Overwatered Spider Plant (Signs, Causes And Solutions)


Mistakes happen. Sadly, if you overwater your spider plant, you’ll have to deal with brown spots, yellow leaves, stunted growth, and other issues; in a worst-case scenario, overwatering may invite fatal root rot. It’s crucial that you know how to spot overwatering signs and how to revive your overwatered spider plant.

When your spider plant is overwatered, stop watering it and enhance soil drainage. Spot any signs of root rot and treat it immediately. Changing the soil and repotting promotes faster soil drying out and drainage. Also, improve aeration, temperature, and decrease ambient humidity.

Believe it or not, overwatering is the most likely reason why spider plants die. Their roots require oxygen to function properly. When overwatered, the soil becomes waterlogged, so roots can’t breathe and they practically drown.

The best news is that you can easily launch a rescue mission. I’ll show you how to recognize symptoms of overwatering long before they cause serious damage. You’ll also learn how to fix the problem and restore your drowning spider plant.

Wondering what you can do to avoid overwatering. Herein, you’ll also find out how to embrace good watering habits. This way, you can keep waterlogging and root rot at bay.

What Does an Overwatered Spider Plant Look Like?

Indoor potted spider plant showing signs of overwatering

An overwatered spider plant usually looks emaciated, discolored, and almost lifeless. You may notice brown spots, yellow leaves, and brown leaf tips. The leaves may also appear soft, shriveled, curled, and wilted.

In severe cases of overwatering, you may spot signs of root rot on the base of the plant. And, a characteristic unpleasant smell of root rot will hit your nose.

If you get a chance to look at the soil surface, it will appear darker with the possibility of mold and dead plant material on top.

Underwatered vs Overwatered Spider Plant? 

An underwatered spider plant may look almost uncannily the same as an overwatered one. That’s why it is crucial to know the subtle differences. After all, if you continue to water an overwatered plant you’re asking for more trouble or, even worse, the risk of killing it.

  • The soil: it all starts in the potting mix. If your spider plant is overwatered, the soil will look dark and feel wet or soggy to the touch. Mold, mildew, and other fungal growths may appear on top of the soil. On the other hand, an under-watered plant will have dry and light soil.
  • The leaves: In both cases, the leaves may turn yellow, wilt, and drop off. However, if overwatering is the problem, the wilted leaves will feel soft and puffy or mushy. Underwater spider plants have crisp and fairly dry leaves.
  • Leaf tips: Underwatered spider plants normally develop brown leaf tips and edges before the yellowing. In the case of overwatering, leaf yellowing and brown leaf tips occur at once.
  • Stems: The lower foliage and stems curled and yellowed first when underwatered. When overwatered, the lower parts of the plant will be soft, weak, and mushy (signs of rot).
  • Leaf dropping: For overwatering, both new and old leaves will start dropping. For underwatering, new leaves will fail to appear. Old leaves and flowers may start falling off, too.

Signs of Overwatered Spider Plant

A spider plant will weather some of the harshest conditions. It can shrug off low light, infertile soil, gross neglect, and desert-like conditions. But your spider plant won’t tolerate an overdose of the good-old H20.

Here are common signs that you should look out for, so you can start your rescue mission before it’s too late:

– Yellowing of Leaves

When you first overwater your spider plant, the foliage will turn pale or light green. This won’t endure long before leaves start turning yellow. The trouble starts with leaves on the lower part of your plant.

If you don’t stop overwatering and act immediately, a large number of leaves will suddenly turn yellow, wilt, and fall off. This is usually indicative of widespread root rot due to waterlogging and overwatering.

You must recognize, however, that spider plant leaves may yellow because of a wide range of other reasons. You must rule out mineral deposits, edema, pest infestation, diseases, sunburn, nutrient deficiency, and even underwatering.

– Wet, Soggy, and Moldy Soil

If you notice strange leaf yellowing, immediately check the soil. Overwatered soil is often too wet, soggy, and waterlogged. If left unchecked, this will drown and kill roots, not to mention welcome deadly root rot.

Fungal growths will also emerge due to prolonged moist conditions. You may notice mold, mildew, and other fungal spreads on the soil

– Puffy or Soft Leaves

In addition to turning yellow, the leaves and stems of an overwatered spider plant will show signs of edema. You may see soft, mushy water-soaked blotches. The leaves and stems will generally look puffy or bloated.

– Brown Spots on Leaves

If you notice brown spots on the leaves of your spider plant, you should ease back on the irrigation. The spots will start as tiny rust specks that merge into large, brown blotches. They may be water-soaked and surrounded by a yellow halo.

– Wilting of Leaves

The pattern and extent of wilting will depend on the severity of overwatering. If you water again before giving the soil a chance to dry out first, leaves will start wilting. The wilted leaves are limp, puffy, and soft.

