Spider plant in need of rescue

mindibunMay 18, 2008

It's supposed to be impossible to kill a spider plant. But, I seem to be succeeding...

I'm new to gardening/growing. This is only my second plant ever, and it was flowering and beautiful when I bought it. Unfortunately it has slowly become small, and does not flower.

I have watered it very well every few days, which is about how long it takes for the soil to dry out. I re-potted it when I got it, so it still has room to grow. I've had the plant for a few months now. The soil is a Miracle Grow potting soil mix. It hangs inside and gets indirect sunlight from a western window. It has formed a few new "babies" but none have flowered, and they are not very big.

It's not terrible looking, but it needs a little help. I'll attach some photos so you guys can see what I'm working with. ^_^

Here's the plant itself:

As you can see, it's hanging in there, but could be so much better. The flowers are behind it, not part of it. :)

Here are a few close ups of the leaves. Lots or brown tips, curling edges, and dead flowers. :(

Is this as simple as the plant not getting enough water?

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Two things I sense ... light and water.

They do need some light. Your first pic seems to have it in front of a window with blinds closed. It needs a place where the blinds are *open*. The other pictures seem to be in artificial light. If those pictures are during the day, natural light from outside should be bright enough to make it look like such from just looking at the pictures.

Water.....ehh. Spider plants seem to grow at the exact same rate even if I try to drown them. It's possible that the soil is too claylike. Tapla has an amazing post somewhere that goes into depth about the complex characteristics of ideal soil, but it can all be boiled down to one point - drainage. When you water your plant, how long does it take for water to come out the bottom?

Here is a link that might be useful: Tapla's amazing soil treatise

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 10:46PM
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To me, it looks like the pot is a little bit too big and too deep for the plant. The roots might not be getting enough enough water causing the brown dry leaves.

I water mine usually once a week (if the soil is dry) in the spring and summer months, less in the winter.
When watered, the soil should be drenched so the entire root-ball gets saturated then letting the water flow out the bottom and disgarding the excess.
Let the soil dry out before watering it again, but not too long dry so that the plants wilt, maybe a day or two being dry is all.
Hard water can cause tip browning, so can over feeding. Use a very small amount of fertilizer, like 1/3 now and then.
Filling something like an empty milk container with water (without the cap on) lets leaf browning chlorine escape out after a day or two. Also, rain, or bottled water will help.

You'll notice less tip browning if the plant is in a smaller pot that's about an inch taller and wider then the root-ball with good draining soil.

It's always a good idea to ck for pest too.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 10:56PM
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Thank you so much for the advice. I am happy to report that I think things will soon be a hundred times better. I went to the store today and bought a new, smaller pot for the spider plant. When I pulled it out to re-pot it, I realized there were two things very wrong:

1. The plant had bugs in it
2. The pot was not allowing the water to drain, so the root ball was basically sitting in a yucky, smelling puddle of old water.

So I sprayed everything with Sevin dust to kill any insects, and transfered the plant over to a small clay pot. The clay pot has several drainage holes around the bottom, which the previous pot did not have. Also, it's a better size for the plant. It now sits about 1 inch above the bottom of the pot.
I fertilized it and watered with bottled water. I will no longer use tap water for any of my plants. I had no idea it would cause the leaves to brown.

I also pruned off anything that was bad. So, here's an updated picture! ^_^

You can see on the bottom of the pot where the water is already leaving. :)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 10:22PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I'd say forget the bottled water & pls. stop fertilizing. Fertilizing an ailing plant never helps, sometimes makes things worse.

That you had to water every couple of days (to me) was indicating a problem w/ the mix. I haven't grown one of these in a few yrs., just started one last wk, but I did fine watering it just once a wk (it was large & in a large plastic pot), they like rootbound & crowded but do like to dry out btwn waterings.

I think bottled water is a waste unless you have very hard water. I keep abt 8 1/2 gallon jugs around for water, after I water, I fill them all again, so a wk later when it's watering time again, whatever gases can escape have & the water temp is always fine. W/ over 120 plants, bottled water is out of the question for me. Any brown tips for me are rare (like on my Anthurium), but can be trimmed off w/ a scissors, same for any on the Spider.

Mine had been at the side of a west window, got lots of bright most indirect light. I think you might have a bit of killing it w/ kindness, too many treatments all togther, I'd suggest leaving the plant alone for a while to recover. (I know nothing abt the bug sprays ro powders.)

Personally, I think that pot is far too big (should only be an inch or 2 bigger in diameter than the rootball); sorry but I would have kept it in plastic pot. I think that soil looks pretty dense (tho' am guessing it's wet). I'd suggest adding abt 30-40% perlite or pumice for fast drainage.

