Your Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) will occasionally suffer health problems. In serious cases it may seem like your spider plant is dying.
In this article, we will look at both the causes and results of likely why your spider plant dying, as well as ways of addressing them.
If your spider plant is dying, there is a strong possibility that it is the result of incorrect watering or poor light conditions. Root rot due to overwatering can be fatal for your spider plant.
These are sturdy and forgiving houseplants and the chances are good that if yours is exhibiting signs of distress, they can be easily alleviated.
Signs of Spider Plant Dying
Here are some of the most common signs to look out for when it comes to the health of your Spider Plant. If you spot any of these symptoms you need to consider early warning signs that action needs to be taken.
Prompt action with this plant will almost always enable you to return your plant to full health.
- Pale or insipid looking leaves.
- Leaves drooping and loss of texture.
- Dark tips at the end of the leaves.
- Margins of the leaf brown and crisp.
- Overall leaf brown to black and soggy.
- Small holes in the leaf.
Causes for your Spider Plant Dying
Spider plants never go into decline without good reason and we will now look at what each symptom relates to and the different means of addressing them.
This is a common problem with Spider Plants and is also the one issue that is most likely to lead to the total demise of your plant. These plants have thick tuberous roots that store moisture well.
If the plant is watered excessively, those roots can be damaged and start to rot and this will quickly lead to problems being revealed in the leaves.
If your plant’s leaves turn brown, or worse still, black, and become flaccid or soggy, then the chances are good that you have loved your Spider Plant into a state of ill health.
You certainly won’t be the first gardener to do this and you won’t be the last. Overwatering is the most common problem with house plants.
Later in this article, we will look at addressing this problem but first here is a table so that you get a better idea of how your plant should be watered.
|Condition of Spider Plant||How Often to Water Spider Plant|
Recently planted plant
For the first four weeks, your Spider Plant will need watering once per week
Up until two years of age
Allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before rewatering
Mature Spider Plant. Two years and older
Massed roots will need to be watered from the top but allowed to stand in a saucer of water for five minutes after watering to increase water uptake.
During dry weather
Continue to check that top two inches of soil are dry between each watering but expect this to happen more frequently
During winter dormancy
At this time the pant requires much less water. Slow watering down to once per month and water lightly
Unless your plant was seriously overwatered, water well after repotting and allow the soil to drain
Overwatering can lead to serious problems because it may set off root rot. When this happens, although the first visual indications you will see will reveal themselves in the leaves, the issue is coming from the roots.
Damaged and rotting, the root’s ability to supply nutrients to the leaves can become seriously impaired.
The first thing you should do is tap the plant out of its container and examine the root ball.
A healthy root ball is filled with firm white roots and the soil is only moist or dry. If what you see is a soggy mass of discolored roots and wet soil then you have root rot.
With some sharp secateurs or scissors, cut away all damaged root material until you reach the healthy white root.
Stand the plant on a sheet of paper and allow all excess water to drain away or evaporate.
Only once the root ball has dried out slightly, should you start to repot your plant using a clean potting mix. (See repotting below).
If your plant has been seriously overwatered, don’t water it into its new pot for a day or two as new potting soil is normally slightly moist.
After that, follow the correct watering regime. The plant should soon bounce back to health.
The first signs that you have been underwatering your plant will be dark marks at the tips of the leaf. These brown tips are dry and crisp and are essentially dead material.
If the matter is allowed to continue the leaves will wilt and the plant will go into decline.
The lack of water in the soil is preventing the roots from performing their job which is to supply nutrients and minerals to the higher regions of the plant.
Give the plant a thorough soaking and then allow excess water to drain away. After that, try not to allow the plant to dry out completely. Let the top inch of soil become dry but below that the soil should remain slightly moist.
You can easily check this by poking your finger into the potting soil and feeling for cool damp moisture.
I have written another in-depth guide on how often to water spider plant which will help you optimize your watering schedule.
I mention drainage at this stage because it relates to both underwatering and overwatering problems.
If the potting soil is unable to drain your plant will suffer and the roots might rot, if the water drains too fast, the plant will not be able to absorb the moisture it needs to thrive.
In either instance, you will encounter the symptoms that I have mentioned in the two issued above.
It sounds so obvious that it is tempting not to mention it, but make sure that the container your plant is in has drainage holes.
You will be surprised how often plants are sold in containers that don’t have holes in the bottom and in those cases, there is simply nowhere for the excess water to go.
A good plant container should have at least one hole that is large enough for you to poke the tip of your finger into.
The next thing you will need to do is to ensure that the saucer in which the pot is standing does not become filled with water.
