the mealys that hide under mounds of spempervivums are hard to get at. Even if you re-pot, they can hide in the soil and leaves.
    I think that soil drench might be the trick.
    I also use a toothbrush to remove them from leaves, so physical attention pays.
    Anyway, would like to know more on how these things seem to survive and spread more, as things like ant spray might be in order too.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 9, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Hi James — Thank you for a well-thought-out comment. I do have an entire page devoted to mealy bugs that addresses much of this. The pests weigh less than nothing, so when plants are outdoors (or indoors with good air circulation) mealies generally aren’t a problem. On the other hand, their ubiquity is largely due to their landing on plants just like bits of dust do. Yes, they pupate, but they don’t fly. Re using a toothbrush, that might be OK on sempervivums, which have leaves like crisp paper, but it might damage the softer tissues of echeverias (which are candy to mealies) and certainly aeoniums, which tend to show black marks as a result of abrasion.

  7. Carole on January 16, 2021 at 10:13 am

    My Euphorbia Lactea ‘White Ghost’ has developed blackish-brown rings. Any idea how I treat this, please? You are welcome to use the picture if you’ve come across this before.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 16, 2021 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Carole — Uh-oh. Sounds like rot. It’s super easy to overwater these plants. And even if you don’t, they’re finicky. Also possibly sunburn. You may need to take cuttings of the healthy tissue and restart it in fresh soil.

      • Izzy on January 22, 2021 at 6:41 am

        Hello, I am unsure what has happened to my cactus! Half of it has started to be covered by a sort of peeley white/ light brown layer and I am not sure what to do with it. I’d love to leave a picture but I can’t put it in the box.. thank you!

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 22, 2021 at 10:53 am

          Hi Izzy — Sure sounds like a classic case of sunburn. Did you move it so that the side that was normally shaded was exposed? Happens all the time. Plus certain cacti are sensitive. WordPress won’t take comments with photos attached. But you can send a photo in a reply to my email newsletter.

          • Izzy on January 29, 2021 at 3:11 am

            Thank you! I did turn it around when I watered it I think, thanks for your advice! Do you know if there is a way to help get rid of it please?



          • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 29, 2021 at 10:25 am

            Hi Izzy — Patience, hon. There’s no fixing it, but it will outgrow the damage as new leaves form and old ones are concealed and eventually wither and fall off.



  8. Selena on February 15, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Hi, I got this succulent in November to put in my dorm in the hallway/sink area. It usually gets splashed by a little water when someone uses the sink but not a lot. Above the sinks there is a light that’s usually always on. I noticed these brown spots only on this one succulent so I moved it to my room so it can sit on my window. It’s been a couple days and it’s still like this. What am I doing wrong?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on February 17, 2021 at 9:05 am

      (Selena emailed me a photo. You can do that too by simply clicking “reply” in response to one of my newsletters.)

      Hi Selena — The plant in the foreground (Echeveria agavoides) is highly sensitive to overwatering. You can see it in my video on checking succulents after rainstorms (mine has red edges due to greater sunlight). You’ll find the first 2:10 minutes of the video the most helpful.

      The succulents in back—aloe and crassula—are not as sensitive, but if it IS rot, it may spread through the soil and affect them as well. Remove, repot in fresh potting soil, give more light, and water sparingly. Remove any squishy leaves. (I’m guessing the lower ones might be.)

      I’m concerned there may be unhealthy pathogens in the soil that the plants are growing in, so I’d rather you didn’t reuse it. You can buy a bagful of potting soil on Amazon for $4.99, or find it at any garden center. Or maybe drop by the gardening maintenance area of the college and ask for a few cupfuls. They probably have a mountain of it.
      LMK how it goes —
      Debra

  9. Shelley on March 2, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Hi there! I bought a succulent log arrangement in the last month, and the one succulent in it has recently developed a problem and I can’t figure out what’s causing it! Someone has suggested that my house is too dry – but I’m not sure if that would cause these black/white spots to develop? I have watered it, but tried to be careful not to overwater! I’ve sent a picture, hoping you can help me 🙂 Thanks!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 2, 2021 at 6:40 pm

      Hi Shelley — I’m guessing some sort of fungus, so if anything your house is not dry enough. The plants are starved for light—the way they’re showing a lighter green closer to the stem means they’re flattening to expose more tissue to available sun. Those crusty patches on the jade are troubling too, also possibly fungus or something more serious. Can you move it outdoors, but not into full sun right away? It needs time to acclimate. Keep it on the dry side. No water for awhile. I’m concerned those plants may rot.

