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Non-Toxic Spider Mite Prevention, Treatment, and Control for Houseplants

Updated on July 8, 2012
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Non-Toxic Treatment for Houseplants with Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny, eight-legged arthropods that feed on the undersides of houseplant leaves, and are among the most troublesome of houseplant pests. They are extremely tiny, making them difficult to observe. They can be white, yellow, or green, and are shaped like minute ovals. It is easy to overlook an incipient mite infestation. The webbing can look just like a dusty cobweb, and a few tiny dots of discoloration on a few plant leaves are likely to go unnoticed. However, heavily infested plants display obvious damage: yellowish dots, spider-webbing on faded leaves, and leaves that curl at the edges. An infestation that is left untreated will result in leaf loss and ultimately, plant death

I have not had mites on my houseplants for years, but I had to learn how to manage the mites the hard way. I actually killed a mite infected papyrus plant I was trying to save while trying to learn how to control the mites without sacrificing my plants. My papyrus' sacrifice was not in vain though. I learned from the experience and was able to develop a practice of prevention and treatment to protect all of my other houseplants from spider mites.

I thoroughly wash the stems and foliage on my houseplants about once a month in my bathtub. I do this in the bathtub rather than outside so that I do not accidentally spread the mites into my garden outside. Also, it seems easier to me to clean the plants, then scrub the tub, and then bathe myself. I use this routine since it is important to realize that mites can be transferred on clothes, gardening tools, watering cans, and skin. When treating houseplants with mites it is necessary to make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly, change into clean clothes, and sanitize all of your tools after each use. Keeping everything clean is essential to preventing mites.

In the bathtub I use lukewarm water and a tiny amount of dishsoap or antibacterial hand soap. I also sing to my plants as part of their treatment. I'm not sure if it really helps them, but I swear the jasmine would sing along with me if it could. Anyway, I use a strong spray of water to dislodge the mites from all the surfaces of the plant. It is vital to check and clean the backs of the plant leaves since this is where the mite infestation usually originates. I gently rub the soap onto the plants with my hands making sure not to miss any surface area on the stems or foliage. After that, I rinse the plant off well to make sure that no mites escape the treatment. Then I carefully apply more soapy water to the entire plant and allow the soap to dry on it.

For serious infestations, this routine should be followed two or three times a week for about a month to make sure that no mite eggs survive and propogate a new infestation. Additionally, if any area of the plant begins to look suspect, I will apply rubbing alcohol or beer with cottonballs to the plant as an extra form of control. It is important to check houseplants' health frequently since it is easier to handle a few mites rather than a full infestation.

However, if you find that this treatment and singing to your plant does not resolve a spider mite infestation on your houseplants, miticides may be necessary.

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    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      6 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thank you. We never really did figure out how to get rid of spider mites. Voted Up and Shared.

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