Spider mites may be small pests, but they’re insidious. Once they infest your houseplants, they can quickly take over within a week. Let’s look at what plants are more likely to face this problem and how to protect each of them.
First, we’ll show you how to spot the tiny critters so you know immediately when there’s a problem. We’ll then explain the 4 main ways to get rid of them.
3 Signs to Help You Spot Spider Mites
If you’re curious about what spider mites look like up close, check out this YouTube video:
These tiny pests can be challenging to spot with the naked eye. The females only grow to 1/50th of an inch long, and they’re larger than their male counterparts! When they’re crawling on a leaf’s undersurface, they can appear like specks. They’re so tiny, in fact, that they can travel from one plant to another by floating on a breeze. They can also hitch a ride on your clothes or pets, and even get indoors through air intake vents.
The following signs will help you spot the mites before they can take over your entire plant:
1. Yellow Spots
A small infestation will leave tiny, yellowish-green spots on your houseplants. Spider mites tend to feed on a plant’s tissue and sap by piercing a leaf wall and sucking the juices out. This is what causes the leaves to spot. Over time, the tiny yellow spots will turn into an entire yellow or brown leaf.
2. Fine Webbing
If you closely examine a plant infested with mites, you may see a very fine webbing on the leaves and stems of your plant. Mites lay their eggs in the webs, and they spin their webs all over the plants they infest. Typically, if you see a noticeable amount of webbing on your houseplant, the infestation is already established and relatively prosperous.
3. Changing Seasons
Mites flock to houseplants during the winter because the dry, indoor air is a more appealing habitat than the colder, wet or snowy temperatures outside. This is why it’s important to check your plants thoroughly when bringing them inside for the winter. Give them a thorough look every few months, especially when temperatures and moisture conditions shift.
4 Proven Ways to Get Rid of Spider Mites
In the event of a heavy infestation on a small plant, you might be better off discarding the plant altogether. That said, you might be able to save your plant by pruning the most damaged leaves before attempting to control the mites. Bag the clippings immediately and burn the contents, if possible.
Wash the plant foliage to reduce mite populations. Gardeners have had luck simply moving the infested plant outside or into a bathtub or shower and using a forceful spray of water from either a garden hose or faucet to dislodge the mites, washing them away from the plant.
Avoid using an ordinary dishwashing detergent: use insecticidal soap, as it’s less harmful to most plants. Wipe off larger plant leaves using a soft, damp washcloth as well.
Miticides are special pesticides create to control mites, and they’re available for houseplants. You can find them for sale from most garden supply stores or local nurseries. Make sure to treat all your houseplants at once to prevent the mites from simply hiding in a new plant. Additionally, remember to repeat the treatment after 14-day intervals to kill off any new mites that may have hatched between treatments.
Finally, keep plants healthy to reduce pest impact. They should continuously be well-fed, watered, and fertilized for the best results.
15 Plants Extremely Susceptible to Spider Mite Infestations
Mites love to feast on plants with thinner, broad leaves. There are also some varieties of plants that are tastier than others. For example, spider mites adore the following plant families:
Read on to discover the houseplants that often fall victim to these pests, often during winter.
1. Alocasia ‘Frydek’
Also known as an elephant ear plant, Alocasias are very susceptible to tiny red mites that can be found under their leaves. They may even look like sesame seeds attached to your plant. Insecticidal soap or oil like Ultrafine is effective to kill eggs and bugs, and cutting off the affected leaves is suggested.
2. Aspidistra elatior
The Cast-iron plant is a hardy, forgiving plant, and can tolerate extreme neglect. Thankfully, you can easily rid mites from this plant by spraying the leaves with neem oil as a prevention method. You can buy a pre-prepared neem oil spray from the store or make your own at home. If you have an infestation, treat the plant with insecticidal soap immediately.
3. Calathea roseopicta
The Prayer plant is a prized houseplant that’s often attacked by mites. These plants are easy to care for when cared for properly though, and the most common reason for a mite infestation in this plant is from bringing an infested plant into your home. Early signs include water-soaked lesions, yellow spots, webbing, and a sticky substance on the leaves while severe infestation will kill it quickly. Pesticides work best for extraction.