When this happens, the water flowing down through the potting soil becomes blocked and it stops further water from escaping.
Finally, the soil itself needs to drain readily. Unlike cacti and succulents, you won’t need soil that drains very fast.
But at the same time, you don’t want soil that sucks up water like a sponge and leaves your plant’s root system encased in boggy soil.
Luckily, most houseplant potting mixes provide adequate drainage to keep your Spider Plant perfectly happy.
If you have now established a watering routine in which the plant receives a good soaking and then is not watered until the top inch or two of soil becomes dry, the plant should be perfectly happy.
If that is not the case, the next most likely cause is incorrect lighting. Spider plants like bright light but cannot tolerate too much direct sunlight.
Choosing a position where these criteria can be met is important to your plant’s wellbeing.
If the plant is getting too much sun the leaf margins will dry out and turn brown.
Simply moving your plant will solve this problem, though the brown leaf margins will not recover.
These plants will tolerate low light better than direct sunlight and in the northern hemisphere.
You can avoid too much light by not placing your plant on a south-facing windowsill.
Leaves that have become very unsightly can be cut off. In the correct conditions, the plant will soon produce fresh new leaves.
Most pathogenic infections are soil-borne and they move from the soil into the leaves.
They exhibit their presence in the form of wet brown spots that start of soggy but can dry out in the center to form scab-like marks.
This is a health problem that moves quickly so you will need to take action fast or you might lose your spider plant.
Firstly, isolate your plant from other plants so that the pathogen is not transferred.
Next, you should repot the plant into fresh, sterilized potting soil and dispose of the old soil correctly. Don’t reuse it or add it to your compost.
After that, provide the plant with the most ideal conditions possible and keep it separated from other plants until you are sure that it has completely recovered.
Bacterial Soft Rot
This is another pathogen and is one of the most common bacterial infections in spider plants.
It often enters via a wound to the plant and quickly sends our enzymes which invade and collapse the actual cells of the plant under attack.
If this happens the plant quickly loses texture and the leaves will become soft and watery. After that collapse is rapid.
There is no cure for this problem once it invades you spider plant. It is essential that you remove the plant and eliminate the risk of it infecting other plants that you may have.
Dispose of the plant effectively and don’t add it to your garden or your compost.
The pathogen usually enters through wounds to the plant. Practice good plant hygiene and maintain your plant in ideal conditions.
A healthy plant is much less vulnerable to attack. I should stress that this problem is very rare with Spider Plants.
Correct Soil pH
Spider plants are generally quite tolerant as to the pH that they will accept. Ideally, they prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.2.
Most house plant potting soil falls within this band of acidity and so this shouldn’t become an issue. It tends to be more of a problem for people growing the Spider Plants in open ground.
When it comes to the ideal temperature for your Spider Plant, these guys are fairly easy going.
If possible, they prefer to be in the 70° – 90°F (21° – 320C) range but they will not punish you if you allow the room temperature to fall slightly below that.
You would not want the room to fall below 35°F (1.6°C) as they won’t survive that.
Rather than the room temperature is too low, what occasionally happens is that we allow the temperature to bounce around too much.
This is most common in houses where the outside temperatures become really cold in the winter and the internal temperature is warmed by central heating during the day but allowed to fall too low at night.
Set your heating system so that even overnight it does not allow the room to become too cool.
Water your plant in the morning so that the soil has the day to dry out. This issue very rarely becomes a problem with these plants as they are so tolerant.
There are a few pests that will attack the Spider Plant. They generally tend to be of the sap-sucking variety and the most common ones that you may encounter are aphids or mealy bugs.
Both of these plants have mouth parts that are specially adapted to penetrating leaves so that they can suck out the plant’s sap.
Both of these plants rely on the fact that they are difficult to see as their primary means of defense.
If you make it a habit to check beneath and between the leaves regularly, the pests will find it much harder to become established and you will be able to deal with them before they can do much harm.
Mealybugs are small, white, and fluffy and they can be removed by simply wiping with a cloth or earbud dipped in alcohol or insecticidal soap. Watch out for them hiding in the joints of the leaves.
Aphids are a similar color to the leaf and so they will be hard to spot if you are not actively searching for them. They also breed rarely fast so regular inspections are critical.
It is said that if all the progeny from a single aphid were to survive for a year, their combined body weight would be sufficient to throw the earth off its axis.
That said, they are fragile creatures and can be dealt with easily with a quick spurt of insecticidal soap.
These are tiny, almost microscopic insects and the first thing that is likely to draw your attention to them is the small webs that they spin at the base of your spider plant.
