The spider plant is a very popular plant that can adapt very well to a household environment and is low-maintenance, too.
One of the most common problems encountered by spider plant owners is the curling of their plants’ leaves. Normally, the leaves of this plant hang out to the sides, resembling the legs of a spider – hence the name. If the leaves are curling, that means there has been a change in the plant’s environment that is causing it stress.
The possible reasons your plant’s leaves are curling include inappropriate lighting, the overwatering, underwatering, incorrect type of water, fertilizer problems, the wrong pot, pests, and moisture and humidity problems.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the causes of curling spider plant leaves and discuss how to remedy each one. So, if you are currently having this problem and wish to learn more, just keep reading.
Why are my spider plant’s leaves curling?
1. Inappropriate lighting
The spider plant grows best when it gets lots of bright, indirect light. To preserve the beautiful variegation on its leaves, it needs to get a certain amount of light every day.
If the plant is kept in a room with very little light, its leaves will curl and their color will become dull compared with that of a spider plant kept in a brighter spot.
If a plant is unable to get the light it needs, it will not be able to photosynthesize properly and thus cannot make its own food, which will negatively affect its overall health. The plant’s growth will also become stunted.
Inversely, if you place your spider plant outdoors under direct sunlight, or near a window that lets in very harsh light, this can also cause the leaves to curl and dry out due to sunburn.
Under the full sun, the soil in the plant’s pot will also dry out too quickly and the plant will have insufficient water to last until the next rainfall or watering.
The best way to fix this problem is to find the perfect spot for your plant in terms of lighting. If you are keeping it outdoors, choose a spot where it can be in the shade for most of the day. If you want to keep it indoors, choose an east-facing window because this lets in the most gentle light and will not be too harsh for the plant.
If the only windows available are letting in harsh light, you can diffuse the light by placing a sheer curtain over the window.
If the plant is getting blasted with hot, direct sunlight outdoors, take it inside and water it immediately before placing it in a cooler spot, like on a porch or a patio.
If the problem is that your plant is not getting enough light, you can always help it out by using a grow light. Artificial light is a great alternative to natural light and your plant will not know the difference – all it knows is that light makes it happy, no matter the source.
Spider plants like their soil to be a little moist at all times, but remember that there is a huge difference between moist and soggy.
Overwatering can be a result of giving the plant more water than it needs every time you water it, watering it more often than you need to, using potting soil that is too dense and holds too much moisture, or using a pot that does not have good drainage.
Overwatering your spider plant can lead to the curling and wilting of its leaves because the roots have become compromised.
If you notice burns, blisters, and discoloration, aside from the curling leaves, this can indicate a more severe effect of overwatering, called root rot.
Root rot is a condition that results from the plant’s roots standing in soggy soil for so long that they have drowned and died. The dead roots become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens in the soil that will cause the rot to become even more aggressive. Soon, all of the roots will be affected and may even completely disintegrate. The rot can spread to the rest of the plant, which could eventually lead to its death.
If you are able to catch overwatering in its early stages, all you need to do is to immediately stop watering the plant and to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering it again.
If the leaves are curling and there are blisters and discoloration, you are probably dealing with root rot.
The chances of successfully treating root rot will depend on the stage at which you discover it. Usually, by the time the symptoms have reached the leaves, the damage is far too severe to save the plant. However, if you discover the rot only because you uprooted the plant to check, then you just might be able to salvage it.
Upon removing the plant from its old pot, wash off as much of the old soil from the roots as you can. Inspect the roots and look for sections that might have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will need to be pruned off. Use a sterile pair of scissors to cut them away until only white, healthy roots remain.
As long as there are some roots left, no matter how small, the plant is still salvageable. However, if there are very few roots remaining, you may need to cut off some of the leaves so the roots will still be able to provide enough water and nutrients to the foliage.
Prepare a new pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, and use fresh potting soil. Place the plant in the new pot and cover the roots.
Water it and let any excess water drain out before placing the plant in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light.
Work out a watering schedule that keeps the soil a little moist and do not allow it to dry out completely before watering it again.
Another reason your spider plant’s leaves are curling could be that it is not getting as much water as it needs.
The leaves of an underwatered spider plant will fold inward. This is the plant’s indication that it is thirsty and that you need to water it as soon as possible.
Plants need water not only to remain hydrated but also as a means of absorbing nutrients from the soil. An underwatered plant will also become deprived of the nutrients and minerals it needs to thrive.
Fortunately, it is very simple to fix this issue. All you need to do is water the plant and that should bring back its original vigor.
As we mentioned, spider plants like their soil to be slightly moist at all times. Small, frequent watering is the way to go for these plants, as long as the pot you are using has good drainage.
4. Using the wrong water
The quality of the water you are using can also affect the overall health of your spider plant.
This plant is sensitive to the presence of excess minerals and nutrients in its soil. If you are using tap water to water your spider plant, the minerals it contains can build up in the soil over time.
