Spider plants, also known as spider Ivy or St. Bernard’s lily, are perennial flowering plants. The variegated leaves make it a popular choice for a houseplant.
The most common cultivars of this plant are ones with light green leaves and a central white stripe, or dark green leaves with white margins.
Generally grown indoors, spider plants are a common favorite as they can thrive in a wide range of conditions. They can tolerate temperatures varying from 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants may even produce flowers with a little effort.
The long, narrow leaves of these plants can grow to a length of 20 to 45 centimeters in size. Often, these leaves develop brown or black tips. Wondering why? Remember, spider plant brown tips can occur for many different reasons!
In this article, we explain seven main reasons for spider plant brown tips to occur, and also how gardeners can prevent it.
Bonus Read: Check out this comprehensive guide on how to plant a garden.
7 Reasons For Spider Plant Brown Tips and How To Prevent Them
Ideally, a spider plant does not require too much looking after. It is a plant that does not need to be watered often, loves moderate sunlight, and is best suited to be placed in areas like bathroom or kitchen windows.
So, why do spider plants often develop brown tips?
1. Stress from Overwatering or Underwatering
Stress due to overwatering is one of the most common reasons for spider plant brown tips. Many amateur gardeners tend to make the mistake of overwatering their indoor plants.
The reason overwatering causes browning of the tips is that excess water causes root rot. Root rot is a condition that prevents water and other essential nutrients from flowing to the other parts of the plant – how bad could that be, right?
Eventually, consistent overwatering leads to plant death. In case you see your plant’s leaves drooping, remove the areas of the plant that have root rot. Doing so may help your plant survive.
A way to prevent overwatering is by potting your plant in a pot with an adequate drainage system. Using a well-draining potting mix can also help avoid root rot.
Always repot your overwatered spider plant and remember to drain the saucer to prevent absorption of unnecessary moisture.
Underwatering plants is generally an issue faced by people who tend to underestimate how much water a houseplant may need.
While spider plants are hardy and can last in sub-optimal conditions, underwatering leads to drying out of the leaves. This in turn leads to browned tips of the foliage.
To prevent underwatering, be sure to observe the potting mix and how much moisture it requires. Keep in mind that if the first two inches of the soil are damp, your plant does not need to be watered.
2. High Fluoride or Boron Content
Fluoride or boron ions can be very harmful to plants. Another common reason for spider plant brown tips, fluorinated or chlorinated water can be toxic for their leaves.
Normal irrigation water comprises about 10me/L of chlorides and fluorides, which is not harmful to plants. In case of boron, normal levels are around 0.7 to 3.0 me/L.
However, domestic water sources often have varying levels of fluoride in them. If you are using domestic water, eventually the fluoride content in your plant will build up, causing toxicity and browning to occur.
Accumulation in leaf margins is mostly due to fluoride moving into the transpiration stream via the leaf’s stomatal openings.
Some of the ways in which fluoride and boron damage plant health are:
- Inhibiting photosynthesis
- Causing tissue damage
- Causing marginal and tip necrosis
- Weakens nutrient buildup in the topmost layer of soil
- Injures plant roots
If you suspect that there is excess fluoride in your plants, wash out the soil with distilled water regularly. Also ensure to avoid fluoridated water and fertilizers having a high content of phosphate.
Using low pH soil with high levels of calcium can prevent this issue. Additionally, rooting media like dolomite (a calcium magnesium carbonate) can also help.
3. Salt Buildup due to Overfertilization
Overfertilization causes salt buildup. Like fluoride, excessive amounts of fertilizers are toxic for plant soil and lead to damaged roots. This in turn causes spider plant brown tips.
Browning or wilting in plant leaves caused by excessive fertilizers in the soil is known as fertilizer burn.
Considering that spider plants are low maintenance plants, they need to be fertilized only once every three months. Keep in mind, fertilizer buildup leads to reduced absorption of essential nutrients and lessens water uptake. These factors cause root rot and eventual browning in leaf tips.
Ideally, a good fertilizer would be one that is diluted, balanced, water-soluble, and is specially made for indoor plants.
To reverse the effects of excess fertilizer, flush out the soil with distilled water or rainwater. This will help leach out the excess mineral content in the soil. Additionally, repotting can be done in more advanced cases of browning.
Remember, indoor plants only need to be fertilized when they are in the active growth phase. And this usually falls in late spring or early autumn.
4. Excess Exposure to Sunlight
Temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit are harmful to spider plants.
These plants need bright, indirect sunlight, and placing them in direct sunlight for long periods of time can cause leaf scorching.
Direct sunlight overheats the plant and dries out the soil. The thin leaves of spider plants will burn and start to turn brown.
As spider plants naturally grow in forested habitats as undergrowth, the best placement for them would be in a shaded area with moderate lighting.
Conversely, sometimes spider plant brown tips are caused by the leaves not getting enough exposure to sunlight. This may occur especially in winter.
To remedy this, re-place your plant near windows to ensure it gets enough sunlight. Bright, indirect light also brings out the variegation in these plants, making them look healthier.
Bonus Read: Spruce up your backyard with the increasingly popular air plants or Tillandsias.
5. Dryness or Low Humidity
As spider plants require high humidity to maintain healthy leaves, dry environments will cause them to wilt. This happens mostly in the winter season.
A good way to gauge the humidity levels of the air is by getting a humidity meter. Humidity meters will help you keep an eye on the moisture, especially in winters. A minimum level of 40% humidity is necessary for a healthy spider plant.
In winter, most homes have an average humidity of 30%.
Two ways to combat this problem of low humidity levels are:
- Humidity trays: This device is a plate with a layer of pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it increases the moisture levels in the atmosphere.
- Humidifiers: These devices increase the percentage of humidity in a single room or even the whole house.
