Zap Houseplant Spider Mites in 6 Quick but Mighty Measures
So you think you have spider mites? First things first, inspect and confirm that the pest or problem with your indoor plant is in fact spider mites. If you notice tiny spider-like white webbing on your plant, minute red dots moving around, or even faded patches on the leaves, then you likely have a spider mite issue.
About Spider Mites & How to Identify
Spider mites are actually arachnids, and luckily, they don’t jump, but they can spin a web across planes and crawl around plants. The small (almost microscopic), red-bodied creatures often like to hang out in crevices of plants and most notably the undersides of leaves (so make sure you’re checking every inch of the plant for pest presence!). These pests get there by hitching a ride from nurseries, blowing in from open windows, or introduction from another plant (yes, even your own outdoor trees and plants can be the culprit). Also, some plants are just more prone to certain pests than others-- for example, Alocasia and Calathea plants are notorious for being susceptible to spider mites. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure-- that’s why it’s suggested to wipe down the leaves regularly to ensure longevity and thrivability for your plants. Just keep in mind that if you have houseplants, you’re very likely going to experience pests at some point (and spider mites are one of the most common).
While spider mites don’t generally present any harm to humans or animals, they will definitely wreak havoc on your houseplant. Specifically, spider mites pierce through foliage with their mouths and suck on the juices of the plant (literally sucking the life away). These little plant vampires can be controlled quickly and easily when found early, but as the population rapidly grows it becomes more difficult to eradicate (but can be done!). While the existing damage cannot be reversed, it’s best to move on and protect future growth from pest destruction.
6 Step Spider Mite Mitigation Process
After you’ve identified that your adorable houseplant has spider mites, you’ll want to start treating it immediately. This 6 step plan is a gentle, natural, eradication process:
1. Remove & Discard Any Overly Infested Leaves
If there are any leaves that are curled at the edges, completely faded, or covered in webbing and red mites, then it’s wise to go ahead and get rid of the infected leaf. As long as it isn’t more than 25% of the plant, then it’s ok to toss multiple leaves if that seems necessary. Cutting away too much at one time (on top of an already stressed plant) can be detrimental to the health of the plant. When cutting away a leaf, simply snip at the base of the stem and sanitize your scissors thoroughly afterwards (to prevent pest spread to other plants). We recommend disposing of the leaves immediately.
2. Hose Down Plant Thoroughly
Spray down the plant with enough pressure that spider mites get knocked off, but gentle enough to not damage the plant. Use either a hose, a shower nozzle, or something similar with medium water pressure. Make sure to spray the top and bottom sides of the leaves. As a precaution, just make sure that your plant isn’t standing in water (to prevent an overwatering scenario).
3. Spray with Neem + Castile Mixture & Wait
The most important step is spraying the plant down with a mixture that will stop most spider mites in their tracks. We recommend a natural mixture of neem oil & a few drops of castile soap diluted in water. In less severe cases, just the castile soap and water can work. Allow the mixture to sit on the plant for about 5 minutes, or just enough time to where the mixture won’t dry onto the plant.
4. Wipe Each Leaf Individually
After the waiting period, you’ll want to wipe away the pest-be-gone mixture. This part is crucial to keeping spider mite infestation at bay. So taking a cloth or paper towel, wipe down each individual leaf. Depending on the plant, this could be easy or time consuming, but either way try to the best of your ability. Make sure again to wipe the top and underside of the leaves, and also get the stems. You may notice that there are streaks of a burnt orange color on your towel… that’s the spider mites! Change up your towel if it becomes “full” of orange.
5. Soil Drench
If the case of spider mites is severe, then it’s wise to also add in a soil drench. A soil drench is just as it sounds, simply use the diluted neem oil and castile soap mixture and pour enough on the plant’s soil so that it starts to trickle out of the bottom holes of the pot. This helps wipe out any pests that may be lurking in or on the top of the soil.
It depends on the size of the plant, but we recommend never using more than a few drops of castile soap. Soil drenches can stress and kill a plant if an incorrect ratio is used, so use caution or buy a dedicated soil drench. Also, if the plant is on its last leg due to an infestation, it may just be too far gone. In this case, sad but true, it’s best to just toss the plant to save your other plants from potential pest spread.
6. Isolate Plant
As a protective measure, isolate the infected plant away from your other plants so that they don’t get exposed to spider mites too. If possible, place the plant in its own room entirely. But if that’s not possible, just giving as much space between plants is key. Also, if other indoor plants were at one point near the mitey plant, then go ahead and start treating it too just to be safe (always use a clean, sterile cloth though and not the one with mite remnants!).
To keep the plant healthy and the mites from recurring, repeat steps 3 & 4 (spray & wipe) once a week until you see zero traces of mites. Typically this can take about 1-2 months. As mentioned, in very extreme cases, the DIY mixture may not be enough. So finding a quality pesticide will be key.Seasonal Tip: Spider mites eggs overwinter on plants, so don’t let your guard down if you think you’ve eradicated them. In spring and summer, eggs hatch and the mites are back. So we recommend treating plants a couple of times in the winter months to wipe away any remaining eggs. And then check again in spring and summer to halt any recurrence.