Spider plant turning yellow

Have you noticed the leaves on your spider plants turning yellow? Is your plant otherwise healthy? Even though spider plants are one of the most durable house plants, there can still be problems that arise with them. A common issue that can be seen is yellow leaves, but what causes this condition? Well, having a healthy spider plant is important so that the spiderettes are healthy, so let’s find the root of the problem and discuss ways to get the leaves back to their vibrant green color.

Issues in the Plant’s Environment

Excess minerals or fertilizer in the water or the soil can cause the leaves to be discolored. To ensure that this is not the reason your spider plant has yellow leaves, use rain or mineral water on your plants. In addition, fertilizing your plants every 30 days can leave salt residue behind that can be hazardous to the plant. Change the soil about once a year to make sure that this is not an issue.

Too much direct sunlight is bad for spider plants and can cause burning to occur on the surface of the leaves, but too little light will make the leaves turn yellow. This is because the leaves are not getting the chlorophyll that they need to be a vibrant green coloration. If you have recently relocated your plant to an outdoor area or an area with different lighting, it may be in a state of shock. With time, the plant leaves should return back to their normal state.

Your Plant has a Disease

Plants can suffer from nutritional deficiencies just like people can, so make sure to change the soil regularly and keep it fertilized and healthy. If you are already caring for the plant like this, then another issue may be the underlying cause of the yellow leaves. If the flower pot that the spider plant is planted in is not a free draining plant, then check the roots for root rot. Spider plant roots hold water, so to avoid over watering, let the top ½ inch of soil dry out before you water it again. If you see root rot as an issue, remove the plant from its pot and thoroughly clean the pot, rinse the roots, and refresh the soil.

Pest Problems

If you take your spider plants outside during the warm months of summer, then the chances of a pest problem are much higher than it is for spider plants that remain indoors. There are a lot of insects in nature that essentially suck the sap out of plants. Aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and mites are among the insects that can cause the most damage. If you suspect that your spider plants have pest problems, then it is important that you attempt to get rid of them. Wash down the leaves with horticulture soap and make sure to rinse the plant leaves well to get rid of all of the bugs. Then, place the plant in a well circulated area to dry the leaves and ensure that the pests are gone.

Yellow leaves on a Spider plant can be a sign that your plant is sick, so take the steps listed above to ensure that the yellow leaves will not cause further damage to the plant or future generations of this spider family.

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Lush and easy to grow, Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are great for less attentive plant owners and beginners alike. Although generally easy to grow, yellow leaves on spider plants are a common issue. The good news is that the cause can be easily identified and fixed, as long as you know what to look for.

Why does your spider plant have yellow leaves? Yellow leaves on a spider plant can be caused by overwatering, incorrect lighting, overfertilization, high levels of fluoride or chlorine in the water, pests or disease. Yellow leaves or leaf tips is a sign your spider plant needs attention.

While spider plants tolerate a fair amount of neglect and a variety of conditions, you’ll find they have their limits. Once you know what those limits are and how to respect them, you’ll discover just how carefree spider plants can be.

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.

1. Lighting Issues Causing Yellow Leaves On Spider Plants

Spider plants have been popular houseplants since the end of the 1700s. In nature, they typically grow beneath the shade of larger plants and trees, so they have adapted to thrive in bright, indirect lighting, rather than direct sun.

Too much direct sunlight will cause your spider plant’s leaves to turn yellow, wilt and burn. You might notice that the leaves are particularly dry and curling inward to protect themselves. If your spider plant is on a window sill, particularly at a south facing window, move it further from the window, or put a barrier between the plant and the window.

Alternatively, your spider plant might not be getting enough light. Plants without access to enough sunlight become weak and faded. If your spider plant has been sitting in a shady corner, move it to a location with brighter light from a nearby window.

Some plants also turn yellow from environmental shock. Plants don’t like to switch environments; they need time to adjust to new settings. If you have recently made a drastic change to your spider plant’s home setting, the leaves could temporarily turn yellow. Take good care of your plant, and it will eventually calm back down.

2. Temperature And Humidity Problems Cause Yellow Leaves On Spider Plants

First, check the temperature in your spider plant’s environment. Spider plants like to live in temperatures between 50-80°F. If you leave your spider plant outside, it might experience extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Next, think about the humidity in the room. Spider plants like medium levels of humidity, and very arid conditions can lead to brown or yellow tips on the leaves. If you are looking for good ways to increase humidity for your plants, check out my article on increasing humidity for your houseplants.

Houseplants should almost never be kept directly in front of air conditioners or heaters. Even if the room is at a healthy temperature, your plant could be experiencing a direct blast of hot or cold air through the vents.

