spider plant leaves / fronds turning brown on tips Chlorophytum comosum

Why Is My Spider Plant Turning Brown?

Ideally, your spider plant also known as Chlorophytum comosum should not be turning brown at all. If your spider plant is showing signs of browning along its leaves though, don’t fret, I’ll tell you exactly why and how to remedy this issue and get your spider plant vibrant and thriving again.

Why is my spider plant turning brown? Your spider plant may be turning brown due to overwatering or underwatering, plant pests, fertilizer accumulation, lack of humidity, sun exposure, or not using pure water. Amend your watering habits, fertilize on a schedule, and control light and humidity for better spider plant care.

This guide to spider plant browning will investigate the above causes in detail and provide actionable solutions. By the time you’re done reading, you can get your spider plant on the mend! 

7 Causes of Spider Plant Browning + How to Fix Them

Overwatering a Spider Plant

Watering the spider plant is one of the trickiest facets of its care, so if you’ve been tripped up, that’s understandable.

The spider plant–which is also known as spider ivy and ribbon plant–requires soil that’s mostly dry but still has a touch of moisture before you water it again. 

If you’re always watering your spider plant to the point where the water feels soaked and soggy, then you’ve created less than optimal conditions for this “arachnid-inspired” indoor plant. 

Down at the bottom of the pot, deep in the soil where you can’t see, water lingers. The standing water saturates the roots, prohibiting oxygen from reaching them. 

If your spider plant’s pot has drainage holes and the water can get there, it should drain. 

Yet saturating the soil too often doesn’t allow the water to drain enough. Compacted soil can also prevent the water from draining.

Root rot will usually follow, which is a fungal disease caused by a variety of fungi, such as the Aphanomyces, Phytophthora, Pythium, Fusarium, or Clitobyte.

What does an overwatered spider plant look like?

The lower leaves are yellow, and the new leaves turn brown. The long fronds of your spider plant will look deflated and droopy. 

If your spider plant was growing healthfully before, all growth will cease once its been overwatered and unable to dry out.

In severe cases, root rot can cause algae to develop on the surface of the soil. You won’t be able to miss it, as your plant’s soil will have a greenish tint and a different texture.

What you can’t see happening is even scarier when root rot takes hold. The spider plant’s roots–once white, firm, and healthy–are dying.

The water-soaked roots lose their firmness and often have quite an odious scent like death. That’s when you know root rot is especially serious in your indoor plant! 

What to Do About It: Allow the Soil to Dry Out More Often

Overwatering your spider plant is not something you want to make a habit of. A time or two ought to not cause serious harm, but chronic overwatering will lead to root rot.

If your spider plant’s roots begin to die en masse, the survival of your plant is in question. 

Can you revive a dying spider plant?

Yes, of course, but the likely hood of your success depends on the degree of stress your spider plant has endured, and even with the best of intentions and skill it’s still no guarantee every unhealthy spider plant you attempt to save will survive. 

How do you save a dying spider plant?

You can’t keep the spider plant in its waterlogged soil, so you’ll have to remove it. Since the Chlorophytum comosum is a trailing plant, it’s probably best to have someone else help you out with the removal process.

Whoever is holding the pot should grip it firmly. The other person should put their hands around the base of the spider plant and give it a tug.

Don’t grip the leaves to pull the spider plant out when removing the plant from its container or the stressed and unhealthy leaves will rip right off.

Remember, your spider plant is in a very compromised state right now!

Transfer your pot-less spider plant to your kitchen counter or even your garage on a flat surface. Take a look at its root system. 

This is when you’ll be able to tell if your spider plant is savable. 

Do the white, healthy roots outnumber the dead ones? If so, that’s great! 

Using sterilized pruning shears, you can remove the blackened, dead roots hanging from the spider plant’s root ball (and clean your shears after), and then repot your spider plant. Reduce watering going forward.  

What if more roots are dead than alive? While you can prune away the dead roots, it’s unlikely your spider plant will make it. 

In short, the ratio of healthy roots to dead roots on the spider plant you’re trying to save will likely determine the outcome of your efforts.

Underwatering a Spider Plant

Water stress caused by underwatering might not cause fungal disease, but it can still be as bad or deadly to the health of your spider plant. 

How to tell if your spider plant is browning due to underwatering?

When the leaves of a spider plant have turned brown due to underwatering it, the browning will be concentrated around the tips of the long leaves as well as the leaf edges. These parts will dry out and look very dehydrated.

Once they’re dead, they’re dead for good. 

An underwatered spider plant will display symptoms similar to an overwatered spider plant, which can make matters confusing.

For instance, if you’re underwatering your spider plant too often, it will wilt just like it will when it’s overwatered. Growth will also stop.

The brown leaf edges are a dead giveaway that underwatering is your problem. 

