My African violets have cyclamen mites. How do I treat them? If I discard these violets and buy more, will the same thing happen to them? —Virginia Barnes, Hanahan, SC
Cyclamen mites are so tiny they’re completely invisible to the naked eye, so it’s easy to inadvertently spread them from plant to plant. You can try treating your African violets with a miticide, but cyclamen mites are extremely difficult to eliminate. Many entomologists feel you’d be better off discarding the plants and starting over.
Luckily, you’ll find a wide variety of new African violets at very reasonable prices, and chances are your friends will be happy to share leaves from their plants for you to root.
There’s no way to guarantee your new plants won’t become infested with cyclamen mites, but there are some things you can do to decrease the chances. Inspect plants carefully before bringing them into your home. Wipe down the areas where your old violets sat. If you plan to re-use the violet containers, scrub them out, then soak them for at least 30 minutes in a solution of one part liquid chlorine bleach to nine parts lukewarm water. Rinse them thoroughly and you’re good to go.
—Deb Brown, professor emeritus, University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science