Damage consists of small yellow or brown spots on the leaves. Only if the infestation becomes severe will these pests cause you to lose your plant.
As with the previous two pests, these guys are quite fragile and are easy to deal with.
It is when you fail to inspect your plants and they reach high numbers that they can become problematic. Often, they can simply be removed by blasting them with water.
You can either take your plant outdoors and hose it with a spray or you can squirt them with water from a squeegee bottle.
Treatment with neem tree oil or insecticidal soap is also very effective.
Humidity is one of those issues that affect house plants because we humans are so good at keeping humidity levels low in our homes.
This works well for humans but plants tend to require a little bit more moisture in the air than we do.
It is a situation that is often aggravated by central heating and air conditioning. It manifests itself in the form of dried leaf tips and withered leaves.
Normally this problem can be alleviated simply by grouping plants into little communities. Their combined transpiration produces a moister climate.
You can also mist the leaves from time to time using distilled water. Do this in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry during the day.
One other method is to layer the plant saucer with gravel or small pebbles.
Fill that with water and stand the pot on top so that its base is not in the water. As the water evaporates, the humidity will increase.
Lack of Nutrients
All pants require nutrients. Initially, your Spider Pant will be able to access what is in the potting soil but over time it will absorb all that is easily available.
At this point, the nutrient deficiency will prevent the plant from thriving and it will start to become weak and spindly.
All you need to do to overcome this problem is to feed your plant with a balanced house plant fertilizer from time to time. They are not heavy feeders.
You should feed once per month during the spring, summer, and early fall and drop feeding altogether during the cooler months when the plant is virtually dormant.
Hopefully after reading the point above this is not going to become a matter that you need to contend with.
If you do overfeed your plant the excess fertilizer will build up in the soil.
It can change the pH, cause a build-up of salts, and a layer on top of the soil which reduces water intake. The leaves of your plant will then start to become yellow.
Stop feeding and flush the soil with filtered water to try to drain it of fertilizer residue.
If you think the situation is extreme then you can repot the plant into the new soil. Follow the feeding regime in the point above.
These plats have fleshy roots and they like those roots to be tight in their pot. That said, all plants reach a point where they have filled the pot as much as they can and it is at this stage that you will need to think about repotting.
Tip the plant from its pot and examine the roots. If you can see mainly roots and very little soil then it is time to take action.
When a pot is root bound it doesn’t have and soil to retain moisture and you will notice the water quickly runs through the pot when you water.
Repot the plant into a bigger pot. (See below)
When your plant has become too big for its current home then you need to pot into a bigger container.
With most house plants, you would normally pot into the next size pot which is one inch larger than the previous one was.
With Spider Plants, because of their thick roots, you should put them into a container two inches larger.
- Tip the plant out and quickly check that the roots are healthy. If they have started to grow in a circle or are too matted, then gently tease some out with your fingers.
- Using a new potting soil, add some to the bottom of the container and test your plant for depth.
- You would like the soil to come to the same height on the plant as it was previously, and that surface should lie about half to one inch below the lip of the new pot.
- Once you have achieved the desired depth then fill in around the pot and gently push the new soil down with your fingers. This will help get rid of air pockets between the roots and the new soil.
- After that, give the soil a thorough soaking from the top and allow water to drain away. Now simply go back to the same watering routine you usually would.
With Spider Plants, growing new plants couldn’t be easier. As the plant starts to settle into its new home it will eventually start to put out trailing stems that hang down from the plant and on the end of which are new, miniature plats.
These can be snipped off and placed into a glass of distilled or filtered water until they start to sprout roots of their own.
Once that happens, they can simply be potted up and you will have a new plant that will be identical to the parent plant that it came from.
You can even skip the water propagation and plant directly into a small pot of soil. Just ensure the soil remains slightly moist until the plantlet establishes itself.
Another way to start your new spider plant is to plant it into a pot of soil while it is still attached to the parent plant.
This is, after all, exactly what would happen in the wild. Because the new plant is still receiving nutrition from the parent plant, it will take more quickly than if it is detached.
Maintaining a Happy Spider Plant
- Ensure that you adopt the correct watering regime.
- Ensure proper drainage of both container and soil.
- Aim for bright, but indirect light.
- Maintain humidity.
- Try to keep the temperature steady.
- Feed regularly but reduce feeding and watering during the dormant colder months.
- Examine your plant regularly for moisture, pests, and disease.
These are such laid-back plants that they make an ideal plant for any beginner to start off with.
If you get the hang of maintaining Spider Plants, it will set you up well to move onto more tricky plants in the future and offer you a beautiful house plant while you develop your skills.