That said, if you’re not totally confident that’s the issue, I recommend you check the soil of your spider plant.

The soil will have noticeable footprints. It will feel bone-dry, and it can sometimes even pull away from the sides of the pot. Overwatering doesn’t cause any of these symptoms!

What to Do About It: Water the Spider Plant Before Its Soil Dries Out Completely

As I mentioned in the section on overwatering, getting into a groove when it comes to watering the spider plant is not easy.

You want to allow the soil to dry until you don’t feel moisture, but the soil should never dry out entirely. 

I told you, it’s tricky!

So what does that mean as far as following a watering schedule? Don’t. A schedule can cause missteps in the summer and winter when an indoor plant’s watering needs change.

The spider plant goes dormant in the winter and will need water very infrequently then. Yet in the summer, the water evaporates faster, so you’ll have to replenish it more often.

The fingertip test is highly recommended when caring for a spider plant. You’ll be able to feel for the subtle amount of moisture that indicates you should water this plant soon. 

Pests on a Spider Plant

When you take something from the outdoors like a plant and put it in your home or office, outside critters can come in with it. 

If not by that way, then pests can crawl in through small gaps in your home or even an open window.

When I say pests, by the way, I don’t mean insect species that are virtually harmless like ants. Rather, I’m talking about insects that can cause some serious damage to your spider plant.

Spider mites, ironically enough, are attracted to the spider plant. So too are mealybugs and aphids. 

Allow me a moment to talk about these pests, beginning with spider mites. 

The more than 1,000 mite species are web-weavers. They’re also darn-near microscopic, but you can spot them if they’re in large enough numbers.

The sap-sucking aphid includes the wooly white aphid as well as the whitefly and greenfly. The latter names are misnomers since an aphid can’t fly.

Mealybugs can’t fly either. Even still, they can cover tremendous ground when a multitude of them crawl across the long leaves of your Chlorophytum comosum. These insects are disease vectors. 

What to Do About It: Identify and Eradicate Pests

A few insects here and there on your spider plant are not to be ignored. Where there are some bugs, there are usually a whole lot more.

Mealybugs–at least the white wooly variety–can leave what looks like white mold on the surface of the spider plant’s leaves.

What you’re seeing isn’t mold, but a cotton-like mealybug residue that might be comprised of egg sacs.

Spider mites produce a white residue as well, but this is their webs. It too can look like mold from a distance.

Aphids don’t deposit a white residue, but something called honeydew. This secreted fluid is clear and sticky. Black mold can grow from it if the honeydew stays on your spider plant for long enough. 

You don’t often have to use chemicals like insecticides on mealybugs, spider mites, or aphids. The only exception is if they’re taken over your plant.

Instead, dilute rubbing alcohol or dish soap with about a gallon of water. Stir the ingredients, put them in a spray bottle, and apply the mixture diligently.

Over several days, maybe about a week or two, you should see the bugs die off. 

Fertilizer Accumulation on a Spider Plant

Fertilizer is good for indoor plants. It’s food that fuels their energy sort of like athletes will drink protein shakes for a big workout. 

Just like you can overdo it on the protein, you can feed a plant too much fertilizer. 

Wouldn’t that just supercharge the plant’s growth? Not really. 

Fertilizer includes salts, macronutrients, and micronutrients, and in bulk, these minerals and nutrients can be detrimental to the spider plant.

Check the lower leaves of your plant. They can turn yellow while the edges and margins become brown and crispy. 

It’s almost like you’ve underwatered your plant. In a way, you have. Overfertilizing causes the roots to shrivel, preventing them from absorbing water. 

Plus, the salts further dehydrate your spider plant. 

The spider ivy’s leaves can go limp, and in some cases, they can even fall off. This can be very upsetting to witness!

The dead giveaway that you’re feeding your spider plant fertilizer too often is when you see crust on the soil. The fertilizer crust is often white. 

Against the dark soil, you can’t miss it! 

Over-fertilizing the spider plant is dangerous for more than the above reasons. If you make a regular habit out of it, the roots can begin to rot and die.

This isn’t root rot, per se, but the results can be the same. 

How to Flush Soil and Reduce Fertilization Frequency and/or Application Quantity

It’s not enough to simply cut back on fertilizing the spider plant. 

You should cut back on the amount of fertilizer you’re using, but that won’t help the salts and other minerals that have accumulated in the soil over the weeks or months you’ve been overfertilizing.

To remove those, you’ll have to completely rinse out your spider plant’s soil.

Put your plant in a bathtub or shallow basin. 

Then determine the volume of the spider plant’s pot.

You need four times that amount of water. 

Using a cup or a small bucket, pour water directly onto the top of the plant’s soil. Try not to get your spider plant’s leaves wet in the process.

The water should begin gushing out of the pot’s drainage holes. Even still, you want to give your plant at least three hours for all the water to drain. 

