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Whether your plants are indoors or in the patio, If you’re looking for how to get rid of spider mites once and for all, then you will find it here.
Spider mites. Those two words alone can send shivers down any plant lover’s spine. If you’ve experienced the misfortune of a spider mite infestation on one of your beloved plants, then you know the persistence of these pests, and the devastation they wreak on your plant’s health. If that wasn’t enough, they multiply quickly and spread easily from plant to plant within the vicinity. Things can get out of control very quickly. If you’ve been collecting plants long enough, you know it’s not IF you get a spider mite infestation, but WHEN. We’ve cut our losses on a number of plants in the past due to severe infestations; however, through time, experience, and trial-and-error, we’ve developed a 5 step plan to get rid of spider mites.
What Are Spider Mites And Why Do I Have Them?
The first step in battling spider mites is knowing the enemy. Spider mites are tiny (less than the size of a pinhead) arachnids that are primarily found on the underside of plant leaves where they pierce the leaves and feed on plant juices. This weakens the plant, causing yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, and making them susceptible to other diseases.
The first thing you will notice is dotted yellowing of the foliage. On closer examination you will see fine webbing in the nooks and crannies of your plant. You may even see them crawling around. A sure-fire way to tell if you have spider mites is by taking a moistened paper towel and wiping the top of the leaf. Do you see reddish brown streaks or staining on the paper towel? If so, then you have spider mites. You must intervene at the first signs of infestation or you can lose control very quickly.
Spider mites unfortunately are fond of many popular species of house plants, especially aroids due to their broad leaves and juicy petioles. Of all the aroids, Alocasias and Calatheas are most susceptible. Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions with a relative humidity less than 40%. Spider-mites hate humidity, so if you can keep your humidity up you can markedly decrease your chances of spider mite infestations.
Taking It Personal
Here’s a quick personal story that illustrates a recipe for disaster. We were leaving on summer vacation for a week, and among our houseplants we had multiple Alocasias and Calatheas. We watered our plants as much as we could before leaving and shut off the AC to save electricity. Our house generally has lower relative humidity averaging 35-40% and due to the summer heat, the temperature in the house remained in the low/mid 80’s while we were away. Upon coming back, sure enough…one of our Calatheas was completely engulfed in webbing. There were spider mites ALL OVER IT. It also spread to our nearby Alocasia Regal Shield. We tried our best with the Calathea but it was far gone. We needed to throw the Calathea out. Thankfully, over the course of a few weeks, we eventually rehabilitated our Regal Shield which is now thriving and pest free.
How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites
Prevention is ideal, but knowing how to effectively beat an active spider mite infestation is essential. The problem with spider mites is the fact they are arachnids, so your typical insect sprays do not work. Other methods or chemicals must be used to get rid of spider mites. Fortunately, we have a 5 step method that works consistently for us. Yes. We no longer fear spider mites! These 5 steps are: 1.) Remove. 2.) Spray 3.) Quarantine 4.) Clean and 5.) Repeat
Step 1 – Remove
The first and most important step is to physically remove the spider mites off of your plant. One common and effective way is to spray the plant with a water hose then wiping down each individual leaf and stem with a soft cloth or napkin. This works well, but when wiping down the leaf, it can be difficulty to get in the small crevices without potentially damaging your leaf. We have a more effective method.
Cut off and dispose of heavily damaged and/or infested leaves. Then, spray the plant with water and wipe the leaves down with a makeup brush. The key is to brush from the middle of the leaf, then out to the side. Work one side of the leaf first, making your way from the base of the leaf to the tip. Repeat on the other side of the leaf. Do this on both the top and bottom of the leaf. Pay special attention to the cervices where the petiole attaches to the leaf or where there are deep ridges on the surface of the leaf.
