‘This physically pains me to look at’

When on the hunt for new plants at their local Lowe’s, a self-described “dirt enthusiast” saw something that made their skin crawl.

On taking a closer inspection of a palm, they noticed tiny white specks on the leaves, which they identified as being caused by spider mites. 

“PSA: make sure you quarantine any new plants, especially those brought home from big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot,” they captioned the post. “This was pictured at my local Lowe’s.”

"You can never be too careful with new plants from anywhere."
Photo Credit: Reddit
"You can never be too careful with new plants from anywhere."
Photo Credit: Reddit

Spider mites might be tiny, but they are still voracious feeders. According to Ohio State University, they pierce individual plant cells and remove everything inside. This leads to yellow or white spots on leaves, and if the foliage turns bronze, it will soon drop off the plant. 

“Heavily infested plants may be discolored, stunted, or even killed,” the university’s website pointed out. “Web-producing spider mites may coat the foliage with the fine silk, which collects dust and looks dirty.”

Members of the r/plantclinic community were similarly horrified and offered some advice when buying plants from big-box stores.

“I saw a plant absolutely covered in scale at Trader Joe’s one time,” said one Redditor. “Told the manager and they quickly removed it. You can NEVER be too careful with new plants from anywhere.” 

“Screaming and crying, this physically pains me to look at…” added another.

“Highly recommend doing a regular leaf clean with the peppermint Dr. Bronner’s (diluted of course)!” said a commenter. “Cleans off the dust and is preventative for pests.”

This is a good suggestion, as products from this brand do not contain any harmful chemicals that could affect other greenery in your garden, on your balcony, or among your house plant collection.

Pesticides might seem like a quick and easy way to deal with bothersome bugs, but they might do more harm than good. Using natural solutions like plant trap crops — sacrificial plants that draw insects away from more prized plants — can help to keep your green friends healthy. 

Cloves can also keep pests away. Sprinkling them around your garden will help to keep aphids at bay. 

Spider mites might put off some beginners from getting a garden or house plant collection started, as seeing the plants dying off not long after purchase can be really discouraging. That’s a shame because plants improve air quality, increase well-being, and reduce stress.

Starting with more hardy plants might be better to begin a gardening journey. Native plants are well-suited to the local climate and soil type, and they might be better to encourage new green fingers — and they’ll bring pollinators to your yard, too, which helps secure the food supply network. 

Otherwise, be more selective when grabbing plants from the store, if not to ensure the longevity of your purchase but to stop your other plants from getting sick.

“This is triggering me,” one Redditor said of the poor palm plant. “I bought the same kind of palm from Lowe’s a few years ago and it infested my whole house with spider mites. I literally couldn’t kill them all, so I had to throw it away and was able thankfully able to save everything else, but it’s been a long battle.”

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