  10. Erika Avina on March 3, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Debra!

    I have/had a serious mycoplasma infection in my succulent planters (1/2 barrels) and have pulled out all the plants and trashed them. The plants more affected were my Dick Wright hybrids and echeverias prone to being a bit more fussy (warty hybrids are my faves- sea dragon, etna, etc). I had some Aeonium and hardier echeverias that were spared but lived next to diseased plants. Should those be tossed too? This is my 17th year growing succulents and a devastating first for me.

    They all were in 2 half wine barrel planters My question for you is this: should I toss all the soil? Should I be concerned about the other plants in my yard? Is this infection airborne at all?

    The soils used was not the issue. It was plants introduced to the barrels about 6 weeks ago. They were from a trusted seller and I didn’t quarantine like I usually do.

    Any insight would be much appreciated.
    Erika

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 3, 2021 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Erika — Yes, toss the soil. Don’t just dump it in the garden or compost pile, bag it for the trash. Repot possibly infected plants in fresh soil in pots where you can keep an eye on them. Disinfect the half barrels with dilute bleach before reusing them. As far as I know, this isn’t an airborne pathogen, but it seems likely wet soils could transmit it from one part of a garden to another. Important: Let the “trusted seller” know that they’re selling diseased plants, and ask for your money back! Btw, I updated the mycoplasma info on the Pests and Diseases Page recently, so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already. (Scroll down to “Crackled, Scabby Patches.”) Let me know how it goes—I’m rooting for you (no pun intended).

      • Erika Avina on March 3, 2021 at 8:35 pm

        Thank you for your reply, Debra. I so appreciate it.

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 4, 2021 at 8:30 am

          My pleasure, Erika!

          • Jennifer Simon on April 26, 2021 at 9:25 pm

            I have recently discovered (thanks to your site) that I have had a E. red prince with a mycoplasma infection. It has been tossed along with the soil and some propped babies. Unfortunately it was in the same condition for a long time and I am unsure whether some issues that I’m seeing on other plants (some that were nearby and some that weren’t) are the beginnings of mycoplasma or some other type of damage or infection. I’ve had issues with mealies in the past but haven’t seen any in a while and have never seen any on the plants in question.



          • Debra Lee Baldwin on April 30, 2021 at 3:59 pm

            Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Yes it looks like mycoplasma, and unfortunately there’s no cure for it. It’s in the soil, so don’t reuse it.

            I’ve corresponded with others who have had the same disappointment, and it can be heartbreaking. It’s important to let the nursery know that they’re selling infected plants. I’d ask them for a refund. If they offer you replacement plants or try to blow you off, I’d get heavy with them and say you don’t want to take any chances, and want your money back or you’ll post a warning about them on one of the big succulent Facebook groups. I’m not kidding. It’s just wrong. And it makes me mad!



  11. Michelle on March 7, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    I have a few green aeoniums that continue to grow in diameter but this year a couple of them have this odd yellow splotchiness. The splotches don’t look mushy and they aren’t dry. The texture of the leaves is uniform but the color is not. I’ve been searching the internet for an answer but I haven’t seen any photos of it. I don’t know if it’s a sun issue or a nutrient issue. Maybe they encountered cold or hot weather one day? (I’m in San Francisco.) I am hoping it’s not some kind of pest or infection. Any ideas? I wish I could post a photo!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 9, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      I sent Michelle a direct email so she could reply with a photo attached. (You can also send me photos in reply to my e-newsletters.)

      The yellow spots appear scalloped in places—so odd. The good news is that the plant looks healthy otherwise. It may just be a harmless plant virus, in which case you’ve got something intriguing but probably not valuable. (Not like, say, the plant virus that makes certain tulips desirable.)

      As to how your aeonium caught it, it’s hard to say, but I wouldn’t worry about it. The new growth in the center looks unaffected, but may show symptoms as it matures, if I’m right about it being a virus.

      I’m curious how the plant will look in a few months or so. Would you send more photos later on? In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for a succulent expert who might know.

      Thanks for an intriguing challenge —

  12. Daniela on April 13, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Two of my new succulents (pachyphytum oviferum and the other is a hookeri in a different pot) have several leaves that have bursted open dropping this little dark green pebbles that look like insect eggs leaving the leaves hollow, just the carcass. The green pebbles dry out in a few hours turning brown looking like bird droppings. I’ve removed the empty dry leaves and the stem and remaining leaves look healthy. I don’t understand what happened? Is this going to happen again? Is there something I should do? I couldn’t find anything on the topic in the web. I found a caterpillar on one of the plants if that’s helpful but they both come from different nurseries and keep them in different rooms. I have over 150 different kinds of succulents and had never seen this.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on April 15, 2021 at 10:48 am

      Ew. I hope someone else is familiar with this, because I’m not. It’s worthy of a horror movie. Where are you located? SO important to know when discussing insect pests.

