Why Are Spider Plant Leaves Turning Black Or Dark Brown

Why Are Spider Plant Leaves Turning Black Or Dark Brown

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Spider plants are common indoor plants that can last generations. Their unfussy nature and lively “spiderettes” make an appealing and easy to grow houseplant. Spider plant problems are rare but are usually attributed to too much or too little moisture, excess fertilizer and occasionally insect pests can interfere with plant health. Treating plants with dark leaf tips starts with identifying the cause and then correcting any bad cultivation practices.

Spider plants are graceful foliage plants. They are from tropical and southern Africa and cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. In warm climates, they are sometimes grown outdoors but in most regions they are grown as houseplants. The plants thrive in almost any light, soil type and temperature provided there are no freezes. Therefore, when a spider plant has black tips, water may be the most influencing factor.

Water stress

One of the most common issues with spider plants is water stress. This can mean too much or too little moisture. Plants should not be standing in a saucer of water and they need high enough humidity to avoid leaf tip burn.

Overwatering is a cause of spider plant leaves turning black or dark brown. The soil should dry out slightly between irrigations. And to add more fuel to the fire, spider plants should not be allowed to dry out completely. If there isn’t enough moisture, the foliage will start to discolor, first at the tips.

Often, the cause is due to situating the plant by a furnace or because it needs to be repotted. Root bound plants cannot uptake moisture effectively but simply moving the plant to a larger container often increases moisture absorption.

Chemical/fertilizer buildup

Among the more common spider plant problems are necrotic leaf tips. The exact color of the discolored tip can be a clue to the issue. Reddish brown tips can indicate excess fluoride in your water, while tan to gray tips can mean the water is toxic with boron.

If your municipality heavily treats water, treating plants with dark leaf tips may be as simple as using rainwater or filtered water to irrigate your plant. You can also use distilled water as an alternative. Flush the soil well with the new water to leach out the toxic substances and any excess fertilizer buildup.

When a spider plant has black tips it is best to start with the water first and move on to other potential causes as this is an easy fix.

Diseases of spider plant

Disease is a big possibility of leaf tips turning black on spider plant. Bacterial leaf blight starts out as light lesions on the leaf tips which gradually turn brown. Bacterial leaf spot and tip burn occurs in hot, humid conditions and is characterized by yellowing in the leaf margin and browning edges.

Increasing circulation, avoiding overhead watering and removing damaged foliage can help prevent the spread of these diseases. Plants also need superior care to withstand the stress of the disease and produce new healthy foliage. If the disease has progressed to the point it is affecting the stems, the plant is going to die and should be disposed of.

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Killed my spider plant?

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005

My spider plant has rapidly lost all (!) it's leaves, about half have dropped off and the rest are limp. They aren't brown or significantly discoloured.

I think it's been overwatered whilst i've been away, the soil is pretty damp.

I'm a bit of a novice so don't know what to do-i don't even know how to re-pot if nesessary. And do i take the remaing leaves off?

Any help really appreciated!!

What works best is the hanging type of pot with ventilation in the bottom. I water mine in the bathtub and let it drain, before hanging back up. Several years ago, shortly after acquiring my spider plant, it turned brown and died. I just left the pot outside on the porch, and before long, it started growing leaves again and came back better than ever. I found out two things, 1) Spider plants are not necessarity goners if the leaves turn brown, and 2) They do better if I ignore them a lot. LOL I think I overwatered mine too at that time. Now I water about every 2 weeks, unless it is very warm, then once a week should do.

You said it had not turned brown, but if it does, you should cut off the leaves. I trim off any dead leaves.

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quote: Originally posted by Paul B:
Hi everyone,

My spider plant has rapidly lost all (!) it's leaves, about half have dropped off and the rest are limp. They aren't brown or significantly discoloured.

I think it's been overwatered whilst i've been away, the soil is pretty damp.

I'm a bit of a novice so don't know what to do-i don't even know how to re-pot if nesessary. And do i take the remaing leaves off?

Any help really appreciated!!

Here in Louisiana, we set our spiders outside during the spring-fall's first frost. It rains A LOT here and I personally never feed it or anything. I got it in a 2" pot and immediately put it in a 20" pot and set the pot in a plant stand. Today I set it outside and won't bring it in again until fall. This plant now needs a bigger pot. It has lots of babies. You might try transplanting the plant and letting it be outside for the majority of the summer.

Have a spider plant I was holding for someone, but it never got picked up. Long story short, I plopped the poor thing into a pot with the only soil being what was left in the rootball. It's been in the same pot, same place for a year, and it's one of the fullest, prettiest spider plants I've got. They're hard to kill!

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I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

It is a bit unusual for green leaves to fall off. But the wilting does suggest root rot to me. Your spider needs a little emergency surgery, so it's time for you to learn how because you will lose your spider otherwise.

Remove the plant from its pot. Look for healthy, plump, white roots. If you find none, give it up.

If you find a bunch of healthy-looking roots, then remove any unhealthy roots and any excess soil that is not ditectly in contact with the healthy roots. You will now have a much smaller rootball than before. Find a pot that is just barely big enough to hold this slimmed down rootball. Fill in the spaces with some fresh potting mix. The surgery is now over. Congratulations, Doc!

Water it thoroughly and move it to your sunniest window. Water it only when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. No fertilizer and no more repotting until it has fully recovered and is bursting at the seams.

