How to Revive a Dying Spider Plant

Why is my spider plant not growing

The reason for a dying spider plant is usually because of root rot due to over watering which causes the spider plant to droop and turn yellow with a dying appearance. Spider plants can die back due to excess fertilizer, under watering and low humidity which causes brown leaf tips.

To revive a dying spider plant it important water correctly, allowing the top 2 inches of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering, maintain the optimal temperature for growth, locate the spider plant in bright indirect light and recreate some of the conditions of its native environment.

Keep reading to learn why your spider plant is dying and how to solve it…

Spider Plant Leaves with Brown Tips

  • Symptoms: Spider plant leaves turning brown most often with brown tips at the end of the leaves that look dry.
  • Causes: Very low humidity, under watering, over watering, excess wind or air flow from draughts or air conditioning, too much fertilizer, sun burn, cold temperatures and fluoride in the water.

Spider plants are native to South Africa where they thrive in a warm tropical climate with relatively high humidity and moderate rainfall.

If you do not replicate these conditions when caring for spider plants the leaf tips can turn brown and have an overall dying appearance…

Drought Stress Causing Spider Plants Brown Leaf Tips

Spider plant leaves most often turn brown at the tips if they are suffering drought stress due to under watering, low humidity or air currents that sap moisture from the leaves quicker then the roots can uptake water.

Spider plants are adapted to tolerate some drought as they store water in their thick fleshy roots and rhizomes but they suffer brown tips if the soil has dried out completely.

Spider plants grow in tropical areas of Africa, so the low humidity of your homes is contrary to their native environment and can also increase water loss from their leaves at a rate that causes stress resulting in brown leaf tips from dehydration.

Air currents in our homes from air conditioning, forced air, draughts or convention currents from sources of heat can also exacerbate water loss from the leaves and be the cause of brown leaf tips.

How to Revive Spider Plants with Brown Leaves due to Drought Stress

  • Spray the leaves with a mist of water to create a humid micro-climate around your spider plant.This helps to replicate the conditions of higher humidity in the spider plants tropical range and reduces water loss from the leaves. Spray the plant at least once per week or twice per week if you live in a climate with particularly low humidity.
  • Water your spider plant more often. Whilst spider plants can tolerate some drought, the leaves can turn brown when the soil has dried out completely. The best practice is to water spider plants when the top 2 inches of soil feel slightly moist to somewhat dry rather then when completely dried up. Typically watering around once every 7-10 days is sufficient for spider plants but this can vary according to climate and conditions so always check how long it takes for the top 2 inches of soil to feel somewhat dry to establish the appropriate watering schedule for your home.
  • Water you spider plant with a generous soak. If you water too lightly it only moistens the top inch or so of the soil and the moisture does not infiltrate the soil and reach the roots causing the tip of the leaves to turn brown from drought stress. Always water with a good soak so that excess water escape through the drainage holes to ensure the soil is evenly moist so that the root can uptake the moisture they require.
  • Locate the spider plant in a room without significant draughts and avoid the direct flow or air conditioning and forced air. Too much air flow saps moisture from the leaves. Spider plants prefer a more humid environment.

If the cause of the spider plants brown leaf tips is drought stress then the plant should show signs of recover after a few cycles of watering in the following weeks.

It is often necessary to prune the brown ends of the leaves if the drought stress was severe as the tips do not necessarily return to their green or variegated color.

Simply snip off the ends of the leaves with a sterile pair of pruners to stimulate more growth and to improve the overall appearance.

(For more information read my article must know tips for watering spider plants).

Brown Leaf Tips due to Fluoride in Tap Water

Spider plants are very sensitive to chemicals in household water such as fluoride and chlorine. The tips of the leaves can turn brown and even die back in response to exposure to fluoride.

Therefore it is best practice to water you spider plants with filtered water or rainwater rather then tap water to avoid any build up of harmful chemicals.

The tips of the brown leaves do not revive from fluoride or chemical sensitivity so to improve the appearance of your spider plant simply snip off the tips of the leaves with a sterile pair of pruners and avoid watering with tap water.

Spider plants grow relatively fast in Spring and Summer and should recover fully.

Excess Fertilizer Causes Spider Plant leaf Tips to to Brown

Spider plants are not necessarily heavy feeders but do benefit from feeding in the Spring and Summer months.

If fertilizer is applied too often, in too high concentration or during the Winter months when the plant is growing slowly (and therefore has a lower demand for nutrients) then the leaf tips turn brown and crispy as a sign of stress.

Spider plants typically require a half strength application of balanced, general house plant fertilizer once a month from Spring until the middle of Summer to stay healthy.

Too much fertilizer causes a build of salts in the soil which makes it difficult for the roots to draw up moisture.

To revive spider plants with brown leaf tips due to too much fertilizer, take the spider plant out of its pot and discard the surrounding soil from the pot.

Replace the soil (as it has accumulated too much salt) with new potting soil and repot the spider plant.

Give the plant a generous soak after replanting to help mitigate any transplant shock and to dissolve any excess salts that are still present around the roots.

If the leaf tips do not recover in appearance then snip them back with a sterile pair of pruners which stimulates new growth.

Temperatures Higher then 80°F and Lower then 55°F causes Spider Plant Leaf Tips to Turn Brown

The optimal growing temperature for spider plants is between 65°F (18°C) 75°F (23°C) during the day and warmer then 55°F (12°C) at night.

If the temperature is significantly colder then 55°F for a long time or exceeds 80°F (27°C) then the spider plants leaves show stress by turning brown or sometimes turning black.

