Spider plants are one of the easiest plants to grow, but they are not without their problems.
One of the most common issues you will run into when growing spider plants is the leaf tips turning brown, and like many plant problems, there are many reasons this can happen, and figuring out why is the hard part.
When a leaf gets damaged, there is no way to revert it, unfortunately. What you can do is trim the leaf tips back, and prevent any more growth from being damaged.
The good news is that most plants bounce back when you fix the cause, and spider plants are more robust than you might think.
They can live for years with the right care, producing offsets profusely and putting on a spectacular display with flowers, too.
Let’s look at eight common causes of brown leaf tips, and how you can understand what’s wrong with your plant.
8 Reasons Why Your Spider Plants Have Brown Leaf Tips
The Compost Has Been Dry For Too Long
Many houseplants come from humid tropical climates, and as such, they are completely unequipped to deal with long dry spells.
Spider plants hate drying out. It’s a good idea to check the soil once a week or so to decide if the plant needs watering or not.
When the top two inches of compost have dried out, go ahead and water your spider plant.
The Soil Is Taking Forever To Dry Out
The other extreme is that the soil is taking forever to dry out, and this is usually through overwatering, or a combination of cool temperatures and poor light, or the plant is in a pot that is simply too big for the roots to cope with.
This eventually causes root rot, and often, by the time you have noticed signs of root rot, it can be very difficult to nurse the plant back to health.
Root rot kills off the roots, which means your plant has no way to take up the water and nutrients it needs, causing the leaves to crisp up, and the rest of the plant soon dies.
How to fix this: there are a few things you can do to make sure the soil dries out enough between watering:
- Never let your plant sit in water, and always water it from the top of the soil, never the bottom.
- Only choose one size up when it comes to repotting. If there is more soil than roots, the compost will take too long to dry out.
- Your plant needs a bright and warm location to help the compost dry out. Remember that the lower the light levels you keep this plant in, the longer the soil will take to dry out.
You’re Not Watering Your Spider Plant Properly
Maybe you’ve lost a few plants to root rot before, and you’re determined it won’t happen again. But you could be making a very common mistake that’s damaging your plants: by not watering them properly.
Don’t expect your plants to thrive on just a trickle of water every week or so. No plant likes these conditions!
What happens when you only water the plant by a trickle? Some roots will be hydrated, and others will be terribly dry.
This kind of improper watering promotes air pockets in the soil, which you want to avoid. Eventually, this type of watering will spell death for your plants, as the roots will become weaker and weaker until the plant topples over, or the root system just shrivels up and dies.
How to fix this: this one is easier to fix than many on the list. Give your plant a thorough soaking every time you water it, making sure that all parts of the surface get a drink of water.
Allow any excess water to drain away. In hanging plants, this can be a bit tricky, so it’s best to take your plant to the sink or shower and give it a drink there instead.
If you grow your plants in special hanging containers with a reservoir, don’t forget to tip any excess water out before you put your plants back in their usual position.
Your Tap Water Has High Levels Of Fluoride
If you grow a lot of houseplants (in particular, calatheas, for example!) you might be aware that regular tap water isn’t always the best thing to use when watering your plants (see also How To Prevent Crispy Leaves In Calatheas).
If you happen to live somewhere that has high levels of fluoride in the water, this can cause brown leaf tips on your spider plants, among other plants in your collection, too.
You might wonder why fluoride is in tap water at all. Well, it helps to prevent tooth decay, but it doesn’t help your houseplants thrive!
High levels of fluoride will burn the tips of the leaves of some plants grown indoors. It may also damage the edges or borders of the leaves, too.
How to fix this: if you can gather rainwater, this is the absolute best way to water your plants, and you’ll notice that they will flourish. But this isn’t always possible, especially if you have no outside space, or room for a water butt.
Instead, you could use cooled kettle water, left overnight and with any lids off so that some of the chemicals can dissipate. Otherwise, distilled water is your best bet.
If you have always used tap water, and you’re seeing lots of brown tips on your spider plant, it is worth getting some distilled water and watering the plant a couple of times.
This will help flush out any fluoride that has built up in the soil, otherwise, the problem will remain.
Another trick to help get rid of built-up fluoride in the soil is to repot the plant (as long as it needs repotting anyway), into fresh compost, watering it with distilled water to make sure there is no fluoride left.
Your Plant Has Fertilizer Burn
If you’ve been too enthusiastic about feeding your plants, you may be doing more harm than good.
Aside from making your plants put out lots of leaves and nothing else, too much fertilizer can cause the roots to burn from salts building up in the soil.
If this sounds bad, it’s because it is. But it’s also easily done, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
Never eyeball the amount of fertilizer you should use, whether that’s granular or liquid. Especially in terms of liquid fertilizer, as it is so easy to get wrong.
You want to be careful that you’re using the exact amount of liquid you need in both cases: both in terms of the fertilizer itself, and any water you need to dilute it with.
If you use enough water but add too much fertilizer, it will be too strong for your plant. If you measure the fertilizer but eyeballed the amount of water, you will end up with the same problem.
It’s a good idea to have a dedicated measuring spoon just for fertilizer, and a jug or spray bottle which is the exact amount of water you need, or a measuring jug on hand for that.
If you’re not sure exactly how much fertilizer you should use, go for half the recommended amount on the bottle. This will give the plant a little boost and will avoid causing other problems.
If you feed your plants too often (for example, every time you water in the growing season, with no instance where you just give the plant water), fertilizer salts will build up very quickly in the soil.
This can happen with the minerals present in tap water, too, and both need to be flushed from the soil.
You can either flush the soil out with distilled water, or take the top few layers of soil off, replacing it with fresh compost.
The Air Is Too Dry
If there isn’t enough humidity in the room you’re growing your spider plant in, the leaf tips can get brown and crispy.
For best results, aim for 40-60% humidity, which is actually around average for most homes. This does plummet in winter, however, when the heating is on.
How to fix this: group several of your plants together, which creates a microclimate, boosting the humidity around your plants.
You could also use a tray of pebbles and fill it with water just under the pebble line. As the liquid evaporates, the air around your plants will get more humid.
It’s worth keeping in mind that misting does not improve humidity, no matter how much care labels on plants and countless blogs say otherwise!
It will boost it for a few seconds, and increase the moisture on the leaves, but that is about it.
You could turn to a humidifier, which will benefit large houseplant collections, and yourself, especially in the drier winter air.
Leaf Scorch From Fierce Sunlight
Spider plants can withstand some direct sunlight, but even these adaptive plants have their limits.
Specifically, if you’re providing your spider plants with lots of sun, but you’re not adapting the level of water to match, the soil will dry out rapidly, and the roots won’t be able to get the moisture they need.
Always keep an eye on the moisture levels in the soil. If you’re very busy and watering is taking up too much time, try moving your spider plants to a less sunny position, but one that still gets plenty of bright light.
This will noticeably reduce the frequency of waterings that you’ll need to do.
Spider plants can suffer from brown or black tips even when the growing conditions are right, if there is a problem with disease.
Black tips can indicate bacterial leaf blight, in which case you want to remove affected leaves and throw them away. Improve the airflow, and do not increase humidity.
Spider plants can look a little unloved when they develop brown tips, but once you have identified the cause, it will stop the damage from spreading, and you’ll be able to enjoy your plant for years to come.