The Q&A Archives: Boston Ivy Spider Mites

Question: I have a Boston ivy that was doing great until a few months ago. The leaves started turning yellowish and then brown and started drying up, and I noticed tiny webs among some leaves. I tried to remove these sections of the plant and sprayed the plant with some insecticidal soap I bought. I was assuming the cause was spider mites and the plant doesn't look much better. Should I take some cuttings from the good part of the plant and try to propagate them to save the plant (I hate to pitch the whole thing)? What causes spider mites and how do I prevent them from harming my other houseplants? This plant has always been indoors so I'm not sure why it has mites.

Answer: It does sound like you have an infestation of spider mites, which leave those webs you're finding on your ivy. Spider mites are tiny, live on the undersides of the leaves, and love hot, dry conditions. I am not sure why you have them if the plant was never brought outside. Did you purchase any new houseplants? Perhaps the rode into town that way, or on the breeze through an open door or window. One of the best ways to deal with them is to literally spray them off with water every time you water the ivy. Be sure to spray the bottoms of the leaves as well as the tops. This should knock them off. Often, regular sprayings with insecticidal soap will control the mite population. If you use a miticide be sure to follow the directions closely. You probablyneed to spray more than once. You may also want to consider predatory mites. It sounds scary I know, but really it's not - they prey only on pest mites. Because your plant is indoors, it is the perfect environment to release predatory mites that willkill the harmful mites you have, though it'll take about a week for them to really overtake the pests. This should also keep your other houseplants from being infected, but quarantine the plant just to be safe. Predatory mites are available through IPM Labs (P.O. Box 300 Locke, NY 13092-0300; ph# 315-497-2063). I have heard very good success stories on the use of predatory mites. <br><br>Another technique that has been successful for me is to make a froth of soap suds and dab it onto the plant beingsure to cover it entirely-top and bottom of leaves. This will suffocate the mites and won't hurt the plant at all. You might give this a try. If your ivy has been severely decimated by the mites I probably would take some clean cuttings and start over. Be sure there are no mites on the cuttings!

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