The long, slender green leaves of spider plants dangling gracefully over the sides of their containers are strongly evocative of holidays at a tropical beach.
Combining tropical island vibes and a low-maintenance profile makes it easy to get why spider plants are so popular as ornamental houseplants.
But that beauty can become distorted when the leaves start to wilt with a lifeless appearance accompanied by ugly brown leaf tips.
This problem can occur even to the best gardeners. For newbies though, the feeling is usually one of panic while wondering if they are about to lose their spider plant.
So if you ended up here because you are frantic about your spider plant and don’t know what to do, you’re in luck.
Because everything about how to save a dying spider plant is what this article is all about. And the best part is, it isn’t as hard as you might have imagined.
How to Save a Dying Spider Plant
Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are typically cultivated indoors as hanging plants in containers.
They are hardy in agricultural zones 9 – 11 so can survive outdoors in winter in warm climates only.
Also known as spider ivy and ribbon plant, they are the happiest in light, well-draining potting soil.
These are forgiving plants that can even tolerate drought-like conditions for a while.
So what would cause a spider plant to fail? Short answer: improper watering especially over-watering.
But factors such as quality of water, excessive fertilization, lighting, and to a lesser extent pest infestation are also implicated.
Successfully saving a dying spider plant requires two things: accurately pinpointing the underlying factor or factors and taking remedial actions specific to the diagnosis.
Reasons Your Spider Plants are Dying: How To Know Spider Plants are Dying
Spider plants can die due to too much water or when the soil becomes too dry due to a lack of water.
Of the two, over-watering poses the greatest danger.
Spider plants, like most houseplants with tropical origins, don’t thrive well in soggy or waterlogged soil.
Too much water promotes the proliferation of harmful soil fungi. The activities of the fungi lead to root rot, a disease that can completely damage roots.
You’d know the plant is suffering from too much water in the soil when it begins to wilt.
The leaves would also turn yellow.
Watering spider plants with tap water is not a good idea.
The plants are sensitive to chemicals (mainly fluorides or chlorides)I used in the treatment of tap water.
The main issue is the build-up of these chemicals in the soil after using tap water for a long time.
In the soil, the fluorides can inhibit efficient water absorption by the roots. Leaf discoloration or the tips turning brown are classic symptoms.
Spider plants are typically moderate feeders. With nutrient-rich potting soil, fertilization is not even necessary in the first couple of years.
Improper fertilization can be either too much of it or too little in the growing season.
That said, it is better to err on the side of ‘too little.
The major issue with excessive fertilization is the build-up of excess salts in the soil.
The salts hinder the movement and transport of nutrients and water from the roots to the leaves.
Spider plants subjected to excess supplements respond with brown leaf tips.
If untreated, it gets worse with the wilting and gradual failing of the plant.
Light exposure, humidity, and heat
Indirect light (or bright, shaded areas), warm temperature, and high humidity are the ideal spider plant growing conditions.
In specific terms, they hate temperatures below 50°F and above 85°F, humidity below 45%, and exposure to direct sunlight for too long.
Some of the symptoms to look out for include wilting, brown leaf tips, and sunburn where the sunlight scorched the leaf brown.
Pest infestations are not common problems when growing spider plants especially indoors.
But they are susceptible to them with scales, whiteflies, aphids, and spider mites the main culprits.
Ravaged foliage and spotted leaves are an indication that some of these pests are cheerfully running wild on your spider plant.
How to Save Your Dying Spider Plants
The foliage is always the first casualty when there is a serious problem with spider plants.
So before doing anything else, simply prune out dead or damaged foliage. If only the tips of the leaves are affected, you can trim that portion following the natural curvature of each affected leaf.
When you are done pruning the leaves, you can move on to the next level depending on the symptoms.
Saving dying spider plants due to over-watering
When it comes to over-watering, it’s best to catch the problem early before it progresses to root rot.
First, you want to quit watering immediately and allow the soil to dry out.
Any measure to help the soil dry out faster should be explored.
You can resume normal watering after the soil is dry.
Normal watering implies waiting for the top 2 inches of the soil to dry before watering again.
But what if root rot has set in? The only way to find out is to unpot the plant and check the roots.
Healthy spider plant roots are pinkish or grayish. Damaged or rooted roots are darkish and mushy to touch with an awful smell.
The next section would outline how you can save a dying spider plant with root rot.
