Spider Plant Brown Tips: Common Causes for Yellow Leaves
It’s common for a spider plant to have brown tips. While it doesn’t look great, the plant isn’t in any immediate danger if there are only issues on the tips of the leaves and not the whole plant. Leaf tip burn shows that the plant may need some extra attention to bring it back to full health, which is usually not too difficult once you’ve identified the cause!
What Causes Brown Tips on Spider Plants?
Read on to learn the common causes for crispy brown or yellow leaves and tips, along with how to fix each one.
Two watering issues – overwatering and underwatering – are the most common reasons spider plants show signs of stress. Both overwatered and underwatered spider plants usually start showing their displeasure with brown tips.
Too Little Water
Underwatering is a common problem for spider plants, especially during dry periods. Even if you maintain a regular watering schedule, temperature changes dry the soil faster. Water your spider plant whenever the top inch of the soil (or two inches for larger pots) is dry. You can easily test the soil with your finger to gauge this.
When watering, water the soil around the plant until the excess water flows out the bottom, then dump the excess to avoid oversaturation.
Never let the soil dry out completely between waterings. If the plant has started to turn brown and the soil has dried out completely, set it in a few inches of water for around an hour so it can soak up water through the drainage holes. Always dump the excess water out afterward.
Too Much Water
Excess water may lead to yellow leaves and is usually a more dangerous situation, since it’s harder to fix an overwatered spider plant than an underwatered one. Overwatering can cause root rot, which keeps the plant from being able to effectively absorb water, ultimately leading to brown tips as well.
To fix it, take the plant out of its pot, brush off the potting soil, and look for signs of root rot. Cut the dead roots off with clean scissors or pruning shears. Dump the used, moist soil and repot the plant in dry, fresh soil. After repotting, be careful not to overwater it, or you’ll risk getting brown tips again.
Using tap water on your spider plants can potentially cause brown tips. Many tap water sources, especially those in towns, are treated with chemicals and minerals that can hurt your plant. Excess fluoride content and salt buildup are two common reasons for brown tips. Fluoride is often added to municipal water to prevent tooth decay, but unfortunately it’s rather toxic to our spider plant friends.
If you suspect your spider plant’s leaf tips are browning due to a chemical or mineral buildup, you can flush the soil by running rain water or distilled water through the potting soil. You can run several quarts or even gallons through depending on the size of your pot to completely flush it. Repeat the process two or three times. Just make sure the spider plant’s soil and drainage holes are working well, or you risk drowning the plant in soggy soil. Another option is to remove it from its pot, dust all the soil off the plant’s roots, and repot it in fresh, dry potting mix.
The best way to prevent too much fluoride and other chemical/mineral buildups is to only water your spider plant with distilled water, filtered water, or rainwater that you’ve collected. A potting mix with high calcium levels can also help.
A lack of humidity can hurt your spider plant leaves, especially during the winter season when the air is extra dry. Low humidity environments for these plants include anything less than around 50%. Keeping them in more humid areas like your bathroom can help. Make sure your plant isn’t situated near a vent or drafty window that’s drying out the air. You can also use a humidity tray or run a humidifier to keep the spider plant’s leaves from curling. Keeping the plant near other indoor plants can also help with humidity around all of them.
To make a humidity tray, take a regular house tray (or anything else with sides, like baking pans) and add pebbles and water to the bottom. Set the spider plant’s pot on top. The pebbles keep the water from reaching the bottom of the pot and oversaturating the soil. Keep just enough water in the tray to allow for evaporation.
Here’s a helpful video tutorial if you want to learn more about these trays:
Spider plants prefer indirect sunlight, so if they’re getting too much sun their leaves can turn brown. Sun cuts down on humidity and causes dry soil, so moving it to an area with low light or indirect light can be a great fix.
Too Much Fertilizer
Excess fertilizer is another common cause of brown spots and leaf tips. If you suspect your plant has fertilizer burn, take the plant outdoors or into a tub or shower. Flush out the soil with untreated water, like distilled water or rainwater, letting the excess run through the drainage holes. Make sure the soil and holes are letting the water run out freely.
Let the soil dry out before watering again. Flush out the soil again in a couple of weeks if you think there could be a severe case. You can also skip the flushing and just repot the plant in fertilizer-free fresh soil.
To avoid fertilizing issues, follow proper fertilizing procedures. Consider decreasing the amount of fertilizer used and fertilizing less frequently. Houseplants like spider plants need much less fertilizer than outdoor plants since they grow at such a slow rate and require few nutrients. Only fertilize with a small amount during their growing season (usually spring and summer). You can skip fertilizing altogether if you’re unsure, since these plants can go for years without it.
While less common, it’s possible that your spider plant could have bacterial leaf blight (also known as bacterial leaf spot). This is often caused by extremely high humidity levels, so it’s important to make sure the plant isn’t located in sauna-like conditions if you have a new spider plant or recently changed out its soil.
You’ll notice that the leaves will turn brown and can even get black tips. You should trim these off (cleaning the scissors with rubbing alcohol after each cut to avoid spreading the disease) and watch carefully for any further signs. Consider adding extra airflow, like a fan, to improve evaporation and keep humidity levels down.
Remove and destroy the plant if you notice any signs of blight on the stem. Get rid of the soil and always use a clean or new pot to avoid spreading the disease to another new plant.
While it’s not a fix except for cases of disease, you can cut off the brown tips on your spider plant to help it look and potentially grow better. The brown leaves won’t turn green again, even with care, so you can get rid of them if the appearance bothers you.
It’s easy to trim the brown tips on your spider plant. Just take a pair of clean sharp scissors or pruning shears and cut them off, either bluntly or at an angle to mimic the natural shape. You can cut just to where it turns green, or you can cut the full leaf off if more is affected and you want a cleaner-looking plant. Be careful to take no more than a fifth of the plant’s leaves away.
FAQs About Spider Plants with Brown Tips
Should I cut the brown tips off my spider plant?
You can, but it isn’t necessary unless the browning was caused by disease.
How often should you water a spider plant?
You should water your spider plant whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry. Check with your finger to test the soil.
How do you fix crispy tips on a spider plant?
There is no fix for the tips once they’ve turned brown. The only way to get rid of them is to cut the tips off, since they won’t turn green again. To prevent crispy tips in the future, make sure the plants stay in good health – namely by giving them the proper type and amount of water along with bright indirect light.
Do brown tips mean overwatering?
Sometimes, but not always. If the plant’s soil is allowed to dry out consistently, then it’s most likely one of the other problems listed above.
About Spider Plants
The spider plant, also known as chlorophytum comosum, ribbon plant, or spider ivy, is a common houseplant. Indoor spider plant care includes keeping them in indirect but bright light and watering them whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry.
With these tips, you should now have a good idea of what underlying cause is making your spider plant leaf tips turn brown, along with the easiest way to fix each of these common problems.
Remember that if it’s only a mild case, they can often go their whole lives with brown leaf tips and won’t suffer. Spider plants with brown tips are rarely in grave danger, and with proper care, they will improve.
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