Pests and health

Spider mites

If your plant is looking a little sad – there’s a chance you have pests, and if it’s a prayer plant, it’s could be spider mite (the horror!).

However fear not – acting quick, and a bit of TLC means your beautiful plant will bounce back.

Where they come from

Basically, these guys seem relatively common, often coming with new plants from shops and garden centres. They seem unfortunately frequent in certain shops – often because there are so many plants grouped together meaning they spread quickly. But more disappointingly, certain shops’ staff don’t know to check for them or treat them.

What they look like

Their size makes the mites themselves difficult to spot, but there are tell-tale signs. White dust-like specks on the underside of their leaves, in the shallow depressions are likely their eggs. You may also occasionally see the offending tiny orange/brown mites themselves.

What they do

They eat into leaves and drink cells dry of precious sap. They often infest plants in the prayer plant family (calatheas, marantas, stromanthes etc) because of their thin leaves. Those beautiful patterned leaves we know and love are a feast in waiting for the pesky spider mite.

7 steps to tackling spider mites

A bit of perseverance and patience is needed to get these under control…

1. Vigilance

There’s nothing like prevention and catching them early. Keep an eye out for the signs of stress and spider mite activity on your plants, especially those that are susceptible. As soon as you spot the signs, seek and destroy!

2. Containment

Isolate the plant from others to stop them spreading to new plants. (Ideally a separate room – though if like me you have plants everywhere, you just have to do your best!)

3. Removal

Take the plant in the shower, and hose the surface of every leaf. Then dilute mild hand/dish soap/rubbing alcohol in water, take a lint-free cloth or an old makeup brush, and wipe the entire surface of each leaf (especially the undersides and where the leaf joins the stem), until there are no visible eggs.

Make sure you support the back of the leaf with your other hand while you wipe.

4. Suppression

Order a plant ‘defender’ like SB Invigorator online, and follow the instructions – its ‘physical mode of action’ protects the plant and leaves better from any remaining spider mites

5. Humidity

Spider mites dislike humidity, so put the plant in a steamy bathroom or in a large clear plastic bag to deter them from mounting a comeback.

6. Monitoring

Keep treating it at least with SB Invigorator, and if necessary keep wiping the leaves if you see any more eggs. After a month if there’s no sign of activity, you might have won the battle!

And finally…

If all your efforts are failing, or the infestation has run away with itself, there is a nuclear option.

A beautiful calathea ornata gifted by a friend some time back got progressively mauled by spider mites over the course of a year or so. As a last ditch effort, I cut it back to a stump, treated again with SB invigorator put it in a bag for humidity, and its now on the mend and putting out new leaves!

Good luck fellow plant parents! 🔫

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