Spider mites and gardenia plants – with friends like that who needs enemies.
White gardenias are beautiful flowering plants that belong to the coffee family – Rubiaceae. They are native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, Madagascar, and Pacific Islands and named after the famous naturalist – Dr. Alexander Garden. These evergreen shrubs feature creamy white flowers, dark-green leaves, and glossy foliage and are distinguished for their romantic, jasmine-like scent, which is more vivid during the night.
Plant lovers admire white gardenia plants for their gentle, pure-white flowers and lovely fragrance, which is a part of the reason why they are commonly found in most flower-filled gardens. People also love these white flowers because they are great for pollinators and have many medicinal purposes.
There is truly so much to love about this stunning flowering species, but there are quite a few things to watch out for when planting and maintaining white gardenias; at the top of the list are spider mites! These pesky little creatures can hinder the growth of white gardenias. Learn what spider mites are, how they can harm white gardenias, ways to treat infected white gardenias, and lots more.
What Spider Mites Are on White Gardenia Plants
Spider mites are one of the most lethal enemies of flowering plants, including white gardenias. These species are a popular member of the mite (Acari) family that consists of approximately 1200 species already. Spider mites are tiny in size, usually up to 0.04 inches in length, but they vary in colors – red, brown, green, and yellow. They are similar to spiders in appearance and have four tiny legs on each side of the body.
Spider mites usually reside on the underside of a leaf, and they tend to produce webbing like a typical spider. One of the ways to spot spider mites on white gardenias is to look for airy webs on both sides of the plant’s leaves. Use a magnifying glass if you can’t spot these webs but want to be sure that there’s a spider mite infestation.
What you can also do is run a blank white sheet of paper on both sides of the leaves and watch for any movements on the paper. In the case of an infestation, you will be able to see tiny oval-shaped insects crawling on the paper.
How Spider Mites Attack White Gardenias
White gardenias are susceptible to a plethora of insects such as aphids, mealy bugs, scales, whiteflies, root nematodes, and spider mites, of course. What’s worse is that a spider mite infestation can occur all year round. There is no particular time of the year when these pesky creatures attack the evergreen shrub. However, spider mites are more prevalent in humid regions than dry, arid areas. The lack of humidity in the air is the reason why spider mites prefer to reside among indoor gardenias than the ones grown outdoors in dry areas.
Spider mites prefer to feed on gardenias when humidity is less than 60%, and they tend to thrive best when the temperature is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s when clusters of spider mites move toward the leaves and stems of the gardenia and chew on the leaves and suck the sap from the plant. Their insatiable feeding leaves prominent brown and yellow spots on the plant. In the case of heavy infestation, the leaf turns completely yellow and eventually falls from the plant.
Number of Eggs Spider Mites Lay on White Gardenias
When the temperature is hot and humid, spider mites hide under the leaves of the gardenia. Female mites can produce up to 100 – 200 eggs under the leaves of the plant when given ideal climatic conditions. However, these eggs are so tiny that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. Plus, the females produce fine webbing that helps camouflage their eggs.
After a couple of days, the egg hatches and enters the larvae stage. Once the larvae stage is over, the spider mite goes through many nymph stages until it finally reaches adulthood. This entire spider mite cycle hardly lasts for two weeks. However, the adult spider mite has a short lifespan, living only up to 25 – 26 days. During every life stage, the spider mite feeds heavily on white gardenias.
Ways to Kill, Control, and Prevent Spider Mites
Spider mites usually leave behind sticky cobwebs on gardenias. They spin strong, gooey webs, which is a sign that they have sucked out all the nutrients from the flowering plant. However, please note that not all spider mites produce cobwebs. Some of them leave behind spots and holes, leading to deformity and discoloration of the plant. If the infestation becomes severe, the plant may wilt away and turn yellow. In no time, the plant will lose all of its precious leaves.
However, you can stop the infestation and bring it under control with some excellent tried-and-tested methods that we have discussed in detail below.
1. Pull Off Infected Leaves of the Plant
You should inspect your gardenias once a week for any damage. Make sure the plant is in its original shape and color. If you spot any fallen leaves that happen to be infected as well, dispose of them straight away.
You should also observe the leaves of your plant. In the case of any damaged or disinfected leaves, cut them off with the help of scissors. This will prevent the mites from affecting other parts of the plant. But if it’s too late and the entire plant is damaged by the mites, consider removing the entire plant. This will give other plants a chance to thrive and survive.
2. Apply Systemic Pesticides
These are the types of pesticides that contain water-soluble chemicals and kill spider mites on first contact. However, they differ from other pesticides in their ability to prevent the mites from attacking the plant again for a long period of time. In other words, they offer long-lasting protection against these lethal mites.
When you go shopping for systemic pesticides, make sure the label specifically says “systemic.” The pesticide should be convenient and easy to use, ideally in the form of a spray bottle. Among the many essential ingredients, systemic pesticides mainly feature imidacloprid and tau-fluvalinate as their active ingredients.
3. Spray the Plant with a Hose
White gardenias require watering at least once a week. This is an ideal time to get rid of any mites that may be hiding among the leaves of the plant. First, attach a spray nozzle to the hose, set the water to high pressure, and spray the plant thoroughly.
Make sure that you focus on the underside of the leaves when spraying. Doing so will wash away all the mites and their eggs instantly!
4. Apply Neem Oil
Using neem oil is the safest DIY way to get rid of pesky mites from a white gardenia plant. You can prepare neem oil spray at home by mixing 1 teaspoon of neem oil, ½ teaspoon of a gentle liquid dish soap, and 1 quart of warm water in a spray bottle. Now, spray this mixture on the leaves, making sure to cover every nook and corner of the plant. Apply this neem oil mixture every 3 to 5 days to kill spider mites in no time.
5. Use a Homemade Herbal Tea
Another great way to control mites and stop them from affecting white gardenias is to use herbal tea. To prepare this tea, you will need to combine a tablespoon of crushed cinnamon, a tablespoon of cloves, and two tablespoons of Italian seasoning in some boiling water. Take off heat and let it cool for a minute or so. Mix in crushed garlic and then strain through a cloth. Transfer the content in a spray bottle and add in a teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Spray the leaves with the prepared tea at least twice a week.
Spider mites love to dwell on the white gardenia and can inhibit the plant’s growth and ruin its beauty. Watch out for spider mites at all times and make sure that you place the plant in a low-humidity zone. Also, make sure that your plant is not surrounded by weeds, as this can be a great hiding place for the annoying little creatures. Remove all the debris and weeds that you spot around the plant. This also includes fallen and dead leaves. Follow these prevention and control measures, and you will always have happy and lively white gardenia plants in your garden.