Despite their creepy-crawly name, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are among the most popular houseplants to grow. When grown indoors, these warm-weather perennials will survive less-than-perfect conditions, and they are stunning if you can closely mimic their native tropical environment by providing warm temperatures and humid air. These plants grow rosettes of slender, gently arching leaves that can stretch from around 12 to 18 inches long. The leaves can be green or striped green and white. Mature plants regularly send out long stems that bear small, star-shaped flowers. If the flowers are fertilized, a small fruit forms. Once the flowers fall off, tiny plantlets form in their place, which ultimately grow their own roots and can be snipped off to create new potted plants.
Spider plants are moderately fast-growing plants that can be planted at any time as long as they are not exposed to frost.
|Common Names||Spider plant, spider ivy, ribbon plant|
|Botanical Name||Chlorophytum comosum|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||1–2 ft. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial, shade|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Flowers regularly|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central and Southern Africa|
Spider Plant Care
Spider plants are often grown in containers as hanging plants due to the cascading nature of their foliage and their long stems with plantlets. They also look great when grown atop columns. If you place their container on a shelf or table, make sure the long leaves aren’t getting crushed and the long plantlet stems don’t get so heavy that they pull over the pot. In warm climates, spider plants do well in outdoor planters and as edging or ground cover plants.
Regular watering is typically the most time-consuming part of spider plant care. Throughout the growing season (spring to fall) also plan to fertilize regularly. And repot your plant as needed once its roots have outgrown the container.
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Spider Plants
Outdoors, spider plants prefer to grow in light shade. They can tolerate heavy shade, but their growth won't be as robust. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves. Indoors, a bright window or patio door that gets indirect sun is ideal.
These plants can grow in a variety of soil types, but they favor loose, loamy soil with sharp drainage. Spider plant prefers a fairly neutral soil pH but can tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil. A high level of salts in the soil can cause the leaf tips to turn brown.
Spider plants like lightly moist but not soggy soil. Overwatering can cause root rot and ultimately kill the plant. These plants are sensitive to fluoride and chlorine in water, which can brown the leaf tips. So if possible, use rainwater or distilled water for container plants. The fleshy tubers retain moisture well, so inconsistent watering, while not ideal, won't harm spider plants too much.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm, humid conditions are ideal for spider plants. They don’t like temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This means they should be protected from drafts and air-conditioning vents when grown indoors. Moreover, the leaf tips can brown if the humidity is too low. Regular misting of the plant can help to maintain adequate humidity.
These plants like a moderate amount of feeding, roughly once a month during the active growing seasons of spring and summer. Too much fertilizer can cause brown leaf tips, but too little fertilizer will result in weak growth. Use an all-purpose granular or water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season, following label instructions. Adjust the amount if necessary depending on your plant's growth.
Types of Spider Plant
There are several varieties of spider plants, including:
- Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum': This variety has leaf margins of cream or white with a dark green stripe down the middle. Its long stems are green.
- Chlorophytum comosum 'Vittatum': This plant’s leaves have a center white stripe surrounded by medium green margins. Its long stems are white.
- Chlorophytum comosum 'Bonnie': This variety is more compact than the main species plant and has loosely curled leaves with green margins and a cream center stripe. It produces yellow flowers.
Remove dead or browning leaves as they appear. If a plant is becoming too leggy and sparse, remove the plantlet shoots to redirect energy to the main plant.
Propagating Spider Plants
Spider plants are easy to propagate and so prolific that you'll want to share them with all your friends. Even a beginner can do this:
- Once the small plantlets on a spider plant's stem develop roots that are at least an inch or two long, it's time to propagate. Using sharp pruners, carefully cut the plantlets off the stem, keeping the roots intact.
- Pot them in a well-draining clay or plastic container filled with the potting medium, and make sure the soil stays moist (but not soggy) until they become established.
- For plantlets without developed roots, place a small pot filled with potting soil near the parent plant. Place the plantlet on top of the soil in the new pot, and keep soil moist. Within a few weeks, roots should develop. Snip the plantlet from the parent plant, and continue growing in the new pot.
Alternatively, mature plants can be dug up and divided. Gently pull apart the root ball into sections, keeping as many roots intact as possible. Then, replant the sections.