One of the minerals in tap water is fluorine, and when this accumulates in the soil, it can burn the roots and cause curling and browning of the leaves.
To fix this issue, you might need to stop using tap water entirely, or at least buy a water filter to run it through before watering your plant. This is an investment, but if you want to keep your plants happy, it is a good one.
You can also just purchase purified or distilled water for your houseplants because these types of water contain no or very few minerals.
If your outdoor spider plant is having this problem, it must be getting unintended tap water runoff. Fix the runoff issue by diverting the water elsewhere.
If you have access to rainwater, that is also a great alternative. It is free and also does not contain minerals.
Also try to ensure that the water is neither too cold nor too hot when you water the plant, because extreme temperatures may cause shock.
5. Moisture and humidity problems
Your spider plant’s leaves may also be curling because it is adapting to a new environment.
Maybe you have just received it as a gift, or you have just brought it home with you from the nursery or the store.
If this is the case, do not worry about the curling leaves because this might just be the plant trying to adjust. Remember that these plants were raised in a nursery where the living conditions are ideal, and when they arrive in your home the temperature, humidity, and light exposure will be different from what they were used to.
The plant needs balanced humidity and moisture in its new environment. During the winter, keep it away from windows or doors that might have cracks that let in cold drafts, because this can lead to curling.
The plant should also be kept away from heaters or radiators because the hot air can also dry the plant out quickly and cause curling leaves.
During the winter, when the plant is preparing to grow its offsets, do not forget to mist it regularly.
If the room where the plant is kept has low humidity, you can help the plant out by buying a humidifier. The humidifier will regulate the humidity automatically and this will keep your plant happy.
6. Fertilizer problems
If your spider plant’s leaves are drooping and losing their classic arch, this can also be due to soil problems and improper fertilization.
Do not skimp on the quality of fertilizer that you give your plant. Use one rich in nitrogen because it will help support the plant’s shoots and leaves, and make sure it does not contain fluorine or boron.
Use a balanced fertilizer, and only fertilize the plant during its growing phase, once a month at the most.
If you notice that the leaves become brown after you fertilize it, you may be giving it too high a concentration. Try reducing the concentration to half-strength. If it still seems too strong, keep halving the concentration until you figure out the perfect amount that your plant likes.
7. Wrong pot
Another reason your spider plant’s leaves are curling might be that you are not using the right kind of pot for it.
If you are using a pot that is too small, the plant may outgrow it and roots will start growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
A spider plant in a small pot will become rootbound, which can lead to root rot or other kinds of damage that cause ineffective nutrient uptake for the plant.
If you use a pot that is too big, on the other hand, this can lead to overwatering and root rot. The bigger the pot, the more soil you will need to fill it, and the more soil, the more water can be retained, thus increasing the chances of soggy soil around the plant’s roots.
If your plant’s pot is too small, replace it with a pot big enough to contain its roots at their current size.
The new pot should be two inches larger in diameter than the old one and should have drainage holes at the bottom. Do not get a pot any larger than this because of the reasons mentioned above.
If the plant’s root ball is too big, you can remove some of the bulk by cutting roots off with a sterile knife.
You can also cut the plant in half, with each half having some roots and leaves, and you now have two plants.
If there are any plantlets growing from the sides of the plant, those can be planted in their own pots as well, but make sure the plantlets have their own roots before you remove them from the mother plant.
Aphids are insects that may infest a spider plant. They have soft bodies that can be orange, green, or gray in color. They can be seen in clusters on the plant’s leaves when the infestation has become quite extensive, and they feed on the water and nutrients in the plant’s leaves.
It may be difficult to spot aphids in the early stages of an infestation, so you should check under the leaves every once in a while.
Another pest that attacks spider plants is the spider mite. Just like aphids, these bugs are also so small that it may be difficult to spot them in the early stages of an infestation. The tell-tale sign of a spider mite infestation is the presence of webs that they leave behind.
These spider mites also feed on the moisture of the plant and breed in the secluded area at the plant’s base where they are protected from potential predators.
Use a pesticide to get rid of these pests, and if you do not want to use chemicals, you can also use a strong stream of water to knock them off of the leaves.
Alternatively, you can use a neem oil spray to do the job. Mix two tablespoons of neem oil into a spray bottle full of water and spray this directly on the pests. Or, mix two tablespoons of mild dish soap into a spray bottle full of water and do the same.
Whichever method you use, repeat it once a week for as long as needed to eradicate all of the pests.
The spider plant is a very popular houseplant because of how low-maintenance it is.
One of the most common problems encountered by spider plant owners is the curling of its leaves, which is an indication that the plant is stressed by an environmental factor that has recently changed and is affecting the plant.
The most common causes of curling spider plant leaves are inappropriate lighting, overwatering, underwatering, using the wrong type of water, fertilizer problems, incorrect pot size, pests, and moisture and humidity problems.
Image: istockphoto.com / Pro2sound