Spider mites are the most common pest you can find on your Calathea and can be the most destructive. Discovering a spider mite outbreak may leave you feeling helpless or overwhelmed, especially if your Calathea is already showing signs of going downhill.
If you want to save your Calathea and prevent them from spreading to other plants, you must act quickly to eliminate them. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can successfully get rid of spider mites on your Calathea and prevent them from coming back by following these simple methods.
What Are Spider Mites?
Spider mites are a common houseplant pest closely related to spider and tick species rather than most insects. They are tiny, approximately 1/50th of an inch, and their eggs are about 1/80th of an inch in length. They range from white to brown to nearly black.
Spider mites reproduce at alarming rates, with females able to lay hundreds of eggs on the undersides of your Calathea’s leaves in their lifetime.
Spider mites prefer warm, dry temperatures and are attracted to houseplants with tender foliage since they are more likely to dry out quickly. They also enjoy feasting on houseplants that are in distress.
Calatheas are an easy target for spider mites because if they are not cared for properly, they quickly develop dry, crispy leaves and will immediately show signs of distress.
How Do Spider Mites Get On My Calathea?
Spider mites can infiltrate your home quite easily. They can enter through an open window nearby or attach themselves to pets or clothing.
The most common way spider mites come into your home is by bringing a new plant into your house. They will also hitch a ride on fresh-cut flowers and garden-grown vegetables.
How Do I Spot Spider Mites On My Calathea?
Spotting individual spider mites on a Calathea is incredibly difficult, given their size, which is why they can go undetected until you have a significant infestation on your plant.
However, if you have caught the spider mites early, you might notice what appears to be “dust” on the bottoms of your Calathea’s leaves when it is, in fact, the beginning of the webbing formation and collection of eggs.
One of the most evident signs of spider mites is finding thin, delicate webbing on the backs of your Calathea’s leaves or between the stems.
Though slightly less common, you may also find their silk webbing sprawling across the soil or on the tops of the leaves. Spider mites love to feast on new growth, so you may even find this webbing inside a new leaf that has yet to unfurl.
If the infestation is severe, your Calathea will droop or appear completely deflated. Damage from the spider mites, typically yellow spotting on the leaves, will also be evident at this point.
How Do I Get Rid of Spider Mites On My Calathea For Good?
Regardless of which option you choose to treat the spider mites on your Calathea, there are a few things that you should do first:
1. Isolate Your Calathea From Any Other Houseplants in Your Collection.
Spider mites can spread to other plants very quickly. Therefore, if there are many other houseplants between your Calathea and where you intend to bring it, you can cover it in a plastic bag to prevent the spider mites from spreading.
2. Remove Any Visible Spider Mites
Take your Calathea to a sink, shower, or hose, and gently spray your Calathea with lukewarm or room temperature water.
Make sure to spray the tops of the leaves, under the leaves, and the stems.
If possible, keep the nozzle at an angle. This will ensure that you blast the spider mites off the plant rather than into the soil itself.
3. Prune Your Calathea’s Foliage
Make sure that you trim away:
- Any old, crispy leaves
- Yellowing leaves
- Any leaves that were entirely covered by the spider mites
After you remove any leaves, you should dispose of them in an air-tight bag, so the spider mites do not spread further.
Once you have completed these three steps, there are 3 possible solutions to getting rid of the spider mites:
Option 1: Insecticidal Soap
After you rinse your Calathea with water, spray it with insecticidal soap. You can find insecticidal soap online or at a garden center.
It is always good to have some on hand to treat your Calathea for spider mites (or any other pests) immediately. Ideally, you will want to find a brand that specifies that its formulation will kill spider mites.
Step 1: Spray Down Your Calathea
Follow the directions on the bottle carefully, and be sure to dilute the mixture if required. Depending on the soap brand, it may suggest leaving the solution on your Calathea or rinsing it off when finished.
Step 2: Recovery
Bring your Calathea to a warm, humid location away from other pests and monitor it closely over the coming days.
Step 3: Repeat
You will likely have to repeat this treatment several times every few days until the spider mites are completely gone.
Option 2: Neem Oil
Neem oil is another excellent solution for getting rid of spider mites on your Calathea, as long as you are very careful.
Calathea have very sensitive foliage and are easily susceptible to chemical burns. So if you use neem oil on your Calathea, make sure to dilute it with water.
Step 1: Make Neem Oil Spray
You will need:
- A spray bottle
- ½ tsp of neem oil
- 4 cups of tepid water
The general rule of thumb when using neem oil on most houseplants is 1 tsp for every 4 cups of water.
For Calatheas, especially if you have not used neem oil on your Calatheas leaves before, it’s a good idea to dilute that mixture even more in the beginning, which is why starting with a ½ tsp is best.
Step 2: Spray Down Your Calathea
Next, spray your Calathea down thoroughly with the neem oil spray. Do not forget the undersides of the leaves, the stems, and the soil. There is no need to rinse neem oil off of your Calatheas leaves.
Step 3: Recovery
When you’ve finished treating your Calathea with neem oil, you will need to move it to a warm, humid location away from any other houseplants.
It is essential to remember that neem oil can amplify the sun’s rays when sitting on your Calathea, causing sunburn.
