How to Save a Spider Plant with Brown Leaves and Leaf Tips

How to save a spider plant with brown leaves and brown leaf tips

The most common reasons for spider plant leaf tips to turn brown are low humidity, fluoride in tap water, or temperatures higher than 80°F or lower than 55°F. Too much fertilizer and drought stress can also result in the leaf tips turning brown.

Brown leaves are leaf tips are the most common signs of distress for a spider plant growing in adverse conditions. Here is a table summarizing the range of reasons for spider plant leaves and leaf tips turning brown:

Symptoms:Reasons for Brown Leaves or Leaf Tips:
Leaf tips turning brown:Low humidity, chemicals in tap water, temperatures higher than 80°F (27°C) or lower than 55°F (12°C), too much fertilizer, and drought stress.
Leaves turning yellow and brown:Too much direct sunlight, underwatering, potentially overwatering.
Leaves turning brown in the middle:The combination of cold temperature and overwatering.
Leaves turning brown at the base of the plant:Natural part of the spider plant life cycle and does not necessarily indicate the plant is in a state of stress.
Leaves turning brown after repotting:Repotting to a pot that is too large and retains too much moisture, compacted soils and repotting at the wrong time of year (Spring is the best time for repotting).

Keep reading to learn why the leaves are turning brown and how to implement the solutions to save your spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)…

What Causes Spider Plant Leaves to Turn Brown at the Tips

Spider plants are native to tropical Africa where they grow in relatively high humidity, in moist, well-draining soil with its leaves out of direct sunlight due to an overhead canopy.

The reason the leaf tips turn brown is that the spider plant is living in conditions that are significantly contrary to the conditions it experiences in its natural environment.

The most common reason is low humidity…

Humidity Lower than 30% Causes the Leaf Tips to Turn Brown

Why are my spider plant's leaf tips turning brown
This is my spider plant. The leaf tip turned brown due to low humidity in Winter.

Spider plants are native to climates with high humidity of around 30%. The humidity indoors is often as low as 10% and it can fluctuate significantly due to:

  • Indoor heating which saps moisture from the air.
  • Air conditioning or forced air.
  • Open windows or draughty areas of the house.

It is this discrepancy between the preferred level of humidity and indoor humidity that saps moisture from the leaves at a faster rate than the roots can draw up moisture causing the leaf tips to turn brown and crispy.

Brown leaf tips due to low humidity are not a serious threat to the spider plant and can be addressed with a few simple environmental changes.

How to Save it…

In climates with low humidity, it is important to mist your spider plant regularly. Misting the spider plant reduces the rate of water loss from the leaves and creates a humid microclimate to mimic the conditions of its natural environment.

Keep the plant out of the way of dry air currents from air conditioning and forced air. It is also a good idea to locate your spider plant in a room with naturally high humidity such as a bathroom, to prevent any more browning of leaf tips.

Should I Snip off the Brown Leaf Tips?

If the leaf tips have turned brown they do not turn green again. However, you can simply cut the leaf tips back with a sharp pair of pruners to create a new green healthy tip for the leaf.

Once you have addressed the environmental problems that have initially caused the browning tips these new pruned tips should stay green.

Temperatures Higher then 80°F (27°C) Causes Brown Leaf Tips

The optimal temperature range for spider plants is between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C) with around 10°F cooler at night.

If the temperature is too hit then this can dry out the potting medium too quickly and sap moisture from the leaves resulting in drought stress and low humidity that causes the leaf tips to turn brown.

Spider plants are naturally adapted to a natural temperature cycle of warm days and cooler nights. The temperature indoors in Winter is often contrary to this cycle with cool days and an increase in temperature in the evenings due to indoor heating.

This contrary temperature cycle can cause enough stress to turn the leaf tips brown.

How to Save it…

Always maintain a temperature range of between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C). Keep the spider plant on the other side of the room from any sources of heat.

As long as the spider plant is not directly next to a radiator or in the current of forced air then it should be able to tolerate the conditions indoors without the leaves turning brown.

Give the potting soil a really good soak in case the high temperature has dried out the soil and mist the leaves to alleviate drought stress.

