We're here to talk about the the most feared houseplant out there: spider mites. Cue ominous movie sounds. There are over 1,000 species of spider mites and they come in an array of colors. We've seen red, green, brown, and even yellow. These guys puncture plant cells to feed on their energy stores (chlorophyll), slowly depleting them of life.
They tend to hang out on the underside of plant leaves where they're left protected to spin their silk webs and lay eggs. One female spider mite can produce over 100 eggs in 30 days. Yep... that's a lot of spider mites. This is why they tend to get out of hand before you even detect that they're there. Growing to only 1/50th of an inch at maturity, they can be pretty hard to see at first. We made this close-up for you to get a better idea of what to look for.
If you're wondering what they look like IRL, click here. Be warned: It's not a pretty sight.
Now that you understand the severity of the danger that spider mites pose, it's time to find out how to get rid of them and prevent them from coming back.
It's watering day and you're getting into your weekly care routine. All is well, but then you spot the webbing. You take a closer look and, to your despair, you see tiny colored dots moving around. The sighting was likely on the underside of a leaf, stem, or crevice since this is where they like to make their nests. Here's what you do:
- Quarantine the plant. Spider mites can spread to other plants like wildfire. Isolate the plant in a separate room in order to keep the rest of your collection safe.
- Wipe the mites off. The easiest way to do this is to mix a drop of dish soap with water and wipe the foliage down using a cloth. Rinse the soapy residue off with water. Using a reusable cloth instead of single-use paper towels is best for our planet. ✌️
- Spray the plant down. Mix rubbing alcohol with water (1:3 ratio) in a spray bottle to spray down the leaves and stems of the plant. This is strong enough to kill anything you missed, but safe to use on your plant. Avoid direct light when doing this.
- Monitor daily. Inspect your plant daily for any signs of survivors. It may take a couple of treatments before they're gone for good, but with vigilance, they will die off. 💪
After removal and treatment, give your plant some extra TLC—it's likely stressed out. Keep it in its preferred light and water it as usual. If it's been 6 weeks since it was last repotted, give it some plant food. It could use a nutrient boost.
After one bout with spider mites, you're likely keen to stop an infestation from ever happening again. Here's what you can do:
- Inspect every plant. Anytime you get a new plant, it's wise to give it a thorough inspection. Most plant sellers and nurseries are vigilant about pest control, but it's nature and it happens.
- Regularly clean your leaves. This is important for many reasons, but plants with dusty leaves struggle to photosynthesize properly, making them weak and easy targets for predators. We like to mix apple cider vinegar and water (1:2 ratio) as a solution to wipe leaves and remove unwanted buildup.
- Use pesticides. Neem oil is a naturally-occurring pesticide that you can safely spray your plants with to prevent pest outbreaks. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
If you get a spider mite breakout, don't lose your sh*t. Once you get a hold of the problem, it's actually quite easy to manage. Remember, you can always text our SMS plant hotline at (646) 430-8699 for help and guidance.