How to Care for Devil’s Backbone Plant – Jacob’s Ladder Plant

Hi. I am having problems with my devils backbone plant. It is in the home in a pot, and I have struggled with the plant since I have had it. The leaves have sort of brownish, red colored spots on the leaves (like in the middle and towards the tips) and some white matter on the spots. What can I do for the plant.

 

Hi Denise,

Green, zigzag, thick stems on Devil's Bckbone Plant
Devil’s Backbone Plant

Jacob’s Ladder Plant, or Devil’s Backbone plant as it is sometimes called, likes very bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. but avoid direct intense afternoon sun during the spring and summer. Keep the soil barely moist but not soggy. Water less during the spring and fall. Leaves fall off if the soil gets too dry and the plant gets root rot if the soil stays too wet. This plant likes warm temperatures and does not do well in temperatures below 55°F (12.8°C)F.  Feed a Jacob’s Ladder plant monthly, when the plant is actively growing, in the spring and summer with a balanced liquid plant food. These plants like to be root-bound in a small pot. These plants are very tolerant of  poor soil, but grow best in a sand based soil that drains quickly (cactus mix works well). Look out for Mealy BugsLearn how to identify and treat Mealy Bugs, a houseplant pest that leaves sticky, white, cottony residue on houseplants. and spider mites. The latex based sap of a Devil’s Backbone is caustic so always wear gloves when pruning the plant. These plants are considered poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched, immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.  More poisonous houseplant information and pictures of common plants that are dangerous to children and pets can be found in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants and should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched, immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.  More poisonous houseplant information and pictures of common plants that are dangerous to children and pets can be found in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to poisonous houseplantsIn her new book, Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat!, plant care professional Judy Feldstein shares information about twenty-five common houseplants, each with various levels of toxicity, and the possible consequences if your pet or child snacks on them..

From your description of the leaves, it sounds like your plant has powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it.. To prevent this plant disease: water in the early morning to allow the soil to dry out before cooler night temperatures, keep the leaves dry, and provide good air circulation around the plant. Remove any diseased leaves to prevent the powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it. from spreading. Spray the plant with my “ green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    ,” a non toxic, inexpensive spray you can make in 5 minutes. (recipe in the Glossary of the website).