The Spider Plant is one of the most popular houseplants thanks to its low maintenance, beautiful variegated leaves, and the fact that it is exceptionally easy to propagate. So let’s dive right into the fun and see exactly what it takes to keep our leafy friend happy and healthy.
- 1 WHAT DOES THE SPIDER PLANT LOOK LIKE?
- 2 SPIDER PLANT CARE 101
- 3 THE ORIGIN OF THE SPIDER PLANT
- 4 PROPAGATION OF THE SPIDER PLANT
- 5 SPIDER PLANTS: 4 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR PLANT IN GREAT SHAPE
- 6 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO WITH YOUR SPIDER PLANT
WHAT DOES THE SPIDER PLANT LOOK LIKE?
The spider plant has long slender leaves that extend out from a basal rosette. The long leaves tend to form evenly around the base and gently curve downwards and can be up to 18 inches (45cm) in length.
The two most popular Spider plant varieties are
- Chlorophytum Comosum ‘Vittatum’. This variety has a bold white stripe that runs down the middle of each leaf, which is boarded either side with dark green margins.
- Chlorophytum Comosum ‘Variegatum’. By contrast, this variety has a green stripe running down the middle with silvery white margins.
There are delicate white flowers that bloom in the spring on the end of a stem. New plantlets are formed from the flowering stem as the plant attempts to self propagate.
The roots are dense, white, and tuberous, which is an adaptation to its native South African climate so the plant can store water and survive periods of drought.
SPIDER PLANT CARE 101
This easy-going plant will be happy in general potting soil although it will appreciate some sand or perlite to give the soil good structure for effective drainage. Over-watered spider plants are susceptible to root rot so well-draining soil is essential.
The optimal lighting conditions for spider plants are bright indirect sunlight. However, these hardy plants will still grow in semi-shady conditions and can tolerate some direct sun.
If placed in full sun (depending on your climate) these plants will start to show signs of stress (scorched or brown tips of the leaves) so don’t place them on a window sill (or any other location) that receives hours of intense direct light.
Your plant will appreciate a generous drink around once a week in the growing months and around once every 2-3 weeks in the winter. The roots are fleshy and tuberous as an adaptation to store water in their naturally arid, native environment and consequently, if you forget to water your spider plant, it will be okay for a little while.
If you are unsure when to water, push your finger to a depth of one inch into the surrounding soil. If the soil still feels quite moist, leave off watering for now. If the soil feels dry, then this is the perfect time to water your plant to keep it happy.
Spider plants are capable of living in a remarkably broad temperature range, tolerating temperatures as low as 2° Celsius (35° F) and as high as 32° (90° F) but they are most comfortable at around room temperature, 18-25° Celsius (65-77° F) and they’re more than capable of handling significant seasonal temperature fluctuations.
The spider plant is happy with the humidity in most homes and can tolerate some of the more steamy rooms of your house like the kitchen or bathroom.
However, if you live in a particular low humidity climate, then your plant will appreciate a quick mist on the leaves around once a week in the dry summer.
Bear in mind that the humidity can still be low in very cool climates so again a quick mist will keep your leafy friend happy.
This natural going plant does not need a specialized fertilizer (an all-purpose house plant fertilizer is ideal) however the plant is susceptible to over-fertilization which turns the leaf tips brown, so go sparingly.
A diluted feed once every month during the growing season is perfect.
Spider plants are well known for their easy propagation, so if you are a beginner, this is a great plant to start with. The plant naturally reproduces by producing small plantlets on the end of a stem in the spring and summer.
Place these plantlets into well-watered soil, and they will quickly develop a robust roots system.
When the plant has taken root, you can snip away the main stem with a pair of scissors, and you have a fully formed mini spider plant. Alternatively, you can propagate by dividing the roots in the spring during repotting.
The spider plants are relatively quick growers for house plants with the long, slender leaves growing a few inches in length every season. The maximum spread of a mature plant in an appropriate sized pot is around 20 inches (50 cm).
