“Help! My 4-year-old Adenium has always thrived. Last year it put out 6 seed pods and this year the blooms were massive overpowering any green. When the blooms finally stopped all the older leaves turned yellow and dropped. But new ones were coming out. Now the new ones are all curling and while green on the top the bottoms have brown spots. It’s in the sun all day long and while we had a wet spring (before the blooms) the summer has been dry and hot. When the leaves started turning yellow (over a month ago) I noticed spider mites so I sprayed them with an insecticide soap for 2 weeks and they are gone but now the leaves are all curled and brown spots on the underside only. How can I save this plant?” Question from Julie of McKinney Texas
Answer: The good thing is the succulents like Adeniums have lots of stored energy, so once you totally rid them of the spider mites, they will bounce back quickly. To truly eradicate the mites, you will have to spray more than just the foliage.
How to Treat Plants for Spider Mites
Here are the steps I would take to completely remove spider mites from an Adenium.
- Remove damaged, yellowing leaves.
- Wipe down the base of the plant and stems.
- Wipe down the pot.
- Remove the top 2 inches of potting mix, and replace it with a quality cactus mix, such as Black Gold Cactus Mix.
- Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for flowering plants.
- Spray all plant parts with insecticidal soap or Neem oil.
The white-paper test is my favorite way to further test for mites. Take a clean piece of white paper, hold it beneath the leaves, then tap the leaves onto the paper. If you have mites, tiny specs will fall, and eventually, they will start crawling around. These are spider mites. Continue to do the tap test and gently wipe down leaves and stems and spray them until healthy new growth appears and remains undamaged. It may take time, but you can overcome spider mites.
Black Gold Horticulturist
“Any idea what kind of plant this is? It was given to my mom and looks pretty bad. We were also wondering if it’s ok to cut all of the brownish leaves off. Will It come back with new regrowth?” Question from Donna of West Chester, Pennsylvania
Answer: You have a Japanese Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta). It looks like it is struggling. Definitely remove the brown or dying leaves.
It will regrow with good care! These prickly cycads require lots of sunlight and very well-drained soil. During the winter months, they should be watered very little. Leaf browning can be caused by underwatering or overwatering–most often overwatering. If you are watering it a lot, give it a rest for at least three weeks. It should also be in a pot with drainage holes and a bottom saucer to catch water. Good potting mix will also help keep it happy. I recommend repotting it in Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix amended with added Perlite for drainage, if your mix looks old and depleted.
The drying leaves may also be caused by spider mites, a common pest of these cycads. Spider mites are tiny plant pests, and once you notice their damage, they are already numerous and a problem. The tops of leaves will look like they have little white spots across them. These are dead leaf cells that the mites have sucked dry. You might also see little webs on the leaves and stems of infected plants. To make sure you have mites, and to get an idea of population levels, take a clean piece of white paper, hold it beneath the leaves, then tap the leaves onto the paper. If you have mites, lots of tiny specs will fall. Eventually, they will start crawling around. These are spider mites!
If you think you have mites, remove the worst of the damaged leaves. Then spray, wash, and wipe the remaining stems and leaves thoroughly. Remove the top inch of potting soil and replace it with fresh. It also helps to wipe the container down, in case any mites have strayed. Finally, spray the plants with insecticidal soap or Neem oil. Continue to do the tap test and wipe and spray leaves as needed. In time you will overcome your mite problem.
Black Gold Horticulturist