4. Chamaedorea elegans
Chamaedorea elegans is prone to red spider mite attacks, and effective treatment typically includes washing the infested leaves with water before using a pesticide. You can also prevent mites in this plant by raising humidity levels in your home or frequently misting the underside of the leaves with water.
5. Adenium obesum
The desert rose, as this plant is commonly called, is highly susceptible to mite issues. If infested, you may notice yellow or bronze discoloration on the leaves. Webbing is also a sign, and heavy infestations will make the leaves appear scorched, or they may just fall off and die.
Trim off the affected areas, dropping the leaves in a sealed bag, and keep this plant away from outdoor trees or shrubs that may house mites. Treating it with a miticide is also helpful.
6. Cordyline fruticose
Commonly known as ti plants, these tropical beauties can take on a yellow, bronze, or silver distortion when infested with mites. Severe infestations will have visible webbing. Prevent mite issues by watering the plant regularly, eliminating dusty indoor conditions, and keeping outdoor plants free of weeds.
7. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Also known as Tropical or Chinese Hibiscus, this plant is generally free of pest issues. However, spider mites and aphids are most likely to attack. An infestation can be spotted thanks to the yellow leaves, typically in the spring, and you can prevent the pests by maintaining consistent air temperature and moisture in the soil. Remove weeds regularly, and consider releasing a lady beetle known as the spider mite destroyer to consume the pest.
8. Pachypodium lamerei
Also known as the Madagascar palm, this plant doesn’t attract many pests. However, it is vulnerable to mites that attack the underside of the leaves. The problem can easily be solved by rinsing the plant with water and dish soap, but make sure not to use a soap with grease-fighting properties. These can instead harm houseplants. For heavier infestations, use a non-toxic insecticide every few months.
9. Strelitzia nicolai
You may know this plant as the bird of paradise. Although it doesn’t suffer from many serious pest problems, mites can cause malformed leaves or curling foliage. Simply wipe off the leaves using a soft cloth and spray the houseplant with an insecticide for the best results at fighting off or preventing infestations.
10. Codiaeum variegatum
Codiaeum variegatum’s only common threats are mites, scale, and mealybugs. Pests are easily removed by soaking a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and wiping off the leaves of your croton plant.
11. Jasminum sambac
Jasmine plants face trouble with mites that tunnel under the upper layer of the leaves, leaving bumps and ridges in the leaf surface. Although not super common, spider mites may sometimes afflict this plant. Try spraying the plant with water to dislodge mites, and reduce dusty conditions near the plant for prevention. Spray an insecticidal soap or oil on the jasmine leaves to kill the pests.
12. Chamaedorea seifrizii
Like most palms, the Bamboo palm’s biggest pest issue is mites. They cluster on the underside of the leaves of the plant, causing speckled yellow leaves and mottling. The best form of prevention is to regularly clean the plant’s foliage with soapy water. Treatment includes using pesticides, and growing the palms away from other extremely susceptible plants.
13. Primula vulgaris
This perky flower known as primrose suffers from a wide range of pests, especially sap-feeding mites. The leaves may bronze when under attack, and you may notice webbing underneath the plant’s leaves. Instead of using insecticides, try using mint oil to decrease the mite population on your plant. Mites can easily become resistant to over-the-counter sprays, so alternatives may be a good idea.
14. Hedera helix
English ivy is a fast-growing and popular houseplant, and often falls victim to various pests. Red spider mites can cause considerable damage to this plant in no time, for example. Leaves that are severely damaged will turn brown and fall off, and tiny yellow, stippled spots on the foliage is often the first sign of an infestation. To treat the plant, remove the infected leaves and spray insecticidal soap or pesticide on the plant.
15. Gardenia jasminoides
Gardenias are tricky to care for, and mite infestations can make caring for them trickier than ever. Keeping them in an ideal environment is the best way to prevent pests. Ffirst signs of trouble include a rash of tiny yellow dots on the leaves in combination with leaf drop.
Miticides, insecticidal soaps, and neem oil are effective cures, but the mites may be difficult to kill. Make sure to coat the underside of the leaves well and try spraying with water to wash away the pests.
You can always choose plants that don’t tend to have mite issues, such as cacti and succulents. In addition, most gardeners only bringing plants into their homes from trusted sources. Don’t accept a plant as a gift unless you know it’s free from disease and pests, and make sure you only purchase plants from reputable nurseries and greenhouses.