Ideally, you will want to treat your Calathea with neem oil in the late afternoon (after 5 PM), but if that isn’t an option, leave it somewhere to recover in low light.
FURTHER READING: A Complete Guide to Neem Oil for Indoor Plants
Option 3: DIY Pest Solution
A solution that is highly effective when it comes to treating spider mites on Calatheas is by combining several household ingredients into a homemade mixture.
Step 1: Make The DIY Solution
You will need the following ingredients:
- A spray bottle
- 4 cups of tepid water
- 1 tsp of Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap works best!)
- 2-3 drops of mint essential oil, which is a great natural pest deterrent
Step 2: Spray Down Your Calathea With The Solution
Make sure you spray the plant everywhere with the solution—tops of leaves, undersides of leaves.
Step 3: Recovery and Repeat
This solution is gentle enough that you can spray down your Calathea daily until you no longer notice any signs of spider mites. Make sure that you keep your Calathea isolated from other plants and that the conditions are warm and humid.
How to Prevent Spider Mites on Your Calathea
While it is impossible to eliminate all possibilities of finding spider mites on your Calathea, there are many easy ways that you can prevent spider mites.
1. Isolate New Houseplants
One of the most important ways to prevent spider mites on your Calathea is by isolating any new houseplants you bring home for up to one month to monitor them for pest problems. You should also roll up your sleeves and wash your hands while tending to your new plants before handling your Calathea.
It’s best to keep fresh-cut flowers away from your Calatheas and any vegetable or plant that has been living outside. Chances are, most cut flowers or vegetables will not survive a month of isolation, so it’s best to keep them away from your Calathea altogether. Likewise, if a houseplant has been living outdoors, isolate them like a new houseplant.
2. Environmental Conditions
Keep your Calathea in a very humid location. Calatheas love humidity levels over 60%, which is perfect because spider mites typically prefer hot, dry conditions.
You can get higher humidity levels most efficiently by adding a humidifier, but you can also frequently mist your Calathea’s leaves with distilled water. Misting will also make their leaves inhospitable for laying spider mite eggs.
It’s even more important to keep humidity levels up during the winter, when people typically have the furnace running, making conditions very dry.
3. Moist Soil
If your Calathea’s soil dries out, not only will this make for the perfect breeding ground for spider mites, but your Calathea will also experience tremendous stress, quickly attracting pests.
The best way to ensure that you water your Calathea adequately is to purchase a moisture meter and water when the levels reach 2 or 1.
4. Clean Your Calathea Leaves Frequently
Incorporating regular leaf cleaning into your plant care routine is always a good idea for preventing pests, particularly spider mites.
You can use any of the above options to “treat” your Calathea every few weeks as a preventative.
Even spraying down the leaves is a great way to knock off any potential spider mites before their population explodes.
5. Keep Your Calathea Away From Open Windows
If you tend to open your windows frequently during pleasant weather, you will want to relocate your Calathea temporarily to avoid any spider mites hitchhiking on your beloved plant.
In addition, Calatheas tend to be sensitive to extreme temperatures or drastic environmental changes, so keeping the windows closed will also prevent your Calathea from experiencing any stress that can attract spider mites.
Common FAQs For Spider Mites and Calatheas
Should I Repot My Calathea If It Has Spider Mites?
Whether you should repot your Calathea during a spider mite outbreak will depend on how severely infested your Calathea is.
For optimal results, yes, you can remove your Calathea from its current soil, treat it with the pest solution down to its bare roots, and repot it in fresh, sterile soil.
However, repotting can further shock your Calathea. You may notice that while this is an effective method for getting rid of spider mites, your recovery time may be longer.
If the outbreak is minor, you can treat the soil with the same solution you use to treat the leaves and stems, as long as you monitor your Calathea for future outbreaks if a few surviving eggs hatched from the soil.
How Do I Tell the Difference Between Spider Mites and a Regular Spider Building a Web on Your Plant?
It is certainly less common but not impossible to find a regular spider living in your Calathea. If a regular spider has built a web between your Calathea’s stems, you will likely see a single spider living on or near the plant.
A regular spider web is generally thicker, with the threads more spaced out, and you will not see anything in the web.
Spider mite webbing is thin and silky and will have hundreds, if not thousands, of spider mites living within the web. If you shine a light on the webbing, you will notice movement within the web, which is a sure sign that it is spider mites.
How Long Should I Wait When I First Treat My Calathea Until I Can Bring It Back Around My Other Plants?
Spider mite eggs can take up to 19-20 days to hatch. So it’s always a good idea to wait until around one month after your Calathea is visibly free of spider mites to introduce it to the rest of your houseplants.
What Does an Average Recovery Look Like for a Calathea?
Calatheas are very delicate houseplants. So it may take quite some time before your Calathea looks as lush and beautiful as before the spider mites did their damage.
Some signs of recovery that are normal but can be scary include:
- Leaves yellowing or dropping after treatment
- Leaves turning brown after treatment
- Your Calathea may look droopy or sad for a few weeks
If your Calathea starts growing new leaves and those leaves appear healthy and damage-free, then this is a sign that your Calathea is improving and no longer in survival mode.