I know the feeling with wilting plants. We lived in a house in Michigan that we had to have the electric lights on all the time. Talk about a cave! My poor plants took a punding. My beautiful spider plants all wilted and I had to cut off everything above the soil. I took them down to the basement and put them under a plant light and had some limited sucess. We have now moved back to Georgia and I have HUGE windows in my house. I did the emergency surgery that Will suggested and I am hoping for the best. I have another spider that has just a few new shoots on it and I am considering doing surgery on that one as well.

Curing Yellow Leaves On Spider Plants

A healthy spider plant should have a dense cluster of elegant, gently curving foliage, with green and white variegation. The plant should feel energetic and just a little tense when you touch it the leaves should not be overly soft or overly brittle.

If your spider plant’s leaves are starting to turn yellow, it means something is wrong with your plant. Run through this checklist to find out what the problem is:

  • Check your plant’s light. Spider plants need access to sunlight, but excessive direct sunlight can lead to fading and yellowing of the leaves, and evidence of leaf burn. Insufficient lighting can also weaken your plant over time, leading to yellow leaves. Ensure your spider plant is positioned in bright, indirect light. A few hours of direct sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon is ok.
  • Check your plant’s environment. A happy spider plant lives in a semi-humid environment with temperatures between 50-80°F. If it is positioned near an air conditioner or heater, this could be causing yellow leaves on your spider plant.
  • Check your plant’s moisture levels. Your spider plant’s soil should be moist but not soggy. Underwatering will cause your plant to dry out. Overwatering will cause root rot. Both of these issues can lead to yellow leaves.
  • Check the soil for mineral buildup. Avoid overfertilizing and flush the soil out every few months to avoid excess fertilizer salts accumulating in the potting soil. Consider repotting or start watering with distilled water.
  • Check your plant for bugs. Aphids and mites can hide at the base of your plant and eat the leaves, turning them yellow or brown. Use natural methods to remove the pests so that your spider plant can return to health.
  • Prune away any dead or dry leaves. Cutting off dry leaves that are yellow or brown will make room for your plant to grow new, healthy leaves instead. Prune a few leaves at a time to avoid shocking your plant.
  • Repot your spider plant. Spider plants tend to continually outgrow the pots they are placed in. Look for a bigger pot that gives your plant room to grow. If it gets too big for its new container, you can divide your spider plant’s root ball to create multiple small but healthy plants.

A spider plant with yellow leaves is usually in the wrong environment, getting the wrong amount of light or water, and possibly suffering from a pot that’s too small. Give your spider plant some TLC, and the color will return to its leaves in no time.


Mealybugs appear as white, cottony growths on spider plant and may be overlooked as they rest on species with white variegation. If disturbed, they spring to life and bound to another plant part. Mealybugs also excrete honeydew as they feed on plant sap, which coats leaf surfaces. As mealybug populations increase, this coating prevents successful photosynthesis and weakens plants. In severe infestations, plants die. As with aphids, similar alcohol treatments may help manage mealybugs. Insecticidal soil drenches formulated for houseplants and applied exactly as label directions recommend may be needed to eradicate these pests.

Soil and Location

Spider plants grow in partial to full shade outdoors, but they need brighter light indoors, though still not direct sunlight. Replant you outdoor plant to a more shaded spot if it currently appears wilted and move your indoor plant to avoid direct sunlight. When repotting or moving the plant, make sure that the soil is well-draining water should run through the ground or the pot quickly. Add sand or perlite when repotting or replanting if the soil takes more than 30 seconds to drain.

Q. Why are my spider plant’s leaves turning brown, not at the tips, but at the base where they come out of the plant?

This causes the whole leaf to die. Even leaves on the babies are turning brown at the same place. What is causing this? How can I help it? It was very healtyhy, watered with purified water only as it is an office plant in the city.

These are very drought tolerant and will not tolerate moist soil for very long. This will cause an infection in the soil. This is likely the case now. If at all possible, you will want to repot with fresh soil and replace 1/4 of the water next time that you water with hydrogen peroxide. This will help kill off any remaining infection. You should only need to do this once.

1. Get Rid of Fluoride & Chlorine in the Water:

Ron Smith, Horticulturist at the NDSU Extension Service has a web page dedicated to answering questions about spider plants. He says that brown tips can be caused from fluoride or chlorine in the water.

To resolve this issue, some people alternate regular watering with using distilled water. Some gardeners have had success alleviating this brown leaf tips by adding a chlorine-remover to the water, such as Chlorine Remover Plus.

You can also use bottled water, filtered water or rainwater to avoid this problem altogether. Many home gardeners use rain barrels for this very reason.

According to The Schundler Company, you can easily avoid fluoride damage. The secret is to counteract the availability of the fluoride to the plant roots.

To do this, simply raise the soil pH by adding limestone or gypsum to it. The fluoride will now not damage the plant.

Another interesting element that they mention is that fluoride can also be found in peat moss and perlite. Therefore, even if you don’t have fluoridated water, your plants could still be impacted by fluoride in the soil.

Your plant may be suffering from disease.

According to Gardening Know How, spider plants can contract diseases besides root rot such as fungi, bacteria, and other plant pathogens. Therefore, it’s important to choosing your potting soil wisely. You may be tempted to take it from outside, but you never know what little buggers might be lurking within.

If you suspect your plant is afflicted with a disease, fungus, or blight, try repotting it. If that doesn’t work, you may need to contact a gardening expert or go searching for anti-fungal sprays for your houseplants. You could also cut away the blight just as you would with the root rot and see if it works.