    • Patrice on May 30, 2021 at 9:56 pm

      Sounds like some some sort of worm to caterpillar is gnawing on your plant. When I see green or brown things that look like droppings along with hollowed out stems and leaves on any of my plants, I go on the hunt for the caterpillar invaders.

  13. Kay on May 1, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    Hello. One of my succulents has white spores popping up on its arms. The succulent looks kinda like a bunch of noodles and I could not find the name of it. I am worried it could make my other succulents sick. I do not know if it is supposed to grow cotton fluff looking things and I could not find a picture of something similar growing on a succulent online.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 3, 2021 at 10:42 am

      Hi Kay — I’ll take a look. Cotton fluff sounds like mealy bug. Isolate it from your other plants before it spreads. Spray it and any nearby plants with 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

  14. Bruce Lamott on May 3, 2021 at 11:46 am

    Hi Debra, Something is eating the tops off of my otherwise healthy aeoniums, some of which are 3′ tall. There is no sign of insect pests (including snails and slugs) and some of the affected branches are too thin to support the weight of a squirrel or raccoon. There’s also no evidence on the ground of discarded leaves. The damage occurs quite suddenly, and the branches are chewed down to the stem. Any ideas?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 6, 2021 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Bruce — Sure sounds like a varmint of some kind. The stems in the photos you sent look sturdy enough to me to support the weight of a mouse, small rat or squirrel (which are mostly fur), and raccoons might simply pull downward on the stems to access the tops. A friend in Pasadena lost her aeoniums to deer. But why would deer nibble the outer leaves and not the centers? Again, sounds more like a smaller critter.

  15. Holly McKelvey on May 22, 2021 at 10:18 am

    I have large in-ground Agave Blue Flame and Attenuata, I’ve been growing successfully for 8-10 years., in the Bay Area. Several now have what looks popped bumps that ooze sap. Then leave a hole. My local nursery suggested maybe poor drainage catching up with them and their roots sitting in water. Which is weird since they’ve been growing beautifully and pupping like crazy for years. I’m at a complete loss, since it seems like several are suffering, which suggests a disease as opposed to environmental situation? Please HELP! Thank you!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 22, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Holly — First off, ‘Blue Flame’ is prone to abraded areas on the inner leaves near the trunk. It’s normal for the plant. (I know, go figure.) This may be similar or not at all related to blistering caused by agave edema, which results from irregular watering (long stretches of dryness followed by drenching rain). Edema happened to one of my large agaves when unbeknownst to me, an irrigation pipe started leaking underneath it. You can imagine how difficult THAT was to repair. You can see a photo of Agave Edema on the Pests and Problems page. The blistering doesn’t go away, nor do the exposed abraded areas, but other than being unsightly, they don’t seem to compromise the health of the plants. — Debra

  16. Rick B on June 1, 2021 at 6:45 am

    Hi Debra,
    Thanks for the thorough overview of pests on succulents and agave. I have a large yard with a wide variety of cactus, agave and aloe. A number of the plants ( Dracaena Draco, bromeliads and Agave Attenuata) have small white specks on their leaves. The specks seem to come on quickly this winter. I’m concerned that the spots lead to fungual infestation. I live in San Diego about 1.5 miles from the ocean. I have pictures that I can send although I don’t see a way to add them to this post.

    Any help on how to address this problem would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Rick

  17. Debra Lee Baldwin on June 1, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Rick — You and everyone else! Honey, it’s hail damage. The plants will outgrow it.

  18. Frances Robinson on June 28, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Debra, I have a Crown of Thorns plant about 2 feet high. I’ve grown this for multiple years. About 25% of the stems haven’t added new leaves or bloomed in about 5 months. I pruned these stems today but was surprised to find they were hollow and I didn’t see any sap. This is a house plant in a S facing window. the other stems are blooming. I use a moisture meter to be sure it is dry before I water, usually about every 8 days. I use a constant feed 20-20-20 house plant fertilizer on this, along with most of my house plants. Can you tell me what the problem is and whether I should remove these stems entirely. I repotted this plant about a year ago in Cactus mix. Thanks in advance for replying.

  19. Debra Lee Baldwin on June 28, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    Hi Frances — It sounds like you’ve done everything right. Yes, remove them. Not only are dead stems unsightly, they may harbor disease. I hope someone else has a suggestion for you, because I’m as mystified as you are.

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