Ambient heat might also be coming from your desktop computer, oven, or fireplace. Check to see what’s around your spider plant, and move it if necessary.

3. You Have Overwatered Or Underwatered Your Plant

Spider plants are tough, drought-tolerant plants that don’t need a lot of water to survive. Many spider plant owners significantly overwater their plants, and this can result in an unhappy plant with yellow leaves. A dried-out spider plant will also turn yellow, but this condition is significantly rarer.

You should let your spider plant’s soil dry out well between waterings. You know that it’s time to water again when the top half of the soil is dry; you can test this by poking your finger or a stick into the soil to detect dampness.

Water thoroughly and evenly, until water is draining out of the drainage holes in the pot. Ensure any drip tray is emptied after a few minutes to avoid the roots sitting in water.

Factors such as the size of pot, material of pot, plant size, potting mix and growing conditions will all impact how often your spider plant needs watered.

If the soil is taking a long time to dry out, or draining slowly, you should take action to reduce the risk of overwatering problems. Moisture that builds up in the soil can cause root rot, one of the few diseases that spider plants are susceptible to.

Root rot occurs when water sits around your plant’s roots, reducing the oxygen supply to the roots. Fungi and bacteria that live in the soil can start to multiply, and they’ll consider your plant as their first source of nutrition.

The solution to root rot is to repot your plant, into well draining and aerated potting mix, while removing any affected roots. Consider switching to a pot with adequate drainage.

Watering is one of the most important things to get right with houseplant care. I’ve written an article to help you master the art of watering indoor plants.

4. Excess Fertilizer Causes Yellow Leaves On Spider Plants

Overfertilizing, or fertilizer build up in the soil can cause nutrient toxicity and yellow leaves on your spider plant. Spider plants are not heavy feeders, so applying fertilizer once per month during the growing season is plenty.

Even if you feed your spider plant infrequently, some fertilizer salts can build up in the soil over time. This may appear as a white crust at the top of the soil in severe cases. Spider plants are quite intolerant of this and it is a common cause for yellow leaves or brown/yellow leaf tips.

You should flush the soil out with water every few months to rinse the salt out. This process is called leaching. This lets the fertilizer salts deposited in the soil dissolve and run out of the pot. To do this, I take my spider plant to the sink and run water through the soil for at least a few minutes. Always pour the water slowly to avoid harming your plant.

Even if you flush the soil, you should really repot your spider plant every 1-2 years. Use a well draining potting mix to ensure good aeration and to reduce the risk of overwatering.

5. The Type Of Water You Use Can Cause Your Spider Plant to Have Yellow Leaves

Spider plants are known for being sensitive to excess salts or chemicals in tap water like chlorine, fluoride, and soluble salts. When these build up in the soil of your plant and get into the roots and plant material, brown tips or yellow leaves will occur.

You may be able to check a water quality report from your local water authority website to see what dissolved minerals are present in your tap water.

If your spider plant has yellow leaves or brown tips and you just can’t work out why, I would definitely recommend switching to watering with rainwater, distilled water or filtered water. While distilled water will have the fewest dissolved minerals, any of these options will be better than tap water.

6. Your Plant Has Pests

One of the big signs that bugs are harming your spider plant is the presence of spots on the leaves. If a bug takes a bite out of a leaf, it will leave a small spot that turns yellow or brown with time.

The pests that might be attacking your spider plant include aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and the appropriately-named spider mites. Plants with spider mites often end up with yellow leaves; you’ll notice the color change before you see the actual bugs.

If pests are attacking your spider plant, you’ll typically find them on the underside or the base of the leaves. The leaves of a spider plant are clustered at the center of the plant, and this makes a great place for bugs to hide. Check out my article on how to get rid of houseplant bugs for natural solutions that won’t harm your spider plant.

Last Word

I hope this guide has helped you identify the cause of your spider plant’s yellow leaves. Don’t give up on your spider plant! Spider plants are extremely hardy, and with the right amount of care, yours can thrive once more.

I’ve written another article which covers other common problems with spider plants and how to fix them and another article which specifically covers the reasons why spider plants get brown tips.

For more information on the aspects of care that cause yellow leaves on spider plants, and for other articles you might enjoy, take a look at the following articles.

  • How to easily improve humidity for houseplants.
  • How to tell when to water your indoor plants.
  • What is the best time to water indoor plants?
  • 29 Best houseplants for beginners that look amazing.
  • 37 wonderful small indoor plants for your home.
  • 15 beautiful decorative pots for your houseplants.