When you put the spider plant back in its original location, I’d suggest placing a drip tray underneath.

Water can continue to drain out for upwards of 24 hours 

Now that your spider plant’s soil is clean of salts and other fertilizer residue, it’s time to get its fertilization schedule right.

The spider plant’s active growing season begins in the spring and lasts through the summer. You can fertilize the plant about every two weeks during that season.

Whatever the concentration strength of the fertilizer you purchase, halve it by diluting the fertilizer with plenty of water. 

Spider Plant with Lack of Humidity

Humidity is a measure of moisture in the air. When humidity depletes, you can usually feel it, as the air is dry.

Your sinuses can become dry in turn, as can your hair, skin, and nails.

In dry conditions, the spider plant suffers too.

Symptoms will appear just as they do when you underwater the Chlorophytum comosum. The leaves can become brown and crispy.

In some cases, the leaves look scorched or burnt. The leaves of a spider plant that needs more humidity will also sag, and they can begin to curl or cup as well. 

Leaves curling up on themselves or cupping is an indoor plant’s defense mechanism against less-than-ideal conditions. The spider plant is trying to keep the moisture on its leaves so it doesn’t succumb entirely to dehydration. 

Leaf drop is also a risk if the spider plant’s conditions are too dry. The plant’s growth will crawl to a stop as well. 

How to Increase Moisture Around an Indoor Spider plant

The spider plant doesn’t have difficult humidity requirements, per se. It likes its humidity at 40 to 60 percent.

Most homes and offices contain about 30 to 50 percent relative humidity. Thus, the humidity in your environment could be enough.

To be sure, I’d advise you to buy a hygrometer, which tests air moisture. Here’s a link to the hygrometer I found on Amazon that I’ve used for the past 3 years.  

Does your spider plant need more humidity than what you have? Using a tabletop humidifier, which is both house and office-friendly is a great solution that works quickly. 

Growing a spider plant at home affords you the option to put this plant in your bathroom. Every time you take a shower, the plant gets blasted with humidity! 

Spider Plant Exposed to too Much Direct Light

A pale and limp spider plant is one that’s been spending too much in the sun or grow lights. 

The whiteness across the foliage can give way to brown and black spots as the poor plant scorches in the light. The leaf edges will especially look crispy. 

Drooping could follow. You may also notice that the spider plant’s leaves are thicker than usual. This is a unique side effect of sun exposure for this plant species.

Provide Bright, Indirect Light 

Your poor spider plant is sunburned. While I wish the browned parts of an indoor plant would magically turn green again, they won’t.

Thus, you have to treat the spider plant by pruning it. Trim away any brown, black, or white spots. If this entails you removing the entire leaf, then so be it.

Make sure you soak your pruning shears in bleach or isopropyl alcohol for a little while as you cut. You don’t want to accidentally spread plant diseases to the rest of your indoor garden!

Now that your spider plant is trimmed and tidy, you need to put it in better lighting to prevent more leaves from scorching.

The best lighting for the spider ivy is bright, indirect sunlight. This means that you’ve affixed a curtain or another medium for light to pass through as it filters in through the window. 

The plant should never receive direct light, as the last section showed you. Nothing good will come of it.

How do you know if you’ve gotten the spider plant’s lighting correct? The strips that develop across its long foliage will be very distinct.

Periods of shade are okay for the spider plant but not ideal. The less light your plant receives, the slower its growth will be and the less defined its coloration. 

Spider Plant Turning Brown from Chemicals in Tap Water

Unless you only use purified water or only filtered water to water your spider plant, then you can be sure your spider plant is being exposed to chemicals in the water.

The quantity of chemicals in your water varies. If you live in a part of the country where hard water is prevalent, then your water is rife with calcium, metals, and minerals. 

As much as hard water is detrimental to your spider plant, it’s not good for you either. You’ll feel like there’s a dirty layer of film over everything, whether that’s your dishes, your hair, or even your skin. 

You never truly feel clean!

Some indoor plants don’t care much about hard water. They appreciate the minerals. 

Others, like the spider plant, cannot handle too many minerals in their water. The plant is especially sensitive to fluoride and chlorine.

Stop Your Spider Plant from Browning by Switching to Filtered Water

The measures I discussed above are your best course of action for preventing high levels of fluoride and chlorine from reaching your spider plant’s pot. You can use a filtered water pitcher or buy a sink filter.

You can also shop for distilled bottled water, which undergoes vaporization to ensure that no minerals remain.  

Another great option for watering your indoor plants is to just use rainwater

While there are some chemicals in rainwater, watering your indoor plants with rainwater is much better than using tap water. Rainwater also offers natural benefits as well as containing a higher amount of oxygen in the water that can prevent the plants from becoming waterlogged.

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