Wilting happens due to excess water filling the air pocket in the soil. This causes the roots to drown and root rot will set in. as such, the root system can’t effectively absorb water, leaving the leaves to wilt.

– Leaf Dropping

As a gardener, you probably know that old leaves naturally drop due to aging. It’s a way of making space for new leaves. When overwatering is the problem, both old and new leaves will fall off almost en masse.

– Shriveled and Mushy Appearance

The overall appearance of your spider plant will be shriveled and mushy. This is due to softening and puffing of leaves, stems, and other plant material due to edema, rot, and tissue damage.

– Root Rot

This fungal infection is one of the most telling signs of waterlogging. This happens when excess water fills up air pockets in the soil and drowns the roots. Weak and dead roots attract fungal infections and other diseases that cause rot.

Affected roots will appear black/brown and feel soft, mushy to the touch. They easily fall off and give off a sour stench, similar to what comes out of a sewer.

– Spider Plant Leaves Curling

Leaves of an overwatered spider plant may shrivel, curl, and get wrinkled. This results from root system damage, so it can’t absorb enough water.

– Browning Leaf Edges

Brown edges on the leaves can indicate overwatering. A spider plant pushes water to the edge and tips of its leaves. And, if you overwater, this will lead to vein bursting which, in turn, results in browning.

– Pest Infestation

Many insects like mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, aphids, and fungus gnats thrive in warm, damp spots. As such, pests on the leaves, especially the underside, are an indication of overwatering.

Dangers of Overwatered Spider Plant

Overwatering is one of the leading reasons why houseplants die. And your spider plant is no exception. It will survive near-desert condition and awful light, but overwatering is a big no-no.

It’s a case of killing your spider plant with too much low. Here’s how too much watering causes your plant to die.

  • Overwatering drowns your spider plant roots. Plant roots need oxygen to stay healthy and work properly. When the soil is waterlogged, the roots suffocate and drown because they can’t breathe.
  • Overwatering makes your spider plant roots susceptible to infection. Overwatering creates localized anaerobic zones when it chokes off oxygen. This is a conducive environment that helps fungi, bacterial, and other pathogens to thrive, causing root rot.

By adjusting your watering habits, you can easily give the roots some breathing and room and prevent your plant from drowning.

How to Revive Overwatered Spider Plant

Step #1: Stop Watering

It’s a no-brainer that you must cease watering promptly, even if your spider plant is wilting, dropping leaves, and showing other signs of needing water.

Step #2: Relocate Your Spider Plant

Your spider plant will require more water if it’s located in a bright spot. Move it immediately to an area with less. This is a smart way of minimizing activity so that your plant can focus its energy on recovery.

Step #3: If Only the Soil is Soggy

If your plant doesn’t have any other signs of overwatering, except for soggy soil, you’re in luck.

  • Dump out any excess or standing water on the catchment tray or saucer
  • Tilt the container to bleed out excess soil moisture
  • Move it to a spot with more intense and bright, indirect light to encourage moisture loss via elevated respiration and transpiration
  • Don’t apply fertilizer until your spider plant is back to normal
  • Ensure the surrounding is warmer, but the temperature should stay in the ideal range of 70-90°F (21-32 °C)
  • Improve aeration and reduce ambient humidity to expedite the loss of moisture and aid drying out of the soil.

Step #4: Dig Up your Spider Plant

Prepare a work surface by laying several layers of old magazines, tissue paper, or newspaper. Let your spider plant lie on one side and slide out the root ball onto the prepared surface.

Step #5: Check the Soil for Drainage Issues and Root Rot

If your spider plant has been potted in the same soil for over 12 months, then it may be time to retire the old potting mix. Exhausted soil tends to retain too much moisture, leading to waterlogging. Repotting with fresh soil will not only solve your overwatering problem but also improve soil drainage capacity.

At the same time, check the soil for telltale signs of root rot. Infected roots are soft, mushy, and appear black or brown. They also have a foul smell.

On the other hand, healthy roots are firm, look white, and feel bouncy to the touch. The stem may also look puffy, feely mushy, and may break off when handled.

If the whole root system is slimy and black, your plant may be a goner. However, if there are still some healthy roots, read on for ways to treat root rot and nurse your spider plant to heath.