The Secret to Caring for Spider Plants? Don’t Overthink It

When it comes to spider plant care, less is often more. In fact, you don’t need much of a green thumb to successfully grow spider plants indoors or outside in the garden.

It’s important to make sure you start out on the right foot, especially when you bring your plant home from the nursery. The first thing you need to do is remove your spider plant from the plastic container that it likely came in. These temporary pots are not only unattractive, but they are also inefficient, preventing air from circulating and eventually causing the plant to rot.

The next step is to re-pot your spider plant in something porous, like a terracotta planter with a drainage hole. It’s important to never let your plants sit in standing water. To ensure maximum drainage, use orchid bark or peat moss at the bottom of the pot before adding soil. Because they are root-bound, spider plants only need to be re-potted approximately once every other year.

If you’re wondering how to care for spider plants so they thrive, here are some expert tips.

How to take care of a spider plant indoors

It’s easy to grow a spider plant indoors, as long as you know what to do. “Mist the plant with distilled water that has been sitting for 24 hours,” says NYBG certified horticulturist Bliss Bendall. “If your plant receives a lot of full sunlight, I strongly recommend doing this first thing in the morning when the sun is coming up or an hour or two before the sun goes down. This will ensure it doesn’t burn, get too cold, or become damp and rot.”

Bendall suggests regularly rotating the pot so one side isn’t constantly getting more sun. It’s also important to avoid keeping a spider plant directly on or in front of a heater or air-conditioning unit.

How much sun does a spider plant need?

“Spider plants appreciate bright, moderate, indirect sunlight. But that doesn’t mean they can’t survive without sunlight,” Bendall says. “Established spider plants can accommodate different types of light conditions if they are watered specifically for the particular condition they’re kept in.”

Keep in mind that spider plants tend to get sunburned easily. “If you water spider plants when the sun is high and or directly shining on the plant, they will burn.”

How much water does a spider plant need?

Every spider plant has its own water needs. According to Bendall, there is a good rule of thumb: She recommends waiting until the top two inches of soil are dried out, but not totally dried through. “During the first month, once a week, gauge how dry the soil is getting in between watering to get a better feel for how quickly water evaporates from soil in your home or office.” In spring and summer, the water will likely evaporate faster from the sun, so you’ll need to keep a closer eye on it.

You should also be cautious about overwatering if there is a lack of humidity in the place where your spider plant grows. This is known as water stress. Knowing how often to water can be tricky, so buying a soil moisture meter ($10; amazon.com) is an inexpensive and easy way to take out some of the guesswork.

“When watering the plant makes it feel heavier than before you watered it, let the water drain through the holes for at least one to two minutes. Over time, you’ll get used to the change in the weight of the plant and be able to feel the difference and know when it’s time to water,” Bendall says.

When in doubt, it’s best not to overwater spider plants. “Wait a day or two and test the soil again. It’s more detrimental to overwater than to wait longer between watering,” she says.

If you make a mistake and overwater your spider plant, it may or may not be viable. If the leaves start to turn yellow or a shade of lime green, don’t worry, but proper spider plant care is key here. “Take the plant to a place where it can receive a little more shade and really be sure the topsoil is dry before watering again,” Bendall says. Then remove all the yellow leaves.

If you notice the leaves turning brown, that’s not a good sign. The plant has likely been overwatered, probably with tap water, which can have high levels of salt. Salt is toxic for tropical plants like spider plants because it is out of their native element. An important spider plant care tip is to only use distilled water.

But your spider plant is probably fine if just the tips of the leaves are brown. You can even trim them. “Go for it in the growing months, which are spring and summer,” Bendall says.

However, avoid trimming your spider plant in the winter. “During colder seasons, the plant goes dormant and needs all of its chlorophyll to feed itself and survive. If you must trim the leaves, just know it can be risky. But whenever you do so, be sure to trim off the brown tips with sharp, sterile pruning shears or using a florist knife. Cut at an angle to recreate the sharp tip shape of the leaves. It’ll scab over and be like nothing ever happened,” Bendall says.

If the leaves are fully wilting, your spider plant may be too far gone. Bendall suggests giving it 10 days to see what happens, but if no progress is made, the plant is probably not salvageable.

What to do with those spider plant babies?

Sometimes your spider plant will sprout little babies. If you are growing the plant indoors, Bendall suggests leaving the babies alone. “They are called pups and are like newborns. While the pup is still attached to its mother, plant it in its own container in lightweight, easily drainable soil. Wait to detach until the pup is established on its own and then cut them apart. You’ll be able to tell it’s established once there is new growth.”

She also recommends planting a few babies in the same pot. “This also works for a mature plant you want to fill out and thicken a bit more. Don’t do this hydroponically, but rather grow them in lightweight drainable soil.”

