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 Alocasia plants!
How to get rid of spider mites on Alocasia 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.
And spider mites love elephant ear plants, a type of which is the Alocasia elephant ear. I have had spider mites on a few elephant ears in my time, but the worst infestation by far was on my Alocasia polly “African mask plant.” Brutal.
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).
Spider mites work incredibly quickly and can destroy a plant in days. They can also spread really fast. This is one reason why is it incredibly important to isolate, monitor and potentially treat all new houseplants coming into your home.
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. So I let the one affected leaf die off completely and got 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!
Spider mites on Alocasia plants
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!
I later learned that elephant ear plants are super vulnerable to spider mites, so I definitely would catch an issue like this earlier in the future. Once the webbing is this bad, the infestation is also pretty bad. The foliage on this one was beyond saving.
My Alocasia 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 with an insecticide.)
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 on Alocasia plants—or any plants
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.
- It there is foliage that is seriously yellow or brown, go ahead and cut it off. You unfortunately can’t bring it back.
- Wipe the plant’s remaining 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 neem oil doesn’t work—or if you simply can’t stand the smell of it—use an over-the-counter insecticidal houseplant spray. Check that spider mites are listed on the bottle.
Sometimes a location change is all it takes!
I also inherited a larger elephant ear cutting from my parents. The plant had 4 leaves, and I got it in October. That means I had to get it through the winter indoors, which I knew would be a challenge!
I sprayed the leaves every other day or so with cold water, and the plant did quite well. It even put out a new leaf over the winter. Eventually, however, I got lax and didn’t spray as often. And guess what happened? SPIDER MITES!
Thankfully I caught it very early. They had done just a bit of damage on one leaf and I didn’t need to cut it off. Instead of spraying the plant down, I simply set the plant out on the deck. It was like, late April, and it was a 50-something-degree rainy day.
Cold and wet! That knocked those bad boys right out. I ended up keeping the plant outdoors the rest of the summer because it warmed up not long after that. The plant rebounded beautifully. Sometimes nature heals 🙂
What if all of the leaves are toast?
If your plant is looking a bit worse for the wear like my Alocasia polly 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. It will regrow.)
- 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 everything down with neem oil and let it dry.
How to prevent spider mites from coming back!
Now that you know how to get rid of spider mites on Alocasia plants, here are a few steps you can take to prevent spider mites from coming back or to prevent new spider mite infestations in the first place.
1. Treat again.
After you’ve battled an infestation, you can occasionally spray your plants with a neem oil spray or other insecticidal soap 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.
Make sure to get the bottoms of the leaves, too! One of my friends with a number of alocasia plants actually brings her plants to the sink once a month or so to spray down preemptively with an insecticidal soap. She has had no issues.
2. Location, location.
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. Spray the plant or add a humidifier
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. We have had two of this humidifier for a little over two years now and love them. Very high output.
Consider putting your alocasia or other spider-mite-prone plants into a higher humidity environment like an Ikea greenhouse cabinet. This helps keep the clean plants isolated, too.
4. Add a saucer of water or a LECA/pebble tray
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.
You could also fill a tray with LECA (see my post all about LECA and how to propagate plants in it) and then fill that with water. You can then set the plant on top of the wet LECA tray to help with ambient moisture.
5. Debug before bringing inside after summer
If you keep plants outside in the warmer months, give them a thorough debugging before taking them inside. Simple spray them down with soapy water or an insecticidal spray.
Good luck out there, spider mite fighters.