Why is my spider plant dying? (Chlorophytum comosum)


Are you worried that your spider plant is dying? Maybe the leaves are turning yellow, you’re seeing more brown tips or the plant is generally wilting.

Watering is the most common cause of spider plant problems. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause your plant to lose its vitality. Other environmental factors such as lack of light or insufficient humidity can also be an issue.

The good news is you can often save your spider plant from dying if you take quick action. This article will help you identify the problem, and show you the simple steps to bring your plant back to health

Overwatering

Spider plants do not need to be watered too often, just enough to keep the soil at a level of moistness. Every time you water you should ensure the upper 1-2 inches of soil are wet. During the winter, the plant will have lower water requirements. You should allow the top of the soil to dry out in between waterings.

Excessive watering of your spider plant can lead to root rot. This is where the roots sit in a large pool of water and over time, they begin to decay. This is because the water provides the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to reproduce.

The water will also prevent the roots from uptaking oxygen from the soil, meaning that your spider plant will essentially suffocate. The water will also inhibit some nutrients from being taken up from the soil, meaning that your spider plant will become malnourished.

To reduce the likelihood of this happening, you should ensure that your pot has drainage holes drilled into the base. This allows excess moisture to run out of the pot without causing harm to your plant.

Underwatering

This can also lead to malnutrition of your plant. Spider plants can tolerate a mild drought, but you should not leave them in this state for too long. This is most commonly seen as the seasons shift from spring to summer. The temperatures increase, the humidity drops, and your plant will need more water to stay healthy.

Poor water quality

Spider plants are very sensitive to the quality of the water used to hydrate them. You need to pay close attention to the chlorine levels in the water. This is used to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites in the drinking water to make it safe for human consumption. While it is safe for humans, in plants the chlorine can be converted to chloride in the soil. This can damage the roots of the plant.

Some common symptoms of chlorine toxicity in your spider plant are visual. They include burned or scorched leaves, bleached leaves, and smaller leaf growth. Younger leaves may prematurely turn yellow and fall off of the plant. You may also notice some browning tissue at the edges and tips of the leaves, where the tissue is dying.

To get around the problem you can use rainwater, distilled water or filtered water. I personally use a Zero water filter to reduce the amount of chlorine and other minerals from tap water. Another method is to leave your tapwater overnight before watering. This allows the chlorine to evaporate

Humidity

The optimal environment for spider plants to grow is relatively humid. The ambient humidity levels have a direct impact on the health and growth of your spider plant. This is to do with the process of transpiration, where gases and water vapor are released from and taken into the leaves of the plant.

If there is not enough humidity in the environment, your spider plant will just be losing nutrients. If you notice the humidity level dropping, there are a few steps that you can take. We recommend placing a few houseplants close together. This allows them to create a micro-ecosystem where the humidity level is more easily regulated.

You can also mist the leaves of your spider plant with water. You should do this at least once and possibly several times a day to notice the benefits. Alternatively, you could create your own humidity tray using pebbles with a thin layer of water. As the liquid evaporates, it will generate a field of humidity around your spider plant.

Light

The optimal lighting for a spider plant is bright and indirect. This helps them to absorb nutrients and grow healthily. If your lighting is insufficient, you will notice the leaves wilting and becoming discolored. The white stripes may also turn green as more chlorophyll is created for the process of photosynthesis.

If the plant receives too much light, the leaves may start to look burnt and turn brown at the edges.

Overheating

The ideal temperature range for a spider plant is between 45-76oF. They can survive in temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit, although they are unlikely to grow very much under these conditions. The hotter the temperature, the more humidity is necessary to retain the plant’s health.

Overheating can often be a summer problem in a conservatory or glasshouse, if there is no shading on the windows.

Repotting

Plants will need repotting every so often. This is often required at a frequency of once every 2 years but may need to be done more often. You may notice your spider plant beginning to die if they have become rootbound. This is where the roots overgrow the pot, meaning that nutrients cannot be absorbed from the soil.

You may also notice the roots extending out of the drainage holes at the base of your pot, or the top of the soil. The leaves are likely to begin to wilt too. You will need to transfer the plant to a larger pot with fresh soil, and this should fix the issues you are having.

Pests

Many different pests can infect your spider plant. The most common are aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. If these infestations are left to fester they are highly likely to result in the death of your plant. The first step to take is to remove all other houseplants from the vicinity to prevent the pests from spreading.

An aphid infestation will look like small bugs climbing on the leaves. A mealybug infestation appears as a white and cotton-like substance on the leaves. Spider mites look like small bugs, and you may notice a web on your plant.

You can treat insect infestations with a natural insecticide that are readily available from garden stores.

Summary – How to prevent your spider plant dying

Although spider plants are often seen as easy plants to grow, there are a number of environmental factors that can cause them to start wilting or becoming discoloured.

The solution is often a simple change to the plant’s environment. The challenge for you is to identify the correct cause of your plant’s distress. Is it an issue watering, humidity, temperature or pests? Once you have correctly identified the problem, it should be a relatively simple case of implementing your solution.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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