This post will teach you all about spider mites, including what they are, where they come from, why they like your houseplants, and how to get rid of spider mites on plants!
How to Get Rid of and Prevent Spider Mites on Plants
I don’t ever love getting any sort of pest infestation on my plants, but it does happen. And one good thing about it is that I can get some great pictures to show you guys what a certain type of pest looks like. This can hopefully help you identify a pest if you’re ever suspicious you have one! Today we’re talking spider mites.
What are spider mites and where do they come from?
So, what are spider mites, and why do they like houseplants? Spider mites a very very tiny (nearly invisible to the human eye) pests that feed only on plants. Do not worry! They won’t bite you. They do not care about you. So breathe your first sigh of relief.
As far as where they come from…that’s a good question! It can be really hard to know. You could bring them into your home in a new plant that is already infested with mites. They could survive a debugging when bringing your plants inside for the winter. And they are so teeny tiny that they could even sneak on your house for a snack-a-thon.
Unlike a lot of pests and houseplant problems that love overly wet conditions, spider mites are the opposite. They thrive in warm, dry conditions. This is another reason why they can be difficult to battle indoors during the colder months (which is when my infestation emerged).
How do I know if my plant has spider mites?
Spider mites feed on the chlorophyll in leaves. As they do so, they leave white spots on the leaves. If they are left untreated, the leaves will yellow, brown, and die. A tell-tale sign that you have spider mites is the webbing they leave on your houseplants’ leaves. At first glance, it might even look like dust. The webbing is very fine.
I noticed mine while watering my plants one day. The affected plant had been looking worse for the wear, but I suspected it was just due to the fact that it is a picky plant (alocasia polly, or the African mask elephant ear plant) and that I’d recently brought it indoors for the winter. This plant always throws a fit when I move it around too much.
I let the one affected leaf die off completely so I could get some pictures of it. And would you believe—I can see the webbing in this photo now that I look at it, but I didn’t even notice it in real life! I didn’t notice it until a few days later.
I didn’t realize at the time that this was actually probably due to spider mites sucking all the good stuff out of the leaf. Ugh! I cut this leaf off knowing that this was a testy plant. All of the other leaves seemed fine.
However, after a few days, I noticed another leaf turning yellowish. A few days later, I took a closer look and noticed the webbing. Nooo! The next day I took the plant downstairs after work. All of the leaves were starting to look yellow and droop. Spider mites! Damnit!
My plant has spider mites. What do I do now?
The first step is to remove your visibly infested plant from the area. You likely have it near other plants, so you need to protect them. (Note: Since usually spider mites don’t show signs of an infestation until it’s pretty bad, you might also want to treat the surrounding plants.)
Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of monstera plants, how to take care of pothos plants, how to take care of rubber plants, caring for peperomia plants, and how to care for philodendron.
How to get rid of spider mites: Homemade Spider Mite Killer
If the damage to your plant isn’t too bad yet, you can do a number of things to help kill off the stubborn little buggers:
- Rinse the leaves with cold water. You can use a rag to do this, or you can set the plant in the sink. Remember, these little buggers like warm, dry conditions. So give them the boot with cold, wet conditions.
- Wipe the plant’s leaves down with a solution of dish soap (without a degreaser in it) and water. I really like Dr. Bronners Sal Suds. If the plant has dense foliage, you can use a spray bottle, let the solution marinate on the plant, and then rinse it off with cold water.
- Use a neem oil solution to wipe down or spray your plants. Many houseplant pests hate neem oil, and it will also help your plant’s foliage look lovely.
If your plant is looking a bit worse for the wear like mine was, you might have to get a bit extreme:
- I cut off all of the affected leaves…and that was all of the plant’s leaves. That’s because it was a smaller alocasia polly plant that only had three large leaves. (I know that this plant will rebound in time—I’ve cut down one of my alocasia polly plants to the soil before.)
- I moved the plant down to the kitchen sink and thoroughly soaked it with a mixture of Dr. Bronners Sal Suds and cold water, letting all of the excess drain out of the bottom.
- Since the infestation was pretty far along, I also took all of the plants from the immediate proximity to the sink and gave them a quick rinse with cold water. Then I sprayed them down with neem oil.
How to prevent spider mites from coming back!
How that you know how to get rid of spider mites on plants, here are a few steps you can take to prevent spider mites from coming back or to prevent new spider mite infestations.
1. After you’ve battled an infesting, you can occasionally spray your plants with a neem oil spray to ensure any mites or eggs that survived The Great Debugging are killed off. You can also wipe down the leaves, especially if they are larger leaves like a fiddle leaf fig or an elephant ear.
2. Since spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions, avoid heat vents! Conditions in the home can get so freaking dry in the fall, winter, and early spring. Move houseplants away from heat registers.
3. Similar to the previous point, you can mist your plants regularly with a spray bottle and plain ol’ cold water. You can also run a humidifier in the room, which I love to do during the winter anyways. During the winter, at least. We have had two of this humidifier for a little over two years now and love them. Very high output.
4. I’ve seen recommendations to keep a saucer of water by your plants to increase moisture, but I’ve never done this. It’s low effort, but it might be worth a short if you’ve got a problem child plant.
5. If you keep plants outside in the warmer months, give them a thorough debugging before taking them inside. You can see how I debug my plants here.
Good luck out there, spider mite fighters.