The spider plant is one of the most popular indoor houseplants...and for good reason!
It's exceptionally easy to care for and has variegated leaves that add a splash of contrast to your home.
Read on for a complete guide on spider plant care and cultivation...and as always, leave any questions in the comments!
Spider Plant Overview
|Common Name(s)||Spider plant, spider ivy, airplane plant, ribbon plant, hen and chickens|
|Scientific Name||Chlorophytum comosum|
|Origin||South pacific and south africa|
|Height||Up to 12 inches|
|Soil||Any good potting mix|
|Fertilizer||Use fertilizer every two weeks. dilute it by half|
|Propagation||Put small plantlets in a pot of moist potting soil|
|Pests||Aphids, mealybugs, white flies, spider mites|
Spider plants have long blade-like leaves that form from the center of the plant and have pointed tips. The leaves or blades can get up to 3 feet long and resemble blades of grass.
While mostly used in containers or hanging baskets, they can be planted directly in the ground. When planting in the garden or flower bed, they need to be sheltered from direct sunlight.
Spider Plant Varieties
The standard spider plant is actually all green, though it is the least commonly seen in stores. However, it can be a much healthier plant overall, because it produces much more chlorophyll than any of the variegated types.
The most common type of spider plant is Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum', featuring a white stripe in the middle of each blade. This is most likely the one that you've seen sold in garden centers and nurseries.
Chlorophytum comosum 'Reverse Variegatum' is exactly what the name implies — a spider plant with white edges and a green center. This is also a very common type of spider plant sold at nurseries.
This type of spider plant is called Clorophytum laxum 'Zebra' and looks similar to 'Reverse Variegatum', save for the edge being a bit more yellow than white.
Finally, this is called a hawaiian spider plant and is a combination of all of the types mentioned above. It starts out variegated, but eventually the blades turn green as the plant matures.
When it produces babies, they will also start out variegated and turn green. If you can find this one, definitely get it!
Spider Plant Care
Spider plants are one of the easiest to care for houseplants that you can grow. They're tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions, especially when it comes to light.
If you're just starting out with houseplants, give the classic spider plant a look!
Spider plants will grow in almost any lighting conditions except for bright, direct sunlight. They do best when kept in indirect lighting and even grow well in artificial lighting.
A spider plant that receives at least 12 hours of bright, indirect light per day will produce more spider plant babies. Place them in indirect light somewhere close to a window. Keep the temperature above 60°F and avoid breeze blowing over your spider plant.
Throughout the summer, your spider plant should be watered regularly and soil kept evenly moist. During the winter months, the soil should be allowed to dry out briefly between waterings.
Water the plant weekly on the soil surface and not on the leaves. If you water over the leaves, it will just run off and not soak into the soil. Spider plants also like slightly warm or room temperature water — cold water could damage the roots.
The plant's long, tuber-like roots store water, but are also the main problem with watering this plant. The roots quickly take up space in the pot and prevent water from soaking through to the center of the roots.
To make sure that the plant receives enough water, you can sit the plant in a sink and allow the water to soak into the plant from the bottom up. Then let the plant drain before rehanging it.
The humidity in most homes is too low during the winter months for a spider plant to thrive. Misting them frequently will help keep them moist, as well as prevent an infestation of spider mites from attacking the plant. You can also try bringing it into the bathroom while you are showering for a humidity boost.
The perfect soil for your spider plant will be well-draining, but also retain moisture. A good high quality potting soil or soil formulated for african violets will perform well.
Spider plants don't need a lot of fertilizer. It's best to only feed them several times a month and dilute the feeding solution to half of the recommended strength. During winter months the feeding times can be reduced to once per month.
Repotting Spider Plants
Spider plants actually do well when they are root-bound in a small pot, but eventually have to be transplanted into a larger pot. For best results, repot them into a pot that is 2" larger than the current pot. It should have drainage holes and be made of something sturdy — the tuberous roots of the spider plant have been known to burst pots!
The soil moisture can let you know when the plant needs re-potting. If the soil is dry down to 1/2 inch within several days after watering, it's probably time to re-pot.
Pruning Spider Plants
To keep them looking their best, you can trim spider plant leaves in the spring or summer. If you want to keep them under tight control, you should also prune the spiderettes or spider plant babies. Letting the babies grow increases the amount of water and fertilizer you'll need to keep the plant nice and healthy.
Simply cut off leaves at the base of the plant. To prune spiderettes, just cut the longest stems back to the base.