If your plant grows too big for your space, then you can prune the longer individual leaves right back to the stem with scissors or a sharp, sterile knife. This will not harm the plant and will encourage fresh, new growth.
Alternatively, you can decrease the spider plant’s size by dividing the roots and repotting a new segment.
Spider plants are fairly unconventional house plants in that they enjoy their roots becoming semi-root bound, so they typically require smaller pots then most house plants, which is great if you are pushed for space on your shelf or window sill.
The time to repot the spider plant is when several of the thick, white roots start to protrude up through the soil or start to appear through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
At this point, you need to transplant to a bigger pot, filled with fresh soil with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SPIDER PLANT
Spider plants are native to South Africa where they thrive in a wide variety of habitats from steep cliffs to shady forest floors.
Spider plants are capable of growing at sea level to altitudes of more than 3000 ft (1000 m). In their native range, they grow in a wide variety of soils, from fertile volcanic soils to nutrient-poor sandy soils. This adaptability to different conditions is why they make such good house plants.
They are most commonly found hiding in shaded forested river valleys with well-draining soil.
The spider plants fleshy, tuberous roots system is an adaptation for storing water in a variable climate so that it can survive in periods of prolonged drought.
Spider plants have been introduced to other countries and naturalized in Western Australia where they spread quickly because of their propensity to self propagate.
PROPAGATION OF THE SPIDER PLANT
Spider plants are possibly the easiest house plants to propagate as they do most of the work for you.
The two easiest ways to produce new plants are:
- Propagation of plantlets
- Propagation by dividing the roots during repotting
The spider plants natural method of reproduction in their native South Africa is by self-propagating its little plantlets that form on the end of the flower stems during the growing season. These little beauties are small, fully formed rosettes with leaves and a developing root system.
PROPAGATION FROM PLANTLETS
The method of propagation with the highest success rate is without a doubt propagating the plantlets that the plant produces naturally every year.
Rather unusually for a house plant, spider plants actually enjoy being pot bound. When the roots are in a tight interlocking mass, the plant will produce more flowers in the spring.
The flowers form on the end of a stem, which then develops into a new individual plantlet. This plantlet will look like a small rosette of leaves with a visible small developing root system.
The stem will gradually droop towards the soil in search of a new place for the plantlet to set its roots. At this point, if you have the space in your home, you can place a fresh pot of soil next to the parent plant for your new plantlet to land on.
The pot should be filled with general potting soil with some sand or perlite mixed in (an equal measure of soil and sand is perfect) and watered, so the soil is moist.
It will benefit the plantlet if the soil remains moist (without being saturated) as the developing roots will not be able to store water in the same way as the mature plant can, so your plantlet will need a little more care and attention.
Once the plant has been in the soil for a couple of days, and the roots have a chance to establish, you can use a sterile pair of scissors and cut the attaching stem (close to the new plant) to separate the plantlet from the parent plant.
Keep your new plant in bright, yet indirect sunlight as you would with a mature specimen but whilst the roots are developing you should water around the base once every two days.
After two weeks the roots will be more developed, and you should reduce watering to a cycle of one good soak every week in the growing months and once every two or three weeks in the coming winter.
Alternatively if you have multiple plantlets that have formed, and you plan to propagate them all, you can wait for the leaves and roots of the new rosette to develop on the stem and then cut the stem with scissors close to the base of your new plantlet to then place it on moist soil in a new pot so that the roots can work their way in and begin to establish.
Again, I should emphasize, it is crucial to keep the soil somewhat moist in the first couple of weeks as the new roots cannot store water yet, but after the two weeks are up, you can start watering just once a week.
There is no need for any hormone rooting powder or other special conditions. Spider plants want you to propagate them, and they are willing to make it as easy as possible!
PROPAGATION BY DIVIDING THE ROOTS
Another successful way to propagate the spider plant is to divide the roots when you repot the plant. This is best done at the start of spring; however, you can still successfully divide roots at any time during the warmer months.