Step #6: Treating an Overwatered Spider Plant with No Signs of Root Rot

If your spider plant is showing telling signs of overwatering. Talk about brown spots, leaf yellowing, wilting, leaf curling, and so forth. If you have eliminated root rot from the equation, here are some steps you need to take to coax your spider plant to health:

  • Double-check drainage – Your spider plant container should have drainage holes to allow excess moisture to run out. If they are fewer, add more holes.
  • Tilt the container – When you do so, excess moisture will dissipate and create more air pockets for robust root growth. You can also improve aeration by pocking a few holes into the wet soil using a splinter, chopstick, or pencil.
  • Trim off some leaves – Target foliage on the top of your spider plant, along with flowers, plantlets, and buds. This helps your plant re-focus energy on recovery and healing.
  • Delay fertilization – Stop applying fertilizer until you see signs of lush, new growth. Even then, only apply standard water-soluble horticultural fertilizer once during spring.
  • Misting – You must mist wilted leaves daily to repair the damage.
  • Dry out the soil – You can take the whole plant to a spot with more light, less humidity, and higher temperature to speed up soil moisture loss.
  • De-humidification – You can also use a dehumidifier. Avoid a desiccating-type model, instead, use a Peltier dehumidifier.
  • Re-pot – There’s an incentive to repot your spider plant with a fresh potting mix. This is especially useful if the old soil is worn out, too drenched in moisture, or the pot has become too large for your plant. Use a mix that’s chunky, well-drained, and fertile.
  • Trim off damaged parts – Remove any diseased or damaged leaves, roots, stems, and other materials.
  • Treat with fungicide — The soil mix may contain some pathogens. It’s better to err than to be wrong, so treat the root ball with some copper-based or sulfur-based fungicides before re-planting. You can use organic fungicides like hydrogen peroxide, charcoal, cinnamon, or chamomile solution.

Now, give your spider plant around 10 or so days to recover. During this period, avoid fertilization, watering, or unwarranted moving.

Step #7: Treating Root Rot in an Overwatered Spider Plant

Once you have spotted signs of root rot, take the following measures to address the problem:

  • Wash soil off – Take your spider plant to the sink or shadow. Wash the soil with a hard spray of water. Take care not to damage healthy roots.
  • Trim off infected roots – Cut rotten or decaying black/brown roots away. Make sure only firm and white roots remain. Don’t forget to cut away any yellowed or disease leaves. Only use sterilized pairs of scissors or pruning shears.
  • Reduce foliage – Trim off top foliage growth to reflect root loss. If you removed 60% of the root system, also trim off 60% of the foliage.
  • Treat the remaining root system – Dip the root ball into a commercial fungicide treatment. If you’re finicky about organic techniques, mix in activated charcoal, cinnamon powder, or chamomile solution. Otherwise, treat with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Repot – Because of the root rot, it’s best to re-pot with a fresh batch of potting mix. Use organic mix with lots of chunky materials. You can use a new pot that will leave at least an inch around the plant.
  • Water properly – Apply water to the new soil mix until it runs out of the drainage holes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before dumping out excess water.

Your water spider will take more than 10 days to start showing signs of recovering. Resume normal watering once the soil has dried out, but not completely.

Step #8: Propagation

In case the overwatering and root rot are too severe, it may be over for your spider plant. In such a situation, you may want to consider propagation.

Take one or two long plantlets from the wiry stems. Place them on top of a moist potting mix or tuck them into the soil. The roots will establish in due time.

How to Water Spider Plant

– Watering Rules

When watering from the top, avoid overhead irrigation to prevent leaf dampness. Water early in the morning or late in the evening. Check soil moisture every 4-5 days, only watering again when it has dried out a bit.

When watering from below, use a watering tray/saucer filled with pebbles. Let the soil soak up water until consistently moist. Don’t forget to get rid of excess water.

– Watering Frequency for Spider Plant

Increase watering during active growth phases. This may include spring, summer, flowering stage, and when the plant is young. Still, don’t water until the top inch of the soil has dried out a bit.

You should reduce watering frequency during the dormant period. This is usually during winter and other colder months.

– Factors Influencing Watering Frequency

Several factors affect how frequently you should water your spider plant. These include temperature, humidity, pot material drainage capacity, pot size/type, and seasons

– What Kind of Water Does a Spider Plant Need?

You can use distilled or filtered water. In saying so, you may need to invest in a small water filtration system. You can also collect rainwater for irrigation.

– When to Water Your Spider Plant After Repotting?

This will depend on the severity of the damage. It should take around 10 days before new growth registers. Even so, you’ll need to wait until the top inch of the soil has dried out slightly before watering again.

Common Mistakes in Watering Spider Plant

Common MistakesHow to Avoid
Inconsistent wateringWater roughly after every 1 week
Watering too muchWater only when the top 1” of soil has dried out a bit
Wet soil from overwateringWater only when the top 1” of soil has dried out a bit
Watering the leaves and not the rootsUse self-watering pots
Watering during the heat of the dayWater early in the morning/late evening

Final Words

An overwatered spider plant has yellowed, wilted, or puffy leaves. The plant looks sickly, shriveled, and browning. Stop watering immediately and treat by getting rid of root rot, improving circulation, soil drainage, and more.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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