I agree the plant DOES look better, good luck w/ it!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 2:08PM
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Well, the "new' pot still looks a little big to me, but using a pot with drainage will be a lot better for the plant!

I have heard Perlite can cause some brown tips when used in the soil with spiders and other salt/mineral sensitive plants, I use it anyway without much, if any, damage and I have hard-water. Keeping the pots as small as you can with just a little root wiggle room can help a lot!

Not sure what the bugs are you are seeing, possibly Springtails??? if the soil was wet all the time before. They do no harm to the plant if that's what they were. Keeping the soil dryer will help rid them. I'm myself am a little leary of bug sprays except "Insectasidal soap spray" made for houseplants.

Try giving your spiders a little sun during the day (not enough to burn the leaves) and you'll see a huge difference.

Oh, and PG is right, no need to fertilize now (should have mentioned that) Maybe wait at least 6 months since you just re-potted. Wait until your plant starts to look better and puts out new growth.No need to feed in the fall or winter, wait to feed again in the spring when the plant becomes active again.

Here's my green spider that was just down-sized into one smaller pot after cutting off all the roots because it started to look long in tooth sort of speak. (about 8 separate plants) all snug in one pot.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:02PM
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obxgirl(zone 8)

oh how pretty........ your arrangement of pots/plants look wonderful.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 6:57AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I only scanned the comments above, so I might disagree on a point or two. I'll offer two very important things I think it takes to grow this plant well, and by 'well', I mean growing at close to the genetic potential built into the plant while keeping the plant attractive. You need to be cautious about the frequency with which you water, and you need to prevent the build-up of soluble salts in the soil. This plant is particularly reactive to high salt levels, and especially those compounds that form with fluorine. For that reason, it's wise to make your own soils that drain freely and eliminate perlite from those soils to eliminate a source of fluoride. (I can help if you're interested.)

The soil should drain freely enough that when you water you can water copiously and flush the soil w/o any danger of root rot setting in. This should be done every time you water. Weak doses of fertilizer at frequent intervals are better than fertilizing at recommended rates and intervals.

Your spider plant actually doesn't PREFER being root-bound. Like any plant, it will do exceedingly well in a very large container if the soil is fast enough. The plant in the picture would grow like crazzzy in a 10 gallon container, if the soil was made of particles large enough to guarantee the soil would hold no perched water (no saturated layer of soil at the container's bottom). Growth is measured by the increase of a plant's biomass, and I can't think of a single plant that does 'better' in cramped quarters. Before getting excited ;o) consider that because we might grow plants tight to bend them to our will, and because we see the results WE desire from the practice (e.g. some plants bloom better when grown under the stress of tight roots) doesn't mean that from the plant's perspective it's a good thing. The plant would prefer to have plenty of room for its roots to grow so it can maximize its mass - just like in nature. If tight little cramped quarters were best for plants, that's where Mother Nature would grow them.

I wanted a 'hot car', so I set it afire. Well yeah, you accomplished THAT goal and got what you wanted, but that doesn't mean it was the best choice for the car. ;o)

So to sumarize:
* Get your watering procedure down pat - don't over-water

* Always fertilize and water with an eye toward maintaining the soluble salts level in the soil at the lowest level that will prevent deficiencies.

* Provide good light and favorable temperatures.

If you REALLY want to have a great looking plant with no, or absolutely minimal marginal or tip necrosis (burn) - water with distilled water, rainwater, or water collected from a dehumidifier.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 10:27AM
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My spider plant is struggling. Brown tips and streaks of brown in middle of leaves. I checked the roots and they are tightly coiled at the bottom of the pot.
Is it o'kay to trim the roots and repot or will this cause my plant to die?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:27AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Dorothy, you may want to ask your question in a new discussion. This one is old and you will get more responses by asking your question separately. Generally, it is fine to trim some roots and repot. Is your plant getting enough sun? If you can, share a picture when you ask your question in a new discussion.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:58AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Now is a very good time to repot almost all houseplants, unless they are cyclic bloomers and about to bloom. I would encourage you to repot into a fast draining soil. You might be surprised to learn that you can actually saw off the bottom 1/2 - 2/3 of the root mass and remove all the old soil before repotting into the same pot. Those wise in the way of plants include regular attention to the plant's roots as an integral part of their care, as a way to ensure the plant has at least the opportunity to grow to its genetic potential. Let me know if you have additional questions or if you'd like someone to walk you through it, or if you'd like to learn more about how fast-draining soils can help make it much easier to consistently produce plants with unspoiled foliage.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 4:38PM
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