Beloved by indoor gardeners, the popular spider plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, brings a starburst of color and texture to any room. With their gently drooping fronds and plentiful offshoots, these lovely plants are also relatively easy to care for. But like any houseplant, spider plants may suffer from foliage that turns yellow or even brown. Read on to learn the common reasons spider plant leaves may turn yellow or brown and what you can do to solve the problem.
- Spider Plant Leaves Turn Yellow or Brown – Key Takeaways
- 10 Common Causes of Spider Plant Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown
- How to Fix Yellow or Brown Leaves on a Spider Plant
- Yellowing or Brown Spider Plant Leaves FAQs:
- The Final Word
Spider Plant Leaves Turn Yellow or Brown – Key Takeaways
Overwatering or inappropriate temperature ranges are the most common causes of spider plant leaves turning yellow or brown. Spider plants thrive in optimal conditions: bright indirect light, average humidity, and well-draining soil. When these conditions are out of balance, yellowing or browning leaves may result.
10 Common Causes of Spider Plant Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown
The Temperature: Too High
While the plants can tolerate temperatures up to about 80 degrees F, higher temperatures may cause spider plants to suffer. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees F, spider plant transpiration increases, which results in plants taking in an excess of potentially toxic micronutrients.
Plants will be healthiest when grown in conditions that remain relatively constant between 66 and 76 degrees.
The Temperature: Too Low
Just as high temperatures can cause leaf damage, conditions on the cooler side can also damage foliage. Temperatures below 55 degrees F are too cold for spider plants and may cause leaf discoloration.
If you live in a cold region, consider moving your spider plants away from windows or any drafty areas during the fall and winter. This will help protect the plants from colder spots within the home or office that may damage foliage.
In the spider plant’s natural habitat, regions of semi-tropical Africa, humidity levels remain relatively high year-round. When grown indoors, the key is to replicate the moderate to higher humidity levels that the plants prefer. In most cases, this means a range of 40 to 80 percent humidity. Any lower, and the plant foliage may start to yellow or turn brown, especially at the tips.
Of course, high levels of humidity can feel uncomfortable to humans who live and work indoors. Fortunately, there are ways to increase humidity by creating “miroclimates” for plants within rooms. The simplest method is to spray spider plants with water frequently. Placing plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water helps, too.
Placing groups of houseplants near each other can raise humidity levels. Finally, you can place a humidifier near plants to increase humidity levels in certain parts of the room.
Overwatering is one of the most common culprits causing yellowing or browning leaves in spider plants. When plants receive too much water — or they’re planted in poorly draining soil or containers — their roots essentially suffocate.
Too much water prevents roots from taking up the necessary air and nutrients. Over time, this may lead to yellowing, browning leaves, and root rot.
Generally, water spider plants only when the top few inches of soil feel dry. Plants may need less water during the fall and winter months when they’re not actively growing. Be sure soil and containers drain freely, so plants never sit in standing water.
Though spider plants do prefer to dry out a bit between watering cycles, too-dry conditions lead to yellowing and crispy brown fronds.
That’s because parched soil prevents plants from taking the nutrients they need to engage in photosynthesis. Over time, this leads to yellowing leaves and, eventually, brown foliage.
Water the plant immediately if the foliage is drooping, limp, yellowing, or browning. If the soil is extremely dry, the water may simply run through the soil and pour out the drainage holes. You may have to pour water into the container several times until the soil starts retaining moisture.
Too Much or Too Little Light
Spider plants grow best in light conditions that mimic that of their natural habitat: the dappled understory of the rainforest. In the home or office, this means bright but indirect light. Usually, such conditions are found in front of an east-facing window or near a south– or west-facing window that’s covered with a sheer curtain.
Exposure to too much light can lead to leaf scorch. This often manifests as yellowish, “bleached” looking areas on foliage. Over time, leaves may turn brown.
Underexposure results in plants that fail to thrive. Prevent these issues by placing your spider plant in a site with the right amount of light exposure.