Step 2 – Spray
In the second step we will be using our miticide spray to kill off any missed spider mites or eggs, and to apply a protective chemical coat that will fend off new infestations. Neem oil is very popular, and works well for minor infestations, but you must spray more often for a longer duration to fully eradicate spider mites. Many have also had great luck with Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew or Doktor Doom Spider Mite Knockout. We use these in a pinch as it’s effective and approved for organic edible gardening. With that said, we have better results using our own mixture. We use a safe, non-toxic spray that consists of a mixture of water, rubbing alcohol and dishwashing soap. It works very well on spider mites, however, is also effective against all pests. Here’s our awesome pest assassinating recipe:
- 32 ounces (1 quart) of water
- 5 drops of Dawn or your favorite dishwashing soap.
- 8 ounces (1 cup) of rubbing alcohol
- Gently mix and pour solution in a spray bottle
Thoroughly spray the tops and bottoms of your plant’s leaves, including the stems and soil surface. Warning: do not spray your plant if it is under very bright or direct sunlight. You run the risk of burning your plant’s foliage. Don’t ask us how we know.
Step 3 – Quarantine
Separating your affected plant and quarantining it from the rest of your collection is important to prevent it from spreading. Each new plant that gets infested exponentially decreases your chances of fully getting rid of spider mites for any and all of your plants. Remember to quarantine the plant in an area that is not hot or with a low relative humidity. With the plant quarantined, this is a good opportunity to thoroughly check your other plants for pests.
Step 4 – Clean
Next up is cleaning. With the plant quarantined, clean the surrounding area where the infested plant was located. Spider mites may still be crawling in that area looking for the next plant to feed on. There may also be eggs laying on the floor, just waiting to hatch. First, vacuum the surrounding area. Using a closed system vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will guarantee that all sucked up spider mite remain contained. Second, clean down the area with a mop and floor cleaner. We personally use a steam mop as it instantly kills spider mites, sterilizes the floor without use of additional chemicals, and is quick and easy.
Step 5 – Repeat
The final step to being spider mite free is repetition. You should repeat these steps once a week for at least 2 weeks. 3 weeks tends to be the sweet spot; however, if there are still signs of infestation, then continue to repeat these 5 steps until you are spider mite free.
Help! I Still Can’t Get Rid Of Spider Mites
So, you’ve followed these 5 steps to a T, but you still cannot seem to get rid of spider mites. What now? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. Here are your options.
Place predatory mites on your house plants. Yes, you fight fire with fire. Metaseiulus occidentalis, Phytoseiulus persimilis, and Phytoseiulus longpipes are 3 types of mites that will attack and feed on spider mites. You can order these predatory mites online from gardening vendors or you can go to your local nursery to purchase them. Make sure you purchase from a reputable source as these mites have to be kept alive. Nature’s Good Guys Special Blend Predatory Mites – Triple Blend Predatory Mites is a popular choice. Also, do not use predatory mites if you recently sprayed your plant with a pesticide/miticide. Avoid spraying plants with any chemicals at least one week before or one week after applying predatory mites to your plants.
Use a stronger pesticide/miticide. There are more potent chemicals available for use to combat pests. These work fantastically; however, they are not pet or kid safe. These chemicals must not be sprayed indoors and can only be used on plants that are not to be consumed. They also pose a risk for harming beneficial insects, most notably, pollinators like bees. Please use these chemicals responsibly. BioAdvanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease & Mite Control is one that we would recommend. We’ve also heard of good results with Hot Shot No-Pest Strips. These two chemicals are easily available online or at your local hardware store or garden center.
This is the last option. Accept defeat and throw the plant away. By the time you get to this option, the plant is usually withered away and will have a low chance of recuperating. You are also holding onto a huge source for infesting your other plants. You won’t like it, but it’s your best option for the greater good of the rest of your plants.
Mission: Get Rid Of Spider Mites – Successful!
Once you’ve successfully eliminated spider mites from your plant, give yourself a nice pat on your back. They can be quite challenging. You can now take your plant out of quarantine and re-introduce it back to your collection. Make it a habit to routinely wipe off any dust or debris from your plants foliage, and to check your plants weekly for any signs of pests. As we mentioned earlier, it’s not IF, but WHEN pests will strike. If spider mites do return, don’t sweat it. You are now well prepared to tackle any spider mite infestation like a pro.
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