Prune the brown tips back with a sharp pair of pruners and the spider plant should remain healthy.

Temperatures Cooler than 55°F (12°C) and Cold Window Sills Cause Brown Leaf Tips

Spider plants are native to warm tropical environments and do not tolerate cold temperatures well which causes the leaf tips to turn brown.

Spider plants can tolerate temperatures of 55°F (12°C) without adverse effects but if the temperature is lower than this in the evenings then it can result in brown leaf tips.

It is important to keep in mind that the glass of a window can be significantly cooler than the ambient room temperature of a house at night. If the spider plants is on a window sill and the leaves that are in contact with the glass then these leaves can turn brown or even black at the tips.

How to Save it…

Simply move the spider plant to a room that does not get cooler than 55°F (12°C) at night and keep your spider plant away from any cold draught windows and the spider plant should perk up.

Trim away the brown leaves with a sharp pair of pruners with diagonal cuts to create a naturally looking leaf shape.

(Read my article, why are my spider plant leaves turning back?)

Too Much Fluoride, Chlorine, or Minerals in Tap Water Contribute to Brown Leaf Tips

Spider plants are very sensitive to chlorine and fluoride in tap water which scorch the leaf tips brown.

Therefore it is best practice to water your spider plant with rainfall as this is comparatively devoid of chemicals. You can also use filtered water, or bottled water, or just leave a bowl of water out for 24 hours, which gives the chlorine and fluoride time to evaporate at which point the water should be safe.

The leaf tips do not recover from chemical sensitivity so trim them back.

Too Little or Too Much Fertilizer can Cause the Leaf Tips to Turn Brown

Spider plants require an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer applied at half strength during active growth in the Spring and Summer to look their best.

If you are applying fertilizer at full strength or too often (or in Winter whilst the plant is dormant) then this can cause a build-up of salts in the spider plant’s potting soil.

Too many salts create a negative osmotic pressure which means the spider plant’s roots struggle to uptake moisture which results in brown leaf tips.

Conversely, if you haven’t applied fertilizer for a long time and the spider plant has been in the same pot with the same potting soil for a long time then the roots can exhaust the soil of available nutrients and cause the leaf tips to to turn brown.

How to Save it…

If you suspect too much fertilizer is the cause then do not use any more fertilizer this year.

It is important to dissolve accumulated salts in the potting soil so that the roots cannot efficiently uptake moisture.

To do this place the spider plant in a basin and run the tap through the potting soil for 20 minutes or so. The flow of water through the potting soil should help to dissolve the slats and flush them out of the base of the pot through the drainage holes in the base.

Go back to watering as usual during active growth, trim back the scorched leaf tips and the plant should recover.

If the spider plant has been in the same pot for several years without any additional fertilizer then I recommend repotting the spider plant to a pot that is just 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot (this is to prevent problems associated with slow drainage due to excessively large pots).

The new potting soil should have more available nutrients for the roots to uptake. If it is Spring or Summer then apply fertilizer once a month but cease in Fall as the spider plant becomes dormant.

The new healthy green growth should be free of brown tips.

Dry soil During Spring and Summer Can Cause Brown Leaves and Leaf Tips

Spider plants are somewhat drought tolerant due to their ability to store moisture in their thick fleshy roots.

If you occasionally forget to water your side plant it is likely to be okay, however, the leaf tips turning brown indicates some slight drought stress.

Spider plants require evenly moist soil with the top inch of the soil just drying out between bouts of watering. Typically this means watering spider plants once every 7 to 10 days, but this varies according to your climate and conditions in the home.

If the spider plant is chronically underwatered then you are likely to see other symptoms such as wilting foliage and entire leaves can turn brown and crispy.

Underwatering can be as a result of:

  1. Not watering the soil often enough.
  2. Watering too lightly.
  3. If the soil dries out completely, it can become hydrophobic and repel water off the surface without infiltrating properly to reach the drought-stressed roots.

How to Save it…

If the spider plant is drought-stressed then place the spider plant in a basin of lukewarm water (preferably not tap water due to its chlorine sensitivity) ensuring the the plant’s root ball is submerged for 20 minutes.