For more, see our in-depth guide to where to position spider plants in the home.
When plants grow in containers, they need feeding to replenish nutrients in the soil. But overfertilization can lead to a build-up of salts in the soil, which harms plant foliage.
Fertilizer applied at full strength or too often can lead to salt build-up, essentially burning the plant. Flushing the soil with distilled water can help clear out salts. Then, feed once a month with fertilizer diluted to half strength. Feed spider plants only during the plant’s active growing season, which is spring and summer.
The Age of the Plant
No plant lives forever, and though spider plants can live to a ripe old age, the foliage will inevitably wilt and die off. Sometimes, leaves just reach the end of their lifespan.
Old foliage may simply be yellow, then brown, and fall off. This is a natural process and nothing to worry about.
While spider plants aren’t susceptible to too many pests or diseases, a few infestations may lead to yellowing and browning leaves. Scale can cause leaf damage; these tiny insects are often found feeding on leaves and stems. They can be tough to see.
Similarly, mealybugs may feed on the underside of plant fronds, leading to damage. Prune affected parts of the spider plant, then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove pests. Finish by spraying plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Spider plants are sensitive to chlorine, fluoride, and salts in their irrigation water. They’re also susceptible to the build-up of fluoride and boron in the foliage. This results in tipburn or necrotic (dead) tips on foliage. You can snip off the browned tips with scissors or shears, but the brown tips will return unless the problem is solved.
Avoid this toxicity by watering the plant with distilled water or rainwater. Give plants an extensive watering every now and then, so excess water drains freely through the container holes. This can help reduce fluoride, boron, and salt buildup in the soil and the leaves.
How to Fix Yellow or Brown Leaves on a Spider Plant
The best way to keep spider plant leaves healthy is by providing the plant with optimal growing conditions. These include:
- Bright, indirect light like that found in an east-facing window or near a south- or west-facing window covered with a sheer curtain
- Well-draining soil and containers that don’t allow plants to have wet feet
- Relatively high humidity, between 40 and 80 percent
- A relatively cool ambient temperature that remains between 66 and 76 degrees F
- Watering only when the top few inches of soil feel dry
- Using distilled or rainwater
- Fertilizing about once per month during the growing season only with fertilizer diluted to half-strength
- Repot your spider plant every 12 to 24 months once they’ve outgrown their current potting vessel.
- Spider plants are also relatively easy to propagate if you’re keen to expand your collection or start some new plants afresh.
Yellowing or Brown Spider Plant Leaves FAQs:
How do you fix yellow leaves on a Spider Plant?
Trim away affected foliage. Check to ensure the plant isn’t experiencing fluoride, chlorine, or excessive salt build-up, and flush with distilled or rainwater to clear the build-up from the soil. Keep plants at the proper humidity, temperature, and light levels, and make sure not to over- or under-water.
Can yellow or brown Spider Plant leaves turn green again?
Once leaves turn brown, they will not turn green again. Sometimes yellowed leaves can be healed.
Can direct sunlight cause Spider Plant leaves to turn yellow or brown?
Spider plants can experience leaf scorching if exposed to direct sunlight. They prefer bright but indirect light instead.
Does the type of water cause Spider Plant leaves to turn yellow or brown?
Water containing fluoride and chlorine can cause leaves to turn yellow or brown leaves. Flushing the soil and watering with distilled or rainwater can help.
Can over-fertilizing cause Spider Plant leaves to turn yellow or brown?
Overfertilizing a spider plant can cause excessive salt build-up in the soil, which can cause leaf browning. Fertilize only once a month during spring and summer, using half-strength fertilizer.
The Final Word
Spider plants are relatively low-maintenance plants that add color and texture to your home or office. By providing optimal light, temperature, humidity, fertilizer, and moisture conditions, you can keep spider plant foliage looking fresh and healthy and avoid yellowing or browning leaves.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.