Spider mites’ damage

I spent the winter term in Italy, in the meanwhile, my boyfriend took care of my plants. Amongst them a beautiful oleander. I got it last spring and since then it doubled in size. The blossoms are salmon (I don’t like the pink ones) and not filled – just a plain beauty. But already during the summer I had some problems with spider mites, because it’s always dry on the loggia, for even the strongest storm doesn’t reach to the door, where I put the oleander. I sprayed pesticides, quite successfully. In September, before I left for Bologna, I put the oleander in, close to a window (facing east) in the staircase. I don’t exactly remember how it happened, but somehow I found out that the oleander had spider mites again. Maybe I saw it on a photo in my bf’s blog. I advised him to first of all put the oleander into the shower and rinse the leaves. Well, you can see here how it looked.

Spider mites don’t like water. However, as soon as it’s dry, they spread like crazy. Plus they like it warm. Our staircase is very dry and quite warm (not the ideal conditions for overwintering an oleander, but he didn’t mind). So you should first of all try to create the conditions they don’t like, which would be cold and wet. Put your plants into the rain, away from your radiator, in the cold basement or – if you can’t do any of them – into the shower. And shower. And shower. After some showering, I advised my bf to put back the oleander, make a mixture of 2 tsp of dishwashing liquid, 2 tsp of oil (rapeseed) and mix it with 1 lt water, then put it into a spray bottle and spray the mixture onto the plant every day.

What it does: First of all it creates a wet environment. Second, the dishwashing liquid (you can take soap water as well) helps the oil to mix with the water. Plus it helps the oil stay on the leaves and mites. The oil itsself is supposed to kill the mites. I’ve had very bad experiences with spider mites and have to say that even this mixture might fail, but not, if you spray and spray and spray consequently and every day. Sometimes even twice a day. During the whole process be careful that the liquid doesn’t drop onto the soil, put newspaper or a plastic bag over it. And spray a lot, not just a few times, but ’till the liquid drops off the plants’ leaves. And try to reach the bottom side of the leaves, because that’s where the mites eat them. Pay special attention to the new shoots, they are softer and more delicious to spider mites, so that’s where they normally start. Apply the liquid for about 10 days every day. If you see that there are less mites, don’t just stop, but continue spraying about every three days. A mite goes through different stages of development, and not in every stage they are visible and exposed to the spray. So keep spraying every 3 days for about 2 weeks, then switch to once a week. I kept spraying mine ’till the end of winter (which means: ’till I put it onto the balcony again) once in two weeks. No more mites. That wouldn’t have worked if my bf wasn’t soooo great! Thank you, Thomas!

Anyway, the damage the spider mites once did will stay. As I said they eat the leaves, or rather put their tiny sting into the bottom side of the leaf and suck out the cell that they just struck. Then they move on to the next cell. And the next. And so on. So the damage looks like tiny little spots where the leaf just turnes white. To give you an idea:

That’s my oleander, yes. You see the heavy damage best by the difference to the new leaves. I don’t know if the white leaves affect the chlorophyll production, but I guess they won’t change it for the better. So my plan is to cut every year some of the oleander’s stems, so it will thrive anew, with new leaves. I don’t want to cut the whole oleander at once, because than it won’t bloom at all for a year (or maybe even two). According to my plans I’m gonna have a whole new oleander within three years. At least as long as I’m able to keep away the spider mites…

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