Eek! Spider Mites

I’ve spent the whole of December back at my parent’s house whilst on break from uni, which meant bringing my plants home so they didn’t die from being unattended for a whole month. A lot of them are quite unhappy this winter and certainly didn’t enjoy the change in scenery. My Ficus was dropping leaves rapidly and looking really droopy, which I put down to under watering. One of the benefits of being home is access to a bath, so I dedicated a whole afternoon to watering my plants in the tub and giving them a good spray down with the shower. This is when I uncovered something terrifying whilst taking all the plants out of their pots…Spider Mites!!

One very sad Ficus

I’d coincidentally been reading up on plant care the night before and came across spider mites for the first time, giving a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to deal with any pesky bugs on my (many, many) houseplants… little did I know what was coming for me. I was having a good look at my big Monstera, which is my pride and joy, and upon inspection of the roots, I noticed a little fuzzy white ball. And then two more in the plant pot.

Thinking back to the previous nights research, I immediately went back to consult google and decided to look for more evidence of the minuscule monsters. No sign of anything sinister on the leaves but when I used my phone torch and looked very carefully at the roots I found the incriminating piece of the puzzle: spider webs.

My first wave of attack against these pesky little bugs commenced: hosing all of the plants down to try and dislodge any mites from the roots and leaves. This is often enough to stop an infection in its tracks as they don’t stand much of a chance against the powerful force of the water stream considering they’re so small they’re barely visible to the naked eye. Then came the lengthy task of wiping every leaf (front and back) of all of my 20 houseplants…some with many, many leaves. This is also a great physical measure to remove the bugs which negates the need for any chemical use and is free! I isolated the Monstera and Ficus to areas high up away from the rest of my jungle in order to prevent the spread if this wasn’t quite enough to fully eliminate the mites.

Spider mites like the hot, dry conditions that often accompany UK households in the winter so I’m not surprised that I’ve had a run in with them this Christmas. A great way to prevent this ever happening is to make sure your plants are kept at conditions sub-optimal for the mites; keep them well watered, regularly wipe the fronts AND backs of leaves and even perhaps invest in a humidifier to increase the humidity around your plants (which they’ll love you for anyway if they’re of a tropical origin).

Shower time is a great way to prevent spider mite infestations

Unfortunately when I checked a few weeks later, the Monstera had webs on its roots again! I’ve rinsed and repeated this process (quite literally) and bleached the decorative plant pot it lives in; I was also very excited to receive an air humidifier for Christmas so hopefully that should do the trick. Failing this, I’m planning on upping the ante with a more intense plan of attack by using neem oil. You can use this diluted as a spray or use it on a cloth and it also has the added bonus of being a common method of polishing leaves for an extra bit of TLC. I’ll keep you updated! To be continued…

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