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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 25, 2008

From: Shepherdstown, WV
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens, Pests, Watering
Title: Mites in soil of house plants
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi there! I recently noticed tiny silver mites in the soil of my plants that I only notice after watering. These plants are indoors in on a window ledge (a dwarf palm, aloe plant and Hawaiian Schefflera). There doesn't appear to be any damage to the plants from them, but regardless of if they are harmful I would prefer if they weren't there. Do you know if they can cause any harm and what I can do to get rid of these mites? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Since most house plants are tropical or semi-tropical, and non-natives of North America, they are a little out of the range of our expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Our concentration is on plants native to the area in which they are being grown, because they need less fertilizer, water and maintenance. However, we understand that plants are plants, and if you are having a problem with indoor plants, we can certainly try to help you find a solution. The best website we found on house plant care in general was the Colorado State University Extension site on Managing Household Plants. You are correct in feeling that even a non-damaging insect is not a good thing to have on a plant that is growing inside. They could be larvae of a pest that is going to damage plants, and not just the one they are on, but spreading to others in your home. Please read the website we have linked you to completely; it has pictures and descriptions, plus suggestions for control. One final note: we have noticed that over-watering of indoor plants is very often the source of insect problems. The thing about an indoor plant is it's right there, in your line of vision all the time. So, every time you pass, you think maybe it could use a little drinky. Not only does it not need such frequent watering, but if the pot is poorly drained, it could be producing root rot, and the ultimate demise of the plant.

 

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