By Judy Stout
Chlorophytum comosum, commonly known as the spider plant, is one of the most popular, least demanding houseplants you can grow. Spider plants get their common name from long arching stems that emerge from the main plant and end with little tufts of narrow leaves that dangle like spiders from a web. It’s easy to grow and propagate spider plants and we’ve got all the essential information on how to keep your spider plant healthy and happy.
Types of Chlorophytum Plants
The genus Chlorophytum has its origins in the tropical regions of South Africa but there are many species now naturalized throughout the world. Probably the most familiar houseplant species is Chlorophytum comosum, the variegated spider plant. But there are a growing number of other species and new varieties coming onto the market. All of them with beautiful foliage and requiring minimal care. Her are a few of the more common Chlorophytum species grown as houseplants:
Mandarin Plant, Orange Spider Plant ‘Fire Flash’ Indoors (Chlorophytum amaniense)
Variegated Spider Plant, Bracket Plant ‘Variegata’ Indoors (Chlorophytum capense)
Variegated Spider Plant ‘Variegatum’ Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider Plant ‘Reverse Variegatum’ Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Shamrock Green Spider Plant Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider Plant ‘Atlantic’ Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider Plant ‘Vittatum’ Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider Plant ‘Ocean’ Indoors (Chlorophytum comosum)
Zebra Grass Indoors (Chlorophytum laxum)
Curly Spider Plant ‘Bonnie’ (Chlorophytum comosum)
How Much Light do Spider Plants Need
Light is an important factor for the healthy growth of a spider plant. Ideally, your spider plant should be placed in bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch its leaves, while low light conditions may result in pale foliage and slower growth. Finding a balance is key.
Your spider plant might enjoy taking a summer vacation outdoors when all danger of frost is past. Spider plants are especially beautiful growing in a hanging basket on a porch or balcony as long as they are sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. Indoors your spider plant will do best if grown near an east, west, or southern-facing window.
How Often to Water a Spider Plant
When it comes to watering, spider plants prefer to be kept evenly moist but not overly saturated. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so be sure your plant is in a pot with proper drainage. You also may need to reduce watering in the winter if active plant growth slows or stops.
Spider plants can be sensitive to chemicals found in tap water. Many public water systems add chlorine and fluoride during the water treatment process, and unfortunately, spider plants can be damaged over time by these two chemicals. The damage will appear in the form of brown spots along the leaf blades or brown to black leaf tips. If you water your plants with tap water, some damage may be inevitable over time. The only way to completely avoid this would be to water your plants only with rain water, well water, or distilled water.
Spider plants do appreciate a humid environment. If you’re the kind of person who likes to pamper your plants, then you’ll enjoy giving your spider plant a daily misting. In fact, a spider plant’s “happy place” in a house would be near a window in a bathroom or kitchen where steamy water helps increase the air’s humidity.
When to Feed Your Spider Plant
Fertilizing your spider plant every two weeks during the growing season can promote robust foliage growth and healthy growth. A balanced liquid fertilizer diluted according to package instructions can be applied directly to the soil. It’s likely that growth will slow or stop in the lower light of winter. It’s best to discontinue feeding at this time and resume when active growth returns in the spring.
The Best Soil for a Spider Plant
Spider plants aren’t all that fussy about soil. A well-draining commercial potting mix that retains some moisture will do just fine. If your plant flourishes you can expect to have to repot every year or two. You’ll want to repot it into a larger container or divide the plant at the roots to reduce its size, then return half of the plant to its original pot. The other half can be discarded or potted into a second container.
Where to Grow Spider Plants
Spider plants are one of the best houseplants for hanging baskets. The foliage cascades beautifully over the edge of the pot and the dangling stems tipped with baby plants have plenty of room to grow. If your plant is in a pot, you could place it on a plant stand that allows the foliage and spiderettes to hang freely. Locate your plant near a bright window but not right in front of it where it might receive hot, direct sun.
Avoid placing your spider plant near air ducts. Spider plants enjoy a humid environment and the constant air flow from vents can have a drying effect on the foliage.
Locate your spider plant where it won’t be subject to cold drafts from a window or exterior door. Spider plants don’t do well in temperatures below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) and your plant will likely start to suffer if subjected to regular chilling.
Spider Plant Flowers
It’s not unusual for a spider plant to produce small white, six-petaled flowers. They may appear at any time of year and appear at nodes along the stems that also produce the spiderettes. If the flowers get pollinated they will produce seed capsules containing several flat, black seeds.
Propagating Spider Plants
Propagation of spider plants is relatively simple. They produce long stems with small plantlets called “spiderettes” or “babies” that can be rooted in water or planted directly into moist soil once they have developed roots. In the wild these stems, also known as “runners”, spread across the ground with the spiderettes taking root and allowing the plant to slowly spread over a larger area. In fact, in warm tropical regions spider plants make great groundcover plants.
Propagating spider plants allows you to expand your plant collection with ease. Extra plants you grow can also be given away to friends and family. To propagate spider plants, you have two main options: rooting the spiderettes in water and then planting them in soil once roots have developed or planting the spiderettes directly into moist soil. Both methods are relatively simple and yield successful results.
Propagating Spider Plants in Water
If you choose to root the spiderettes in water, simply cut the stem that holds the spiderette from the parent plant and place it in a container filled with water. Ensure that only the bottom part of the stem is submerged while keeping the top part exposed to air. Within a few weeks, roots will start to develop, signaling that it’s time to transfer the rooted spiderette into a pot filled with moist soil.
Propagating Spider Plants in Soil
Alternatively, you can also choose to plant the spiderettes directly into moist soil. To do this, carefully detach them from the parent plant once they have developed roots of about an inch or so in length. Spiderettes connected to the parent plant naturally start to sprout small roots. Gently press the baby plants into a pot filled with well-draining soil and ensure that they are planted at a depth where their roots are covered but their leaves remain above ground.
Your new spider plant starts will prefer indirect light and moderate watering getting started. Keep them away from direct sunlight as it can scorch their delicate leaves. Water them thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot.
Common Spider Plant Problems
Spider plants are typically very low maintenance but there are a few problems that can crop up. Some symptoms may be similar in nature so you may have to do a little detective work to sort out what’s going on. The following are some symptoms to look for and possible causes:
- Paler or yellow Leaves – can result from too little light or the plant getting too dry.
- Leaves that roll inward – the plant is too dry.
- Leaves turn black – too much water.
- Light brown leaf tips – low air humidity.
- Dark brown to black leaf tips – fluoride damage.
If your plant develops brown leaf tips for any reason you can snip off the brown portions just above the healthy leaf tissue. This will improve the appearance of the plant while you work on restoring your plant to health.
More Ways to Enjoy Spider Plants
Propagating spider plants is a fun experience for novice plant lovers and experienced gardeners alike. Kids will love growing their own plants and propagating a spider plant is a great chance for them to learn about how plants grow. By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to propagate your own spider plants successfully to grow them throughout your home or garden.
If you have an abundance of spider plant babies, consider growing some of them as annuals in your summer garden. The variegated forms add continuous color and are great for mixing with colorful flowering annuals in planters, edging garden borders and paths, or using as groundcover in a partly shaded location. To learn more about groundcovers visit our article, How to Plant Groundcover Plants.