Spider plants grow well at room temperature and require bright indirect light rather then direct sun which generally keeps them in the optimal temperature range for growing.

Move your spider plant to an area of more shade if it is in the sun.

The brown tips can also be caused when the leaves of your spider plant are in contact with a cold window which could even be frosty in Winter so ensure the leaves are not in contact with windows if you live in a cold climate as spider plants are tropical.

Cut away any brown and damaged leaf tips to stimulate new growth and the plant should revive.

(Read my article, spider plant not growing and not producing babies?)

Leaves Turning Brown due to too Much Sun

Spider plants are adpated to growing in shady conditions under the cover of a tree canopy and can tolerate some dappled light but grow best in bright indirect light.

If the leaves are exposed to direct light then this can cause the plant to dry out which results in brown leaf tips or it can cause sun burn which can turn most of the leaf brown where it is exposed to the sun.

Excess sun exposure can kill a spider plant so it is important to move it to shade as soon as you can.

With some watering and by spraying the leaves with a mist, you can help to revive the spider plant as it is likely that the direct sun has caused some drought stress.

Leaves that have turned brown due to sun burn do not turn back to green so it is important to prune these individual leaves at the base of the plant to improve the appearance.

If most of the leaves suffer some sunburn then only prune away a few leaves at a time to prevent the plant dying of shock.

Sun burn happens most often when the spider plant is moved from an area of shade to a location with direct sun.

Whilst spider plants can tolerate some direct sun, the contrast between shade and sun if it is suddenly moved increase the risk of sun burn.

Spider Plant Turning Yellow and Drooping

  • Symptoms. Leaves of the spider plant turning yellow with a drooping or dying appearance.
  • Causes. Over watering, slow draining soils or too much fertilizer, large pots that take a long time to dry out.

Spider plants are native to tropical areas of South Africa and have special adaptations to tolerate drought with thick roots and rhizomes that store water and nutrients.

Therefore spider plants are more sensitive to the affects of over watering the under watering.

Typically spider plants require the top two inches of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering for the optimal balance of moisture.

Spider plant leaves turn yellow and die if they are over watered or in soils that drains too slowly.

If the spider plant is consistently over watered it can develop root rot at which point it is very difficult to save and it is better to try to propagate and plantlets that may have formed as the main plant dies back.

Watch this YouTube video for how to propagate spider plants:

Applying too much fertilizer too often can cause the leaves to droop and turn yellow as a sign of stress whilst the tips often also turn brown as a reaction.

Spider plants actually prefer smaller pots and can thrive despite being root bound which can promote flowering.

Larger pots have a greater capacity for soil and therefore hold more moisture which can increase the risk of root rot.

How to Revive Drooping Spider Plants with Yellow Leaves

Sometimes the leaves of spider plants can start to turn yellow just as a sign of stress due to too much moisture around the roots and can recover if you scale back the watering appropriately.

However if the roots have been in damp soil for a long time then the spider plant is likely to have root rot which can kill the plant.

How to Revive Spider plants with root rot

  • If you think the cause of yellow leaves is over watering, take the spider plant out of the soil and inspect the roots. Healthy roots look white whereas roots suffering root rot turn brown and mushy. If the roots appear to have root rot then cut any diseased looking roots back to healthy growth. (If the roots all look white without looking discolored or feeling soft then just scale back the watering).
  • Use a cloth soaked in alcohol disinfectant to wipe the pair of pruners between each cut to prevent spreading fungal disease pathogens to parts of healthy roots.
  • Wash away the remaining soil and re-pot the spider plant in a new pot (or wash the original pot thoroughly with disinfectant) and use new potting soil as the old soil can harbor the fungal pathogens that cause root rot.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist for the next four weeks and mist the leaves regularly to mitigate transplant shock.
  • Ensure that the pot has drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape and if you are using saucers or trays underneath the pot to prevent water spilling in the home then empty the saucer or tray regularly so that the soil does not stay boggy.

The spider plant may not recover particularly if the root rot is severe but re-potting the plant gives it a chance to survive.

If you think too much fertilizer is the cause of your yellowing leaves

  • Stop using fertilizer until the plant recovers. Fertilizer should only be applied at half strength around once per month in the Spring and Summer during active growth.
  • Water the soil thoroughly to try to dissolve any excess salts that can accumulate from excess use of fertilizer. However only water when the top two inches of the soil have dried to causing problems because of over watering.
  • If the spider plant does not start to show signs of recover after 4 weeks then replace the soil. It is possible that the accumulated salts in the soil (due to fertilizer) are still in too high concentration and the only effective method to revive the plant is to re-pot with new potting soil.

If the spider plant shows signs of recovery but some individual leaves stay yellow then trim the affected leaves back to the base of the plant.

Sometimes spider plants turn yellow as a sign of stress due to a contrast in temperature so ensure the spider plant stays at between 65°F (18°C) 75°F (23°C) to allow the plant to recover.

For all the best practices read my article, How to Grow and Care for Indoor Spider Plants).

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying spider plant is usually because of root rot due to over watering which turns the leaves yellow and causes the spider plant to droop with a dying appearance. Low humidity and excess fertilizer can cause the spider plants leaf tips to turn brown and die back.
  • Under watering and low humidity cause leaf tips to turn brown due to drought stress. Mist the leaves and increase the watering.
  • Temperatures higher then 80°F and lower then 55°F cause s the spider plants leaf tips to turn brown and die back. The optimal growing temperature for spider is between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C).
  • To revive a dying spider plant try to recreate some of the conditions of its native environment with moderate watering, higher humidity and warm temperatures and the spider plant can recover.

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