If there is one tiny but mighty pest indoor plant lovers detest, it's spider mites. At first glance, you might just mistakenly assume your plant is a tad dehydrated and needs extra watering.
However, on closer inspection, you’ll probably see tiny little mites having a grand old time making themselves at home on your plant’s leaves.
Unfortunately, by the time you notice these annoying little guys with your naked eye, they’ve likely already proliferated phenomenally well. Don’t worry though, you can still get rid of them! Keep reading for our guide on what spider mites are and how you can get rid of them.
What are Spider Mites?
Spider mites are notorious garden pests that actively feed on the plant and destroy it. Spider mites leave behind a pattern of silver dots on the leaves, which look somewhat like fragile little webs upon closer inspection.
They especially love to set up camp on the underside of your plant’s leaves, making them even harder to spot. A spider mite attack can result in a weakening of the plant and its health, presenting with holes and varying levels of brown spots on the leaves.
Keep in mind that spider mites can be very difficult to see without a close and careful inspection. Unfortunately, they grow very fast and you may suddenly see a population explosion of spider mites virtually overnight. Worse, because spider mites are so extremely small in size, they can even travel on the wind, making them very mobile.
Signs of Spider Mite Attack
Although it may be hard to see spider mites with the naked eye, the damage they can cause can become very clear, very quickly. As they feed off the plant, the leaves become weak, resulting in yellowing and browning of the leaves. They may also become spotted with brown spots and begin to wilt by turning in on themselves.
Spider mites are known to attack the water regulation system of a plant, resulting in dehydration from water loss. This means the potential damage that may be caused by spider mites is two-fold––the physical damage to the leaves (holes, etc.), as well as the weakening of the plant due to water loss.
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Effectively Getting Rid of Spider Mites on Indoor Plants
If you notice that the symptoms mentioned above match the condition of your plants, chances are, you’re dealing with an infection of spider mites.
The first thing to do when you discover this is to isolate the plant. Even before you consider any treatment options, your biggest priority should be to contain the infection and save the rest of your plants from potential suffering.
You then will also want to prune away the damaged leaves and parts of the plant that are affected, in order to save as much of the plant as can be saved.
To battle spider mites, try one of the options mentioned below.
Use a Plant-Based Miticide
One of the easiest options is to get your hands on some readily available, chemical miticide that uses a variation of natural ingredients to fight off spider mites.
A great option is pyrethrum-based miticide, which is derived from the chrysanthemum plant. However, some spider mites can develop a resistance to pyrethrum.
In that case, you might also consider trying cinnamite, which is created from cinnamon oil. This miticide is very effective for killing spider mites, however, it wont destroy their eggs. You may have to spray it a few times over the course of a month to effectively get rid of all the spider mites.
Photo by Asslynn
Apply Neem Oil
Neem oil is well-known for its anti-microbial properties. It’s a very effective remedy for any kind of pest attack on plants, spider mites included.
You can apply Neem oil directly to the leaves of any infected plants. That will kill any current spider mites, while also making the plant temporarily repelling to other pests.
To make sure you have constant protection, you will have to reapply Neem oil regularly. You can also use a Neem oil-based miticide spray with the same effects.
Apply Rosemary Oil
Rosemary oil can sometimes be too potent to apply directly to a plant, which is why we always say it’s best to dilute it with water. Rosemary oil is an effective and easy treatment option for spider mites, especially in the case of edible plants, since rosemary oil is edible and safe for humans as well.
Create a DIY Miticide
Another great idea is to go with a DIY miticide spray, using the most common of tea-making ingredients. These include cinnamon, cloves, and some Italian seasonings, all boiled in water and enhanced with fresh garlic. This potent miticide tea can prove to be an effective treatment for spider mites if used regularly.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is a multi-purpose ingredient that can also be used to remove spider mites from plants. Simply dilute some rubbing alcohol with water and spray it onto the leaves. Alternatively, you can use it on a cloth and then manually wipe off leaves. The strength of dilution depends upon the sensitivity of the infected plant.
Use Dish Soap
Dish soap is so versatile! You can use this one by making a diluted solution of dish soap and water and filling up a spray bottle with it. Spritz the solution onto the infected areas of the plant and keep reapplying for best results. You can also wash the plant with this solution, using a soft cloth or sponge for wiping.
Hose It Down
Another way of getting rid of spider mites and also minimizing the risks of attacks in the first place, is ensuring that you’re giving regular baths to your plant. This means hosing it down with a shower nozzle as frequently as needed, and being extra careful about getting the underside of the leaves. The pressure from the water hose will throw off the spider mites.
Go Nuclear with Predatory Mites
Finally, as a last nuclear option, you can introduce some predatory mites to the plant. Although it can seem counterintuitive to infect your plant intentionally with mites, it can actually have a good outcome. These predatory mites will consume all of the spider mites and help to save your plant. Think of it sort of like good and bad bacteria in your gut. Sometimes by adding ‘good’ bacteria, you can help drive out any ‘bad’ bacteria. This nuclear options for spider mite treatment is a similar concept.
Photo by Laura
How to Prevent Spider Mites
Spider mites are attracted to dusty plants. To minimize their interest, make sure your plants are regularly cleaned and kept free of dirt and debris buildup. You can wash the plants with a hose or wipe down all the leaves by hand.
Plants that are suffering from water disturbance are bound to weaken. A weak plant is an ideal host for spider mites to take root in and overcome. Therefore, make sure to water your plants regularly, without overwatering them. Use our app to help you create the perfect watering schedule!
If you ever place your indoor plant outdoors to give them a bit of fresh air and sunlight––or for any other reason––always be sure to debug the plant before bring it back indoors. Otherwise, if one of your plants is attacked by spider mites outside, the mites can get passed around to all of your indoor plants once the infected plant is brought near.
Spider mites actually love to live in a warm and dry environment. That means as long as you keep up the humidity levels in your house, your plants will both thrive and stay safe from spider mites. You can keep moisture levels up either by using a humidifier, or by doing it manually.
The real key in how to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants is to catch the spider mites as early as possible. The earlier you notice them, the more effective your treatments will be. If you don’t find them early, they will proliferate quickly and that will only make it that much harder to eradicate them for good!
Looking for more info on plant care? Check out our latest blogs on Safe Plants for Dogs and Cats, How to Repot Indoor Plants and How to Use Grow Lights for Indoor Plants.