However, the easiest way to prevent your plant from drying out is by periodic watering.
6. Plant Diseases
Like humans, plants can also develop many diseases. Most commonly, these include bacterial or fungal infections.
To prevent diseases from occurring in the first place, make sure to use pasteurized soil and wash all your plant pots before usage. Also, keep a watchful eye on your plants for any symptoms.
There are five main diseases you need to be worried about in the case of spider plant brown tips. These are:
- Anthracnose: This is a fungal disease. It causes leaves to turn yellow, then tan, and eventually dark brown. If left untreated, the leaves will die off.
To prevent this disease, cut and remove the infected portions. Or one can spray the plant with copper soap or chlorothalonil to reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Fungal Leaf Spots: There are many types of fungi that cause leaf spots. Signs that your plants have fungal leaf spots are small, brownish spots with yellow margins appearing on the leaves. There may even be a concentric pattern visible. Eventually, the leaves turn black and die.
For prevention, cut off the affected parts of the leaf and avoid splashing them with water. Sprays of chlorothalonil or tebuconazole can be used after removing the infected portions.
- Bacterial Leaf Spots: Often seen with water-soaked spots, bacteria infections in plants presents with yellowish-brown spots on the leaves.
- In more humid conditions, the spots dry out and become reddish-brown in appearance.
- Prevention is done by removing infected parts and keeping the plants in moderate sunlight. Copper sprays can also help reduce the chances of the disease recurring.
- Root Rot & Stem Rot: There is noticeable wilting and browning in stems and leaves affected by this disease. Stems may have a disc of brown or black tissue near the soil level. Beware of the roots rotting and turn brown or black.
Splashing water on an affected plant will further increase the spread of the infection. Using sterilized pots and soil can help. Ensure to not overwater plants as this often causes root rot.
If there are only a small portion of the roots affected, repotting the plant after removing these parts will help the plant recover.
- Powdery Mildew: Caused by the fungus Oidium, this disease leads to dry, brown leaf spots. The disease is generally caused by airborne spores and can spread if your plants are placed in a crowded fashion.
To prevent it, provide adequate ventilation to your plants. Do not overwater them and keep the moisture content of the air above 40%.
For recovery from Powdery Mildew, Sulfur sprays and myclobutanil can be effective.
7. Swollen Roots
One of the less common issues, swollen roots occurs in spider plants that are pot bound. This essentially means that your spider plant is not getting enough room to grow.
In pots that constrict roots, nutrients and water uptake are limited. This leads to spider plant brown tips. Ultimately, the leaves will die off too.
Spider plants are members of the lily family. These plants grow spiderettes that can be propagated and grown as new plants. They can even grow fleshy tubers, and these tubers often surface to the soil.
If you see more than a couple of tubers surfacing on the soil, it is time to repot the plant and give it more room to grow.
Other Common Issues in Spider Plants
- Weak and splitting Leaves: As a rule of thumb, indoor plants tend to be a little weaker than outdoor ones. Sometimes, spider plants tend to start splitting, and leaves break off after the production of flowering stems.
For up to six months or a year, spider plants remain healthy and grow well. However, once they have grown to a considerable size, leaves start to fall and split lengthwise.
To fix this issue, you can place your spider plant outdoors for around three weeks in the early weeks of summer. This helps increase the waxiness of leaves and restores the plant’s beauty. Replacing the plants to areas with increased exposure like open windows or patios can also help.
- No flowering: Usually, this happens when the spider plant is too young to flower. Flowering only occurs in mature plants, and spider plants take a while to mature. Always remember, spider plants produce small, elegant white flowers – when that is not visible after maturity, something is wrong.
Sometimes, the plant does not have enough space to grow and mature. This can cause, as mentioned above, crowding and swollen roots. To remedy this, simply repot your growing plants regularly.
A good sign that your plant needs to be repotted is when you see roots growing out from the drainage holes under the pots. There may even be roots protruding from under the soil.
An alternative to repotting plants is propagating them in other pots.
However, if your spider plant is placed in optimal conditions, it is more than likely that it will flower. It may even produce runners from the center of the plant, which is a sign that it is healthy and growing well.
- Pale, yellow leaves: Generally, pale or yellowing leaves are a sign of minimal exposure to light. Replace your plant to spots with more sunlight. This is especially important since too little light can lead to spider plants turning pale and losing their variegation, reverting to a dull green color.
If you are having difficulty providing your spider plant with sufficient exposure to the sun, it might be a good idea to invest in a plant light.
Plenty of small, affordable plant lights (even fluorescent grow lights) are available on the market.
- Limp, droopy leaves: Underwatering or little exposure to sunlight is oftentimes the cause of drooping or wilting leaves. Alternately, overwatering and high temperatures can also lead to wilting leaves.
Replace the plant in a spot with moderate sunlight and humidity. If you tend to be absent-minded, set a schedule to water the plants.
Another cause of this is the plant not getting enough nutrients. This could either be a result of poor soil quality, root rot, or overgrowth of the plant.
These issues can be solved by fertilizing the soil using water-soluble or natural fertilizers and repotting the plant to prevent root rot. Be sure to use distilled water or water sources that are not high in mineral content. Developing plants that are producing plantlets need to be fertilized more often, up to once a month.
Some natural fertilizers that you can use for your houseplants are crushed up eggshells, banana peels, or used coffee grounds.
Brown spots are not particularly harmful to plants when spotted and taken care of early.
Caring for your spider plants requires minimal effort. A stable, healthy environment will help the plant thrive. Whereas, reading about common issues and implementing simple solutions to avoid them can go a long way.
As long as you observe your plants regularly and know how to spot the symptoms of common plant diseases, there is nothing you need to worry about.
Bonus Read: Planning to add succulents to your collection of plants? Here is a list of 19 Aloe varieties.