Chlorophytum comosum (kloh-roh-FY-tum kom-OH-sum) is commonly called Spider Plant. It makes an excellent beginner plant because it tolerates all abuse, except overwatering!
In this article, we discuss the care of Spider Plants and provide tips to help you save an overwatered spider plant. Read on to learn more.
Chlorophytums are perennial plants native to coastal South Africa, often growing as a food crop. It is a popular, easy-care houseplant in most of the world.
Spider Plants Like A Jungle-Floor Environment
Fun, easy Spider Plants multiply by producing dangling plantlets or “spiderettes” in abundance. In their natural habitat, they spread quickly over the jungle floor in this manner.
As houseplants, they make lovely pedestal plants or hanging basket plants because of this interesting growth habit.
Because these plants hail from a tropical area of the world, they do best with consistently warm temperatures.
They are adapted to thrive on the forest floor, so they do best with bright, indirect sunlight or bright filtered light and a loose, airy substrate consisting of a lot of organic matter.
Although they receive a great deal of rain in their native setting, excess runs off easily.
To avoid overwatering your Spider Plant, setting up conditions that replicate the plants’ natural setting is wise.
Too little light and warmth, heavy, compacted soil, and lack of drainage contribute to overwatered conditions.
This state of affairs will soon cause your Spider Plant to develop yellow and brown leaves, rotted spots on stems, and even root rot.
How Does Overwatering Hurt Spider Plants?
The roots are smothered when a Spider Plant (or any plant) is kept in soggy soil. Heavy, soggy soil contains less oxygen than light soil that has been properly watered.
The lack of oxygen chokes the plant’s roots and creates the perfect environment for fungal growth. A fungus causes root rot, which will kill any plant.
What Should You Do If You Overwater Your Spider Plant?
If you realize you’ve been overwatering, you should move your plant out of very bright light, which may be too harsh and may cause damage to compromised plants.
Remove the plant from its soil and examine the roots. Prune away any dark brown, mushy roots.
Repot the plant into a clean, new container and fresh, dry potting mix high in organic matter. Wait a couple of days, and then water lightly.
Keep the plant out of very bright, harsh light until it shows signs of new growth and recovery.
In the future, avoid overwatering by establishing a soak-and-dry watering schedule wherein you only water deeply when the top couple of inches of soil is nearly dry.
TIP: If your Spider Plant has plantlets, remove them from the plant now and pot them up in their own containers with fresh soil.
This way, you can ensure that you will still have Spider Plants, even if the parent plant does not survive.
How Do You Know Your Spider Plant Has Been Overwatered?
Spider Plants initially fade from deep green to pale green when overwatered. You’ll notice this starting at the base of the leaves and moving upward.
If the plants’ leaves begin to droop and develop soft, brown spots, it’s a secondary sign of overwatering.
Brown spots typically start as pinpricks and then grow and spread across the leaves.
In some cases, the edges of the leaves will turn brown first. This can be confused with leaf edges turning brown from underwatering.
To determine the cause, you must simply check the soil.
If the soil feels soggy several days after watering, you’ve overdone it. You may also find that waterlogged soil smells bad.
Waterlogged soil may also have visible fungal growth, or you may see an abundance of fungus gnats around the plant.
Overwatered Spider Plants are more likely to attract houseplant pests.
However, if you notice whiteflies, aphids, or mealybugs on your plant, you may be able to deal with these pests by simply correcting the overwatered conditions.
Plants that are overwatered may grow slowly or not at all because of root rot.
When roots weaken and decay, they no longer nourish the plant, so growth is hampered.
Over time, mature and new leaves will shrivel and fall off the plant. This is different from the occasional average loss of mature leaves.
Young, new leaves should never wither and fall.
Do You Always Have To Repot An Overwatered Spider Plant?
If the overwatering is minor or a one-off, you may be able to correct the problem by simply withholding water until the soil has a chance to dry out.
You can speed this up by tipping the plant onto its side so that excess water can run out of the pot more freely.
You may also wish to poke some holes in the soil’s surface or “till” it with a fork to help aerate it.
Be sure the plant is in an area with good air circulation but is not drafty.
If your plant has not yet developed root rot, this may be all that’s needed to help it perk up.
As a bit of insurance, you may wish to give the plant an anti-fungal treatment with its first watering after the soil has had a chance to dry.
Remember not to overwater in the future.
How To Repot An Overwatered Spider Plant
If the plant has been in soggy soil for an extended period or if you notice a foul odor or the presence of fungus gnats, suspect root rot.
You can never go wrong by repotting your plant into a new container and fresh soil.
When repot a plant, examine the roots for damage and fungus and remove problematic roots.
To do this, you should gently wash the soil away from the roots. Very badly rotted roots will wash away with the soil.
Examine what’s left and use a sharp, sterilized cutting implement to prune away any dark and mushy roots.
Healthy Spider Plant roots should be plump and light-colored.
You should also prune away excess foliage to give the plant a break. Fewer leaves require less support from the roots.
Finally, as noted previously, now is the perfect time to remove offspring and set them up in their own pots.
Steps To Take In Stopping Root Rot
Give the roots of the plant an anti-fungal treatment. You can use a commercial product or try a light dusting of cinnamon, which has natural anti-fungal properties.
You may wish to leave the plant out of the soil for a day to allow the roots to dry and breathe. Then, when you repot, use a brand new pot or sterilize the old pot thoroughly.
Be sure that the pot has ample drainage holes in the bottom. Either select a pot that has multiple holes or drill some new holes.
The new substrate should consist of a high-quality potting mix that has been amended with light organic matter such as well-rotted cow manure and coco coir.
You may also wish to mix in a handful of activated charcoal to help combat fungal growth.
Change Your Watering Habits
Most potting mix is slightly damp when you open the bag. If this is the case, don’t water right away.
Instead, mist the plant lightly every couple of days to prevent the leaves from wilting.
Wait a week or so, and then provide a thorough watering. Don’t water again until the soil is nearly dry. Continue this soak-and-dry watering method henceforth.
How Can Spider Plants Live In Water Without Rotting?
The problem that causes root rot is not water alone. It is soggy soil.
Soggy soil provides a good place for fungus to grow, but fresh water does not.
If you want to grow Spider Plants in water, you will need to change the water regularly because old, stagnant water does get moldy.
It’s also important to clean the roots regularly. This helps prevent fungus from growing on the roots.
Spider Plants grown in water will need a bit of liquid fertilizer from time to time since water does not provide nutrients like soil.