Spider Plant Care – Easy Growing Tips (Chlorophytum comosum)


Spider plants are elegant and graceful plants that are easy to grow at home. They’re ideal for beginners as they will withstand a certain amount of neglect.

This was one of the first plants that I owned as a youngster, of around 11 years old. They make an ideal plant for children to look after as they are relatively quick to grow and have a fascinating method of reproduction – creating ‘baby’ spider plants that can be cared for and made into new plants.

Spider plants have a trailing habit and are perfectly suited to being put in a hanging basket. Alternatively, they can be placed on a mantlepiece, shelf or plantstand, where you can admire their cascading beauty.

Spider plant in hanging basket

Originally from southern and tropical Africa, spider plants are well suited to the temperatures in most homes. As long as they are provided with filtered light and are watered occasionally, they will thrive in a variety of indoor situations.

Varieties of spider plant

varieties of spider plant showing pattern of green and white stripes on leaves
‘Vittatum’ on the left and ‘Variegatum’ on the right

‘Vittatum’ Is by far the most common variety of spider plant. They have leaves with a dark green outer part and an off-white stripe running down the centre.

‘Variegatum’ – Less common but just as beautiful, this variety has leaves with the reverse colouring – a dark green central stripe and off-white edges.  This cultivar has gained the nickname of the ‘reverse spider plant’.

‘Bonnie’ – With its beautiful curly leaves, this is a really cute variety of spider plant and is sure to be a talking point in your home.

Light requirements

These plants prefer filtered sunlight or light shade but are quite adaptable to a variety of lighting conditions. Avoid long periods of direct sunlight as this can cause the leaves to go brown.

The green plant on the right needs more light

If your plant is placed in a dark corner, it may lose its variegated stripes and the leaves will appear greener. Moving it back into the light will solve this issue.

Temperature

Spider plants have a preference for cool to medium indoor temperatures of around 45-76oF (7-25oC). They are quite tolerant of changes in temperature and will therefore thrive in places like bathrooms and kitchens, provided they have sufficient light.

Watering

Spider plants enjoy moist soil but be careful not to overwater them. You should allow the top couple of inches of compost to dry out between watering. Test this by pressing your finger into the compost and feeling for moisture. Less frequent watering is required in winter compared to the warmer months. After a short time, you’ll get familiar with the water requirements of your particular plant.

Soil

Plant in a multipurpose or houseplant compost that retains moisture. Although they like to be slightly pot bound, you should aim to repot every two or three years once the plant becomes too rootbound. Repot to a pot that is one size up or about 2 inches bigger.

Propagation

One of the joys of caring for spider plants is raising their babies! In spring and summer strong plants will produce stiff white stems, on the end of which are baby spider plants. More properly called pups, these spiderettes can be placed into moist soil while still attached to the mother plant. Roots will then start to grow and new shoots will form. At this point you can cut the stem attachment to the mother plant and you have a new plant to look after or give away as a gift.

Some people prefer to use the water propagation method with their baby spider plants. Instead of placing the spiderette into moist soil, they can be placed into a glass of water. It’s then possible to see the growth of roots. When these have developed sufficiently, the plant can be transferred to its own pot.

There is a further method of propagation called division. this is best suited to a large plant that’s outgrown the area you have for it. Let the soil dry out slightly. Empty the root ball from its pot and then simply divide the root ball into 2 pieces. These can then be repotted into individual pots.

Pests and problems

Pests are not common on spider plants but occasionally you may have issues with scale insects, aphids or red spider mites. You can deal with these using an insecticidal soap or miticide.

Fungus gnats may also be an occasional issue. These tiny flying insects are not specific to spider plants but are attracted to damp soil. Ensure that you’re not over watering your plants and treat the soil with beneficial nematodes as a biological control measure.

Spider plants do have a habit of becoming straggly and occasionally leaves will die. This is quite normal. Regular pruning including the complete removal leaves at their base, will keep your plant looking in tip top condition.

Questions

Are spider plants poisonous to cats?

Spider plants are not known to be poisonous to humans, cats or dogs, the ASPCA have confirmed this on their website.  Because of its trailing habit, you might find that your cat is particularly attracted to playing with your spider plant. You may want to move your plant out of reach to prevent any accidents!

Do spider plants need fertiliser?

You can feed your plants with fertiliser from mid spring to mid-autumn. Apply a balanced liquid feed every two to three weeks.

My spider plant has gone green, what do I do?

This happens when your plant is not receiving sufficient sunlight. Move the plant closer to a light source and the cream/white stripes will return.

Do spider plants like being rootbound?

Yes, spider plants actually like being slightly rootbound in their pot. Plants in these conditions are more likely to produce baby spider plants. This is because the plant senses conditions are hostile, which makes it produce the next generation.

But there will come a time when the plant is be too rootbound and will need to be repotted. If you start seeing tubers emerging from the surface of the soil, or lots of roots appearing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, then you need to consider repotting your plant.

Should I cut off my baby spider plants?

The optimal way of propagating is to place the spiderettes in moist soil while still attached to the parent plant. This gives the young plant the best chance of survival. Once established you can cut the stem to the parent plant.

If you don’t want to create new plants, you can cut off the baby spider plants and dispose of them.  This will help your plant retain its energy and keep it looking attractive.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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