By submerging the root ball, the water has time to infiltrate the soil properly ensuring that it is evenly moist. This helps to improve the structure of hydrophobic soil and water should soak into the soil properly next time you water.

I should also emphasize that it is important to always water spider plants with a thorough watering, to the extent that the excess water trickles from the base in the pot.

This replicates the typical -deluge followed by drought- cycle of watering that spider plants can experience in their native environment and ensures that potting soil is evenly moist after watering.

Once the spider plant has had 2 or 3 water cycles with a thorough watering then this should help to alleviate the drought stress and solve the problem of wilting, brown leaves.

Wait until the spider plant has started to show signs of recovery and then cut back any leaves that are significantly brown, back to the base which stimulates new growth.

(Read my article, must know tips for watering spider plants).

Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown (Overwatering)

Whilst brown and yellow leaves usually indicate the spider plant is underwatered, yellow and brown drooping, mushy leaves can also indicate overwatering and draining soils.

If the soil stays consistently boggy and the top inch does not dry between each bout of watering then this can prevent root respiration and promote the conditions for root rot.

How to Save it…

  • If the soil is damp and the cause of the yellowing, and brown leaves is overwatering, then take the spider plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. Healthy spider plant roots look white and feel firm whereas roots suffering from root rot turn brown and mushy with an unpleasant aroma. If the roots appear to be diseased then cut these roots back to healthy growth or back to the base of the plant to prevent the rot from spreading.
  • Use a cloth soaked in disinfectant to wipe the blades of the pruners between each cut to prevent spreading fungal pathogens from diseased roots, to otherwise healthy roots.
  • Wash away the remaining potting soil from around the roots (as the soil can harbor the fungal pathogen that causes root rot) and wash the spider plant pot with disinfectant. Re-pot the spider plant with new potting soil with around 80% normal houseplant potting soil and 25% horticultural grit or perlite by volume of the pot to improve drainage.
  • Give the plant a thorough watering then allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering again and mist the leaves to help mitigate transplant shock.
  • Ensure that the pot has drainage holes in the base of the pot to allow for good drainage and empty saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots regularly to prevent water from pooling around the base of the pot so that the soil does not stay boggy.

The spider plant may not recover particularly if the roots have been in boggy soil for too long and the root rot is severe but re-potting the plant gives it a chance to survive.

If the spider plant has any off setts then it can be possible to propagate these even if the main plant is dying.

Spider plant off set ready for propagation.
Spider plant offset ready for propagation.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate spider plants:

Too Much Direct Sunlight Scorches Leaves Yellow and Brown

Spider plants grow under a canopy in their native environment which shades the leaves from direct sunlight. Therefore spider plants have adapted to living in shade and the leaves are very sensitive to direct sunlight.

If your spider plant is in any direct sunlight then this can cause the leaves to fade in color, if not scorch a yellow/ brown color.

Once the leaves have scorched brown then the scorched sections of the leaves cannot photosynthesize and therefore cannot contribute any energy to the plant, however, the remaining green sections of the leaves may be able to function still.

How to Save it…

Move the spider plant to an area of bright indirect light (too much shade can slow down growth and reduce variegation).

Do not cut back any leaves for the time being as if you cut back all the scorched leaves at once then it can be too much of a shock for the plant to tolerate in one go.

Keep caring for the spider plant with the best practices (high humidity, regular watering, etc.), and wait until the Spring or Summer when the plant should be actively growing.

Once you start to see signs of new growth then the spider plants have recovered from the trauma of sunburn and should be able to tolerate some pruning.

Prune the brown scorched leaves back to the base of the plant, which should stimulate new growth and improve the appearance of the plant.

During the course of the active growing season, you should be able to rehabilitate the spider plant back to health.

Spider Plant Leaves Turning Brown in the Middle

If the spider plant starts to develop brown streaks in the middle of the leaves then this is an indication the plant is being watered too often, in combination with unfavorable low temperatures.

Spider plants have a state of dormancy in the Winter in response to fewer hours of light and cooler temperatures.