My spider plant is dying

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Why Are My Plant’s Leaves Turning Yellow?

Do you love having indoor plants but you can’t keep them alive to save your life? It usually starts when a leaf starts to turn yellow, crumple, and then fall off the plant. You think it’s underwatered, so you start watering it more. Then your plant gets waterlogged and wilts.

How did this happen? Where did you go wrong? Instead of spending hours poring over every move you’ve made looking for a mistake, you should learn some common causes of yellow leaves. Check out this infographic by Safer Brand and the list below to learn how to read your plant’s leaves and some easy fixes to get it healthy again.

Lack of Sunlight

Plants turn sunlight into chemical energy, so without the sun your plant isn’t making any fuel for itself. Without chemical energy, your plant will begin to suffer. The amount of sun needed varies from plant to plant, but practically every plant needs at least a few hours of sunlight each day. If you’re concerned that your plant isn’t getting enough light, you might need to move it to another location. If you’re all tapped out of natural light, you can use artificial lights to help your plants along.

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Overwatering

Everyone knows that plants need water, but not everyone knows how to gauge the right amount of water. Some plants prefer wetter conditions, but if your leaves are yellow and wilted, you might be drowning your poor little plant. A good way to know if your plant needs water is to check the soil first. When you touch the soil, how does it feel? Is it dry and flakey? Does it feel damp? If the top of the soil is still moist, your plant probably doesn’t need to be watered more.

If you don’t think you’re overwatering but your plant still seems to be getting too much water, you might have a drainage problem. Always make sure that potted plants have holes at the bottom of the container to allow excess water to escape. Consider adding sand or another additive to your soil in order to create more space in the soil and allow it to drain better.

Underwatering

As you can see, water is an essential element for a healthy plant. Striking the right balance can be difficult. A plant that is underwatered will have leaves that feel dry and crunchy when you touch them. If the soil feels dry and crumbly when you stick your finger into it, then you know it’s ready to be watered again. Water your plant more regularly and it should perk up soon.

It’s also possible to have soil that drains too well: it doesn’t hold any water for the plant to use. A layer of mulch around your plants will help them retain the needed moisture.

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Potassium Deficiency

Plants need their vitamins and nutrients to grow big and strong just like people do, so yellowing leaves could be a sign that your plant is lacking important nutrients. If the edges and tips of the leaves are yellow, this could be a sign of potassium deficiency. Burying citrus rinds at the base of your plant and using a compost rich in fruit and vegetable waste will have your plant back on track in no time.

Nitrogen Deficiency

Plants that need nitrogen will have leaves that are yellow at the tips with a yellow center vein. An organic compost such as coffee grounds can work wonders for fixing this particular problem. Other nitrogen-rich items that you can add to a compost pile for your plants include corn cobs, eggshells, nutshells, moldy bread, grass clippings, and even hair or fur.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but little bugs munching on your plants can do a hefty amount of damage. If you notice holes in your leaves, obvious signs of chewing, or pests living on your plants, go into pest-control mode. Insect-killing soaps and neem oil are both great options for getting rid of pests, but you can make your own pesticides at home too if that’s your style.

Plant Diseases

Some plants are more susceptible to disease than others, but almost no plant is completely disease-free. If you notice spotting on your leaves or a change in the shape of your leaves, your plant might be fighting some kind of disease. Other issues that could trouble your plants include wind burn or even salt burn, which can occur in plants that are near the ocean or that have been “marked” too often by the local wildlife.

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To make your plants as disease-resistant as possible, try planting varieties made specifically to resist disease, and make sure your plants have good air circulation. Plants that are lying on the ground can be more susceptible to disease as well.

If you suspect one of your plants is infected but the rest of your crop is fine, you should remove that plant and dispose of it to prevent the infection from spreading. Never use infected plants for compost and be sure to clean and disinfect any garden tools that come in contact with the infection.

Soil Troubles

Soil pH is just one thing you can learn from a soil test. Testing your soil can also determine what type of soil you have, if your soil is compacted, and what nutrients the soil has or needs. While most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil, a soil that is too acidic will not allow plants to thrive.

Adding lime to your soil can lower its acidity. To combat alkaline soil, you’ll want to add sulfur or ferrous sulfate. Alkaline soil can also be amended by regularly adding compost and manure.

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Whether you’re a practiced green thumb or just getting started in your garden, yellowing leaves are a cause for concern. With a little research and attention, you can quickly get your plant back in tip-top shape and ready for harvest time.

Featured photo credit: Safer Brand via saferbrand.com

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