One of the most popular indoor houseplants is the spider plant. They’re easy to care for and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, light conditions, and general neglect. However, they can run into problems from time to time.
If you notice your spider plant leaves curling inward, that’s a symptom of stress.
Here’s the scoop on what could be causing the leaves to curl and what you should do about it.
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A note on the Bonnie Curly Spider Plant
Before we get into why your plant might be stressed, let me mention the Bonnie Curly Spider Plant. It’s a specific variety of spider plant with curly, swirly leaves. If your plant has swirly leaves like the one below and looks healthy, you likely have a Bonnie variety, and you don’t need to do anything.
However, if the leaves on your spider plant are folding up and the plant doesn’t look healthy, then you have a problem.
There are several reasons spider plant leaves may curl inward. Fortunately, spider plants are flexible, tough houseplants. So if you’re noticing curled spider plant leaves, there’s an excellent chance your spider plant will bounce back quickly.
We’re going to start with the most common issues the spider plant experiences and move on to problems that occur less frequently. As you troubleshoot the cause of your plant’s stress, move through the list item by item.
Cause #1: Underwatering
The most common cause of curling leaves is underwatering. If they don’t have enough water, the leaves fold up. An underwatered spider plant might also look dull and dry rather than shiny and healthy.
Fortunately, this is an easy problem to diagnose and fix.
Stick your finger into the soil to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Don’t just check the top of potting soil. Actually stick your finger into the dirt. Does the soil feel moist? If not, then it’s time to water your plant.
If underwatering is the problem, then your spider plant will perk up quickly. You may notice a difference in a few hours, or it may take a couple of days (depending on how long it has been too dry).
If you’ve watered your plant recently (in the last couple of days), then wait another day or so to see if the leaves unfold. It’s better to err on the side of underwatering than overwatering.
Cause #2: Too Much Water Leads To Root Rot
Root rot occurs when there is excess water in the soil. This can happen if you water your plant too often or if the soil isn’t draining properly.
You’ll test for overwatering the same way you test for insufficient water. The first thing you want to do is check the moisture level in the soil. Stick your finger in the dirt to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. The soil should feel moist but not wet.
If you feel any dampness, then stop watering. Let the soil dry out before you water it again.
The slightly overwatered spider plant should recover in a few days as it dries out.
If the soil feels wet and it has been several days since the last time you watered it, then you may have a drainage problem.
The pot your spider plant is in needs a drainage hole. If it doesn’t have one, then you should repot the plant. Drainage holes are critical; they let the water that would otherwise pool around your plant’s roots escape. This is crucial since too much water can kill your spider plant by causing the roots to rot.
If the pot has drainage holes, check to ensure they aren’t clogged. If they are, then you will likely need to repot your plant. You can keep the drainage holes from clogging in the future by covering them with something that allows the water to drain through. A broken pot shard, small rock, or plastic mesh are good choices.
How To Check for Root Rot
If your plant has been sitting in soggy soil for a while, then root rot may have developed. Root rot is going to be the hardest problem to solve. But, if it isn’t too severe, you may be able to save the plant.
Take your spider plant out of its pot, gently shake off any excess soil, and look at the roots. Healthy plant roots are white. If any roots are slimy, brown, or black, then your plant has root rot. Use a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut away the rotten roots.
If the remaining root system is small, you’ll also need to cut back the leaves so the root system can support the plant. A small root system can’t supply the necessary nutrients to a large plant.
Repot the trimmed plant into a smaller pot with fresh soil. Use a good quality indoor potting mix. Make sure the new pot has drainage holes. You may also want to use a terra-cotta pot because it will dry out faster than a plastic pot and will reduce the risk that you overwater in the future.
Cause #3: Pest Infestation
Pest infestation could cause your spider plant leaves to curl because pests are certainly stressful (for you and your plant)!
You’re more likely to see other symptoms, however, and those symptoms will help you identify the pest.
Spider mites are difficult to spot because, as the name suggests, they are tiny. However, if you notice little webs on your plant, then spider mites are likely the problem.
Scale are little parasites that suck the sap from the leaves of your spider plant. They look like small bumps on the plant. They may be circular or oval, and the color varies from white to dark brown.
Whiteflies are another sap-sucking insect. If you spot little white insects on your plant, then you know you have whiteflies. Another sign of whiteflies is a sticky substance on the leaves called honeydew.
Yet another sap-sucking insect, aphids have soft bodies and can be almost any color. In fact, they often blend in with the color of your plant. You’ll usually spot them in clusters.
You can treat all these pests the same way.
Start by spraying the plant with water. You can take them outside and spray with the garden hose or put them in the shower. The water will knock off some insects and also get rid of webbing and honeydew.
Then spray them with a mixture of neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill any remaining insects. I keep some neem oil mixed up all the time so that I have it handy.
I like to pour some neem oil mixture into the soil as well to kill anything that may be lurking under the surface.
Quarantine any affected plants to ensure that pests don’t spread to your other houseplants. Then, check them closely for a couple of weeks. You may need to repeat the pest treatment once or twice.
Also, avoid fertilizing your plant while it’s recovering, as new growth may attract more insects.
Cause #4: Improper Light Conditions
The wrong lighting can cause stress for your plant. If you’ve eliminated all the other problems, then consider its location and the light it receives.
Spider plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight. However, too much direct sunlight can cause your plant to dry out too quickly (which leads to the leaves curling). It can also cause the white variegation to fade to green. Brown spots are another symptom of too much direct sunlight.
If your plant gets too much direct sunlight, then either move it to another location or add a sheer window covering to soften the light.
Insufficient light is unlikely to cause curling leaves. Spider plants are very tolerant of low-light conditions. That’s why they make such great indoor plants for homes and offices.
However, if you notice your spider plant leaves turning yellow and drooping, that’s a sign that it isn’t getting enough indirect light.
Spider plants are popular houseplants because they are easy to grow and low-maintenance.
The best way to avoid problems is to keep an eye on your plant. Check it once a week to make sure that all is well. A healthy plant will have smooth, arching leaves and look shiny.
If you notice the leaves curling inward, then that’s a sign that something is wrong. It’s most likely improper watering, so rule that out first. Then check for pests. And finally, make sure it’s getting the right amount of light.
An overwatered spider plant usually looks sickly with droopy, discolored leaves and may have root rot. You may notice brown spots or yellowing leaves.
Plant in a pot with drainage holes and use a standard commercial potting mix. Water thoroughly but allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. Fertilize monthly during the growing season.
Water spider plants thoroughly but allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. Water about once a week or when the top two inches of soil dry.