How to Grow Spider Plant From Seed
Seed propagation isn't very common, since spider plant is so easy to propagate vegetatively by planting the offsets or dividing the roots. But if you want to try planting seeds, and are lucky enough to have a plant that is blooming and producing seeds, then you can experiment with this method.
Spider plant flowers must be cross-pollinated to produce fertile seeds, which you can do by using a small artist's brush or cotton swab to brush across the individual blooms once they appear. Make sure you brush all the flowers to ensure transmission of pollen to all blossoms.
After the flowers fade, you should see some small green seed pods in their place. When these dry, you can pluck them from the plant and break them open to collect the seeds inside. Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep in a small pot filled with potting mix, and keep the mix warm and moist until the seeds sprout. Fertility will vary, so make sure to plant lots of seeds to ensure some success.
Potting and Repotting Spider Plant
Grow spider plants in containers that are no more than 1/3 larger than the root ball. Ensure that the containers have ample drainage holes, and use a loose potting mix. Spider plants will typically need repotting every two to three years. You'll know it's time when you see roots protruding out of the drainage holes and up above the soil line.
The best time to repot is in the spring. Gently remove the plant from its old container and position it at the same depth in a slightly bigger container. Then, fill around it with fresh potting mix.
It's best to cut back on the fertilizing schedule in the winter, as these plants will naturally go semi-dormant. Keep watering and misting the plant regularly, though, as spider plant needs to be kept moist during the dry winter months.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Spider plants are generally healthy, but a few common plant pests, including aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites, can impact them. Depreciated foliage is a common sign of an infestation. A natural and effective way to combat some infestations is simply to rinse the plant with water. An insecticide, or a natural remedy such as neem oil, can be used on more serious infestations.
How to Get Spider Plant to Bloom
Spider plant does not produce showy flowers, so it's rare for growers to worry about non-blooming plants. But if for some reason you want more flowers (perhaps to experiment with seed propagation), you can try giving the plant a bit more light than it usually gets, and make sure to regularly rotate the plant so all sides get even light. You may be rewarded with small white flowers about 1/2 inch across. You can also try skipping repotting, as these plants seem more likely to bloom if they are slightly root-bound.
Fertilizing does nothing to encourage blooms—in fact, withholding fertilizer will probably be more helpful if your goal is flowers.
Common Problems With Spider Plant
Spider plants rarely cause serious problems, and those that do occur are usually quite easy to solve:
Plant Is Too Sparse
The natural impulse when a spider plant appears to be struggling is to increase its water or fertilizer rations, but in the case of spider plant, that's the wrong approach. Instead, the solution may be to repot and divide a plant that has become overly root-bound. These are fast-growing plants, and if yours begins to suddenly struggle after months of being a healthy plant, it likely needs more room for its roots.
Cutting away some of the baby "plantlets" can also help, as this redirects the plant's energy into producing more shoots.
Tips of Leaves Are Burned
Spider plants are among several types of houseplant that are especially sensitive to the chemicals or salts that are found in treated tap water. If your plant begins to show these burned tips, it's best to shift to watering with collected rainwater or untreated bottled water.
Brown tips can also occur if a spider plant is getting too much direct sunlight. Remember that these plants prefer indirect light or shady conditions.
How long does a spider plant live?
Perennial plants with a good track record as houseplants generally earn that reputation because they are long-lived, and spider plant is no exception. Spider plants that are well cared for and regularly repotted and divided are often handed off from generation to generation.
Can I grow spider plant as an outdoor garden plant?
Yes, spider plant can make an outdoor garden plant in warm climates (zones 9 to 11), and it is sometimes planted as an outdoor annual in colder climates. When used outdoors, it is normally planted as a garden bed edging plant or in window boxes or raised beds.
Does spider plant really clean the indoor air?
Yes, spider plant has been demonstrated to remove indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde from the air. It would take a very large indoor garden to fully purify the air in an entire house (by some estimates, as many as 700 plants would be needed) but a home with many houseplants will be a somewhat healthier one. And the effect of four or five spider plants in a small office will be noticeable.
Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum. University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.
Common Houseplant Insects and Related Pests. Clemson University Cooperative Extension.