Spider Plants are perfect for beginner houseplant parents due to their easy care needs and their willingness to just sprout more baby spider plants than you could ever know what to do with. However, it can be frustrating when we start to notice brown patches/tips on our Spider Plant’s leaves. If caught early, this is definitely nothing to worry about and can be fixed with a slight change to the care routine or environment. The most common reasons why your Spider Plant is turning brown are: over- or underwatering, direct sunlight, chemical sensitivity, over-fertilisation or a lack of humidity.
Overwatering can cause brown leaves
Let’s start off with a common cause of brown leaves in all houseplants; overwatering. As a plant parent, it can be super easy to want to give your Spider Plant all the care in the world. But too much love can actually be very harmful to your plant.
Luckily for you, Spider Plants are pretty hardy plants and won’t die suddenly if you overwater them once in a while. However, consistent overwatering will mean it will start to develop root rot. This will cause your Spider Plant to become unstable and the leaves will start to turn brown and fall out as your Spider Plant will not be able to get nutrients from the soil to maintain healthy leaves or new growth.
If you think that you may have overwatered your Spider Plant it is best to replace the soil straight away rather than just sit and wait for it to dry up over time. Be careful when removing the soil from the roots as you don’t want to cause any further damage.
Make sure to check the moisture in the soil before you water your Spider Plant. There are two really easy ways to make sure that it definitely needs water. First check the moisture at the top of the soil, if it is still damp then wait a few days before watering again. You can also lift up your Spider Plant to check the weight of the plant before and after watering. You will then start to be able to gauge how heavy the soil is when it is in need of water.
Underwatering often causes light brown leaves
Like overwatering, too little water can also be harmful to your Spider Plant so it is important to get the right balance. Although your Spider Plant won’t die on you suddenly if you forget to water it every once in a while, or make it go a little longer without water whilst you are on holiday, consistent underwatering will start to have an impact on your plant’s health. If you notice that your Spider Plant is starting to droop and go quite pale, it is most likely due to underwatering.
Stick a finger in the top few centimetres of the soil to check the moisture. You can also try lifting your Spider Plant as we mentioned earlier to see it if feels particularly light. If you find that your Spider Plant feels very dry, water it a little every other day for a week. Your first instinct might be to give it loads of water straight away but this can actually be harmful to your Spider Plant if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Yes, plant’s can get shocked too by a sudden change in environment. So instead you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should solve the problem.
Brown leaves can also be caused by drainage issues
Sometimes it may not be your watering schedule that is causing your Spider Plant to turn brown, but poor drainage. You can very easily increase the amount of drainage in the pot by mixing in a small amount of perlite into the soil. This will make it far easier for water to flow through and out of the drainage holes of your pots (also double check your pots have drainage holes). Another easy step is to add a few small stones or pebbles to the bottom of your pots, this helps in making sure that the drainage holes are never blocked by any clogged up soil or loose debris.
Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves
Lighting is always important to your houseplants and Spider Plants are no different. If your plant is getting too much bright light you’ll start to notice the tips of the leaves turning brown as well as yellowy patches throughout the leaf. This is due to the sunlight burning the leaves which is unfortunately irreversible. Try moving your Spider Plant into a slightly shadier place, and if there’s no improvement move it a little further again until you find it’s the perfect spot.
Brown leaf tips can mean chemical sensitivity
Spider Plants can actually be a little sensitive to fluoride and chlorine that you find in tap water. Over time, this may be causing harm to the roots which often shows itself in brown leaves. If you live in a hard water area, it may be that your spider Plant is reacting to high levels of chemicals in the water. There are two ways to make sure that the water you give them is free of both these chemicals. Firstly you can leave a jug of tap water for around 24 hours to allow for a lot of the chemicals to evaporate. Another method is leaving a tray outside to collect rainwater to give to your houseplants to make sure chemical levels are lower than the treated water that comes out of your tap.
Don’t over-fertilise your Spider Plant
Spider Plants don’t need regular fertilisation. Every 3 months is around what we recommend in the growing months and not at all in the dormant colder months. If you are fertilising your Spider Plant more regularly, it may be causing damage to the main root system which over time could kill your Spider Plant. As well as reducing the frequency of fertilisation, try to use a diluted water-soluble fertiliser on your Spider Plant to ensure that it does not cause any shock or damage to the plant. You can also skip the fertiliser part altogether, we don’t tend to add anything to the water for our Spider Plants and they still grow healthy new growth and more spiderettes than we could ever need!
Low humidity could also cause brown leaf tips on your Spider Plant
Alongside watering, it is important that you try and increase the humidity for your Spider Plant get it back to tip-top condition. Often our homes can have quite dry air, especially in the winter months when we often have the heating on for most of the day. A lack of humidity in the air can cause the leaves to be a little limp, droop down, and turn dry, brown and crispy from the tips up.
But luckily for you, it can be pretty simple to increase the humidity for your Spider Plant, these are our top tips:
Misting the leaves
One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your spider Plant is to mist them with a spray bottle a couple of times a week.
Place your Spider Plant over a tray of pebbles with fresh water over the top. Over the day water from the tray will evaporate giving your plant exactly what they’re looking for.
Move your Spider Plant to the bathroom
If you’re lucky enough to have great lighting in your bathroom you can move your Spider Plant in there to increase the humidity. The running water from your showers means your bathroom is probably one of the most humid in your home.
Buy a humidifier
They’re relatively affordable little devices and they make keeping a consistent humidity level so much easier. Most will allow you to place them on a timer so they run on a fixed schedule, and some will even have a built-in monitor so they automatically turn on and off to keep the humidity exactly where you want it.
Want to know more about how to raise the humidity for your Spider Plant and other houseplants? We have written a whole guide on this.
There are quite a few reasons why your Spider Plant’s leaves are turning brown, so it may have to be a bit of a process of elimination to find out what is the main cause. Brown leaves on your Spider Plant isn’t the end of the world if you have caught and correctly diagnosed the problem early. By shifting your watering schedule and keeping a close eye on new growth, it should return to full health quickly. Don’t expect the brown leaves to all of a sudden turn luscious green, what’s done is done. Don’t pull away the dying or dead leaves as this can harm your plant. Instead, wait for them to drop naturally or prune away the brown parts once your plant has resumes healthy growth.
You can find out more about how to care for your plant in our Spider Plant care guide.
Written by Joanna Turner