If the plant is suffering from drought stress due to underwatering, do the following:
- Set the pot in a saucer filled with water for about an hour so that water soaks upwards via the drainage holes
- When the soil is almost completely moist, remove the pot from the tray
- Water the top of the soil evenly
- Place the pot in a warm area that is brightly lit.
To prevent water-related problems, always maintain a regular watering schedule.
In the growing season, water about once a week or when the top one inch of soil is dry. Never allow the soil to dry out before watering except in winter.
How to save a dying spider plant with root rot
- carefully unpot your spider plant
- Wash out the soil to expose the roots
- Use a pair of sterilized scissors or pruners to cut out all affected roots
- Sterilize the remaining healthy roots by spraying them with a good fungicide such as a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
- Repot the spider plant using similar but fresh potting soil that drains well
- Water the soil sparingly to keep it evenly moist for one month.
- Mist the leaves regularly too to mitigate transplant shock.
With the right temperature and humidity, the plant should recover.
Keep in mind that if the root system is completely taken over by rot, the plant can’t be salvaged.
Simply dispose of it and the soil. Remember to wash the pot thoroughly with soap before using it again.
How to revive dying spider plant due to fluorides in soil
First off, quit using tap water directly. Use distilled water or rainwater instead.
If tap water is your only option, let it sit in a container overnight before using it.
The chemicals would have dissipated by then.
Follow that up by immediately flushing out the excess salts from the soil.
In the next watering season, water the soil heavily with distilled water until the excess exits the holes at the bottom. Repeat this for the next 2 watering sessions.
The water would dissolve the salts and remove them from the soil through the drainage holes.
How to save a dying spider plant due to excess fertilization
If you noticed the leaf tips turning brown shortly after fertilizing, the plant is probably reacting to excess fertilizer in the soil.
You need to quit fertilizing immediately and as in the case of fluorides, simply flush out the excess salts from the soil.
In extreme cases when flushing doesn’t work, simply repot the plant in fresh potting soil in a similarly-sized pot.
Going forward stick to the right feeding routine. Apply the fertilizer moderately only in the growing season once a month.
Experts recommend either a balanced slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer. Also, fertilize only after watering and follow the specific instructions of that product.
How to save dying spider plants due to environmental stress
Saving spider plants suffering from frost stress, light exposure, or low humidity is pretty straightforward.
For low humidity issues, you could do any of the following:
- Mist the plant once or twice a week
- Install a humidifier if the air is too dry
- Place the plant on a humidity tray
- Re-locate it to the bathroom where the humidity is high until it recovers
Brown tips as a result of exposure to direct sunlight can be easily resolved by moving it to a bright, shaded area.
Or you could simply make the area shady by protecting the plant with a shade cloth that allows enough light to pass through.
Finally, for low-temperature issues, it is mostly about re-location to warmer areas or making adjustments to raise the temperature in the area above 50°F but not above 85°F.
Heating vents, ovens, ACs, and drafty windows and hallways are all places to avoid placing them.
Saving dying spider plants due to pest infestations
Generally, brushing the leaves using a soft brush would eliminate tiny bugs from the leaves.
But when the pest population is too high, a different approach is required.
Scales: The tiny whitish bugs deposit honeydew, a sticky substance, on leaf surfaces that promotes the growth of dark, grayish mold.
You can remove them manually with your fingers.
In large numbers though, spraying the leaves with neem oil or insecticidal soap is the recommended mode of eliminating them
Aphids: They are tiny greenish bugs found on leaves and stems. Spray affected leaves with neem oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
Spider mites: These small, reddish pests are known to feed on plant sap causing yellowing and curled leaves.
They can be eliminated using the same treatment as you would aphids.
Whiteflies: they are recognized by their distinct fluffy, grayish appearance on leaf surfaces.
They promote the formation of blackish mold on leaves. Get rid of them by spraying the leaves with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Smearing the leaves with petroleum jelly to trap them is a good control strategy.
As well as the unique leaves that make them perfect for high shelves and hanging baskets, spider plants are popular because they are easy to grow and almost problem-free.
And when problems occur, resolving them isn’t difficult which makes saving a dying spider plant largely stress-free.
Generally, spider plants die as a result of untreated root rot caused by overwatering.
Unfavorable weather conditions and excessive fertilization are other causes of death with wilting, brown leaf tips, and drooping the primary symptoms.
Most often, adjusting the growing conditions to match the standard specs combined with the proper care routine are all that is needed to revive them.