Do bear in mind that the spider plant actually likes its roots pot bound in a dense mass, so you don’t necessarily need to repot and propagate the plant for this reason.
However, if the white fleshy roots are protruding out of the soil and they’re appearing through or even blocking the drainage holes in the bottom of your pot, then you will need to repot the plant, which is a great opportunity to divide the roots for propagating.
Take the plant out of the pot and inspect the root ball.
You can rinse away some of the soil in order to see the roots more clearly, so you can work out how to untangle them. Try to identify a clump of roots that is attached to the stem that you are trying to separate away from the parent plant and work the roots apart with your hands.
If the roots are simply too tangled for a clean getaway, then use a sterile knife or scissors and make some tactical cuts so you can free your segment from the main plant.
Once have successfully separated the segment, simply pot your divided plant into fresh potting soil and give it a generous soak.
If you had to slice through a significant amount of the root system, water the plant once every two or three days for the first couple of weeks and then go back to a normal watering cycle of one good soak every week during the growing season.
Spider plants are the ultimate survivors, and they are very hard to kill, so don’t be afraid to make your tactical cuts to the roots if necessary!
SPIDER PLANTS: 4 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR PLANT IN GREAT SHAPE
- Do mist your Spider plant in very dry weather! If you live in a hot, dry climate with low humidity, then give your Spider plant a spray with a mister about once a week. If the tips of the leaves are brown, then this is a sign of stress due to the lack of humidity. Keep it misty if it’s dry in the growing season, but the plant should be happy in the winter without misting.
- Do keep your plant away from cats! Spider plants are NOT toxic to cats or dogs, but they do have a hallucinogenic quality similar to catnip if cats consume them. While it is not toxic, if your cat does consume a significant amount of the plants’ leaves, the opium-like compounds will give your feline friend an upset stomach which shouldn’t be serious, but you should still seek advice from your vet immediately.
- Plant your spider plant in a pot with drainage holes. The fleshy, white roots hate to sit in stagnant water, so free drainage is a must. Be careful if your pot is sitting on a saucer or something similar that retains water as the plant likes to keep its feet dry to avoid root rot.
- If you have a variegated species of spider plant (mixed coloration of the leaves) then place your plant in bright indirect sunlight. The contrast between the silvery white stripe and the green margins of Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’ becomes bolder in brighter light. However, this plant does not like extended periods of direct light, so keep the light bright, but not directly on the plant!
5 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO WITH YOUR SPIDER PLANT
- Keep your spider plant away from draughts or air currents caused by radiators or air conditioners. Remember the Spider plant’s natural environment tends to be subtropical and shady with some humidity. Draughty areas can dry the plant out, so keep it in a nice still spot, and your leafy friend will thank you for it.
- Do not overwater your plant. The spider plant is particularly hardy and only needs to drink once a week. The roots are specially adapted for storing water for times of drought so don’t worry if you forget to water for longer then a week, spider plants are very forgiving!
- Do not over fertilize your plant. Spider plants are super low maintenance and a general diluted houseplant fertilizer once a month during the growing season is all they need to stay green and happy. Brown, dry looking leaves are a sign of stress due to over fertilizing. Once a month in the summer months and no fertilizer in the winter is optimal.
- Don’t place your leafy friend in direct sunlight. Spider plants like life in the undergrowth, away from the spotlight. They occur prolifically under the forested canopy in their native range and can live in brighter areas of your home or relatively low light areas. If you have a variegated variety, the silver/color of the leaves may fade significantly, and the leaves turn to solid green if it is in a particularly shaded area. This will not harm the variegated varieties, but it is something to be aware of.
- Don’t divide your plant in winter. The spider plant is a particularly tough houseplant, but outside of the growing season the plant is in a dormant state and is more susceptible to stress induced by dividing and cutting roots. Dividing the plant up when repotting at the start of the growing season is the perfect time, and this resilient customer will take it in its stride.