Spider Plant Propagation
Spider plants are easy to propagate. When they flower in the summer, they produce spider plant babies right from the flowers! The simplest way to propagate the spider plant is thus to cut off the babies and plant them into pots.
They can also be rooted in water if you suspend the plant and just let the roots of the baby sit in the water.
Small pots filled with soil can also be set beside the parent plant and the baby secured into the dirt. Once the baby has rooted itself into the soil, cut it away from the parent.
The small stalks that pop up can be planted to grow new spider plants. As the baby plants form on these stalks, pin them down against soil in a small pot. You can use a toothpick. The roots will begin to grow, which is the time to cut the babies free.
If you are having troubles getting the babies to live, try a little rooting hormone to encourage root growth. As for soil, use a quick draining soil that is aerated quite well.
Spider Plant Problems
Overall, spider plants are quite a forgiving houseplant — there's not much that bothers them, pests or otherwise! However, there are still a few issues you can run into when growing these hardy houseplants, so let's take a look.
Spider Plants And Your Cat
It is true that some cats adore eating spider plants. Evidently, there is good reason for their popularity among felines. They act as a hallucinogenic in a similar way to catnip. Keep them away from the cats by hanging them high and away from other objects.
Occasionally, the tips of the leaves might brown. This is typically due to either too much sunlight or insufficient humidity. It could also be due to chemicals in the water. Try switching to distilled water and this should solve the problem. Cut off the brown tips as they appear and adjust the light, humidity, or water quality.
Funnily enough, spider mites are a big problem for the spider plant. They attack when the air is warm and dry. To get rid of them, use an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Repeat every 3-4 days until they stop attacking your plants. You may need to repeat up to three times for full treatment.
Greenflies are known to chomp on the edges of the leaves. Apply insecticidal soap or pyrethrum, then do it again a couple of weeks later. Clip the leaves off at the soil, that show this damage.
Mealybugs are a common houseplant pest and they can attack your spider plant. The simplest way to get rid of them is to treat them with rubbing alcohol or a systemic insecticidal spray so that the entire plant becomes a mealybug-killer.
Aphids feed on the sap of the spider plant and can quickly destroy a spider plant if left unchecked. They often show up in the crevasses of the plant, so be sure to inspect your plant closely for signs of aphids. To treat an aphid infestation, first aggressively rinse your plant with water. Then, treat the plant with cotton swabs of rubbing alcohol to kill the rest of the aphids.
The only disease that is a serious problem for spider plants is root rot. Fortunately this is easy to prevent by simply watering your plant correctly. There are two main causes of root rot:
- You are watering too often
- Your soil isn't well-draining enough
Figure out which of these two is the problem, stop doing it, and you shouldn't have any root rot issues in the future.
FAQs and Tips
Q. How large should I let my spider plant babies get before I transplant them into soil?
A. You can plant your babies in soil as soon as they've begun to develop roots. Eventually the roots will thicken up and become water storage machines, so you don't need to worry about root development. Just be sure to transplant into a deep pot.
Q. My cat chewed off almost all the leaves of my spider plant. What should I do?
A. New leaves will grow, they just may take more time as your spider plant is seriously damaged. Cut all damaged leaves to the base of the plant and put it in bright, indirect light for as much of the day as possible.
Q. My spider plant is feeling sticky. What's happening?
A. If the plants leaves begin to feel sticky it could be a sign that the plant is infested with either scale or aphids. Both of these plant pests secrete a sticky substance.
Q. Is it OK if my spider plant is root-bound?
A. Spider plants like to be root bound and will grow much better if there's just a little extra room around the roots. Potting a small plant into a large pot can actually kill the plant!
Q. My spider plant has lost its variegation! Is this normal?
A. When a variegated version begins to turn a solid color, it simply requires a bit more sunlight. The variegation will return.
Q. The leaves of my chlorophytum comosum are soft and transparent...is it going to survive?
Cold will turn the leaves transparent and soft. Assuming the roots have not frozen, you can clip off the damaged leaves and let it regrow.
Q. Can I use tap water to water my spider plant?
A. Some varieties of spider plants can be very sensitive to the chlorine found in tap water. Sodium can also damage the plant. If you'd prefer you can water your plant with distilled water, filtered water or allow tap water to sit over night before using it.
Spider plants are quite simple to grow. Follow the few guidelines explained here and you will have cleaner air and a beautiful plant to brighten up your room. Since propagation is so simple, you can turn one plant into an army of spider plants and clean the air for your whole house.