During dormancy the plant does not actively grow which reduces the demand for water, therefore it is important to reduce how often you water the spider plant, in accordance with this seasonal change.

How to Save it…

Reduce the watering of spider plants significantly in the Fall and Winter. Typically I water my spider plants once every 2 or 3 weeks in Winter, compared with once per week during active growth in Spring and Summer.

The reduction in watering should help the soil dry slightly more between each bout of watering which should help to alleviate stress.

It is critical to also ensure that the spider plant is not exposed to temperatures cooler than 55°F (12°C) in Winter as it is specifically this combination of cold temperatures and too much water which causes the brown streaks in the middle of the leaves.

Find a warmer place for your spider plant if it is on a cold draughty window sill and it should prevent any more leaves from turning brown in the middle.

Once you have addressed these environmental concerns then cut the brown leaves back to the base of the plant with a sharp pair of pruners and the spider plant should recover.

(Read my article, How to Grow and Care for Indoor Spider Plants).

Brown Leaves at the Base of the Plant

Brown leaves that turn dried out and crispy at the base of the spider plant are an entirely natural part of the spider plant’s life cycle.

The older lower leaves turn brown, dry out, and die back as the spider plant prioritizes putting energy into the growth of new leaves and offsetts.

The newer leaves that emerge are likely to be better positioned to be in brighter light which means they can contribute more to the plant via photosynthesis than the older leaves at the base of the plant which may be shaded by other foliage.

Do not tear the brown leaves off, but prune them carefully with a pair of pruners back to the base to improve the appearance of your spider plant.

Brown Leaves after Repotting

If the leaves are wilting and turning brown after repotting then this may indicate stress from repotting or a change in environment.

It is important to note that the best time of year to repot your spider plants is in the Spring as this is when the plant is most resilient to stress.

If you re-pot at a different time of year, particularly Winter then this is likely to cause too much stress for the spider plant to tolerate.

Repotting in Winter can cause the plant to die back.

Another problem pertaining to brown leaves after repotting is due to the fact the pot may be too large for the spider plant.

It is imperative that the pot is only an inch or 2 in diameter bigger than the previous pot. If the pot is too large then it contains more soil and therefore retains more moisture.

This causes the potting soil to dry out at a much slower rate and leaves the spider plant vulnerable to overwatering and root rot.

The potting soil may also be too compacted upon repotting if you firm it around the roots with too much force.

This can push oxygen out of the soil, reducing the porosity and the rate at which the soil drains. All of which can cause the stress that turns the leaves yellow and brown.

How to Save it…

Re-pot the ailing spider plant in a pot that is only an inch or two larger in diameter than its original pot, as this ensures that the potting soil should dry out at a rate the spider plant’s roots are accustomed to, reducing the risk of root rot.

Add some perlite or horticultural grit to the potting soil (around 80% potting soil to 20% grit by volume of the pot) to improve the drainage and create a more favorable porous soil structure.

The spider plant is likely to have experienced significant stress if you have to re-pot it twice so just keep caring for the spider plant as usual (wait until the top inch of soil is dry before watering, maintain high humidity and a temperature range of 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C)) and the spider plant should show signs of growth in the Spring and Summer at which point you can prune the brown leaves back to the base of the plant.

(Read my article, on how to revive a dying spider plant).

Key Takeaways:

  • Low humidity, dry soil, chemicals in the tap water, and too much fertilizer are the most common reasons for spider plant leaf tips to turn brown. Temperature higher than 80°F (27°C) or lower than 55°F (12°C) can also be the cause of brown leaf tips.
  • Spider plant leaves turn brown in the middle due to a combination of cold temperatures and overwatering.
  • Spider plant leaves turn yellow and brown due to too much direct sunlight or overwatering. Spider plants need to grow in the shade and they are very sensitive to direct sunlight which scorches the leaves yellow and brown.
  • To save a spider plant with brown leaves recreate the conditions of its native environment by misting the leaves the increase the humidity, watering only when the top inch feels dry, and maintaining a temperature range of between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C). Cut brown leaf tips back with a sharp pair of pruners.

Recent Posts