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Chlorophytum (Spider Plant)

About the Spider Plant

Spider Plants, or Chlorophytum, are easy to grow houseplants as well as being straightforward to care for. In fact they're potentially one of the easiest and rewarding indoor plants you can grow in your home.

Spiderplants are very easy care houseplants

One of the most interesting points of the Spider Plant is its ability to rapidly propagate itself, through us, people! A "baby", "pup" or "plantlet" from the mother plant will often root with a very high success rate. Grow your new Spider Plant baby correctly and you can quickly reap the rewards of your hard work. There is never long to wait until the baby is sending up slender shoots of its own, that produce small white flowers which develop into more airborne plantlets.

These plants are so prolific and grow so fast your original baby could be producing large numbers of babies of its own within a year. You might be wondering what you should do with all these new plants! The good news is they can just be left where they are for several years as part of the mother plant, or because they make super cheap and easy gifts, you could remove some and share them with family and friends too.

Houseplants are good for your health and the Spider Plant is no exception and as an added bonus, it will strip and safely remove pollutants and chemical vapors from the air in your home. All this for the price of an occasional watering and some basic care requirements.

A Spider Plant does need some attention in order to really get it performing at its best, but it's extremely tolerant should you accidentally forget about it from time to time. This is in part due to the thick white roots, or rhizomes, it produces in order to store food and moisture for long term support.

We'll going to quickly look at some of the different cultivars you can come across, before jumping straight into the all important care instructions.

Spider Plant Varieties

There are quite a few different varieties or "cultivars" which you can find, the four most common are detailed below.

Chlorophytum Comosum 'Vittatum' (Spider Plant)Chlorophytum Comosum "Vittatum" - This was the first variegated cultivar of the Spider Plant and was the most popular until the late 1990s. It has mid-green leaves with a broad central white stripe. It's often displayed to show the numerous plantlet's or Spider Babies that form on mature plants. The long stems on which the Babies hang are yellow / white.

Chlorophytum Comosum 'Variegatum' (Spider Plant)Chlorophytum Comosum "Variegatum" - This version is newer than the 'Vittatum', and has dark green leaves with white margins. It's generally more compact than the previous cultivar. The long stems which support the offsets are green. It's a striking plant and has generally replaced the popularity of the 'Vittatum' in garden centers and department stores.

Chlorophytum Comosum 'Bonnie' (Spider Plant)Chlorophytum Comosum "Bonnie" - has the traditional green with white stripe variegation of the ‘Vittatum’ but it's leaves curl and bend. The flowering stems are yellow and plantlet's are curly like the parent. It's fast becoming a very popular variety as it tends to be compact in size and is ideal if you want a Spider Plant but don't have masses of space to show it off.

Chlorophytum Comosum - All Green Variety (Spider Plant)Chlorophytum comosum - This was potentially the original Spider Plant. Its leaves are all green with a subtle light green shade running through the center. Although it's better adapted to darker positions than the variegated versions it's the least common. You will struggle to find this type in the average garden center, so if you decide you want it you may have to search it out.

After comparing your own Spider Plants leaves with the pictures you may find yours isn't listed. This is likely because there are new cultivars for these popular houseplants hitting the market all the time, and you have one of the less common varieties. However in all cases Chlorophytums have very similar care requirements so the care information further down the page will still be relevant to you.

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Spider Plant
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Spider Plant Care Guide

Photo showing a Spider Plant in a mall with lots of other houseplants around it

Light

All the variegated Spider Plants need a bright spot in order to keep their stripes. The all green version (which has no variegation to lose) will accept a darker location although growth will be much slower. Direct sunlight should always be avoided.

Watering

Water your plant well in the growing months (Spring through to Autumn / Fall) and if you've put it in a bright spot, you'll get a fast rate of growth and a good chance of Spider Babies.

Water only sparingly in Winter as growth slows down no matter what you do at this time of year and if you've to much water sloshing around the roots, it can cause the plant to rot.

Humidity

For Spider Plants humidity levels are not important.

Feeding

These tough plants accept occasional feeding, but for even regular growth, try and feed at least once a month using a standard houseplant fertiliser. Don't feed newly planted Spider Babies / Pups, or the mature plants in the Winter months.

Temperature

The average warmth of a typical home is the key to good growth. You can put your plant outside in the Summer but be sure to bring it indoors before Winter arrives.

If the soil is dry your plant will survive without issue down to 5°C / 41°F. If the soil is wet or you go colder than this, some damage will likely result. Any exposure to a hard frost will totally destroy the plant over night.

Repotting

If ideal care has been provided, you'll end up repotting a Spider Plant into a bigger pot every Spring until it reaches maturity after about 2 to 5 years. You can just use standard houseplant or garden compost. If you think you might need some help with repotting your plant be sure to check out our repotting guide.

If you're worried your plant is too big already and you aren't able to move it to a different location, don't repot into a larger container and this will restrict its growth

It's very easy and super quick to propagate new plants

Propagation

It's very easy and super quick to propagate Spider Plants by planting up their offsets or Spider Babies. Some people also divide the plant when they repot. Below are the three Spider Babies propagation methods:

  • Method One - If the babies have been hanging on the parent plant for while and have their own roots (see photo below), you can cut them off the flowering stem and push them directly into a pot filled with moist compost.

    There is no need to use any type of rooting hormone. Water well and put in a bright (not sunny) spot. Keep moist, and within a few weeks you will notice new leaf growth.
  • Spider Plant Baby with some roots

    Look at those roots! This Spider Baby is ready to get going

  • Method Two - If the babies are young and have no roots yet, cut them off from the flowering stem and hang them in a container of water. The leaves shouldn't be submerged, just the root area needs to make contact with the water. In a few weeks you'll have roots (see photo below) and you can follow the directions from Method One above.

  • Spider Plant baby which is being rooted in water

    They root easily in water as shown in Jon Li's photo

  • Method Three - The methods described above are the simplest. However you can also "peg" the babies into nearby soil with them still attached to the flowering stem (and therefore the parent). Rooting should take place in a few weeks, at which point you can cut them away from the flowering stem.

Which ever method you pick, in about a month you will have something like the picture below. Spider Plants are fast growers!

Spider Plant babies a month after propagation

Spider Plants are ridiculously easy to propagate

Speed of Growth

The Spider Plant is one of the fastest indoor growing plants you can find. Providing you give it good light levels and just the right amount of water as detailed above, then it will burst into growth and keep churning out new leaves at a very rapid pace. It's not unusual to go from having a small cutting to a mature adult plant which is producing it's own plantlets all within a space of less than a year.

Height / Spread

The maximum height and spread of most Spider Plants is around 30cm / 12in. If they have cascading stems (see below) this will add significant length to the plants appearance.

Flowers

Mature plants will produce a rapidly growing flowering stem on which small white flowers appear. The flowers are quite small and don't have a strong scent. They last for a few weeks before fading and then Spider Babies form where the flowers were a week or so later.

Are Spider Plants Poisonous?

No Spider plants are not toxic so they're very safe to have around people, cats or dogs.

Anything else?

If you have a large enough hanging basket you can plant several babies together to create a future cascading waterfall of babies! (see picture in the article or image four in the gallery, each basket has two fully mature and independent plants). Very effective in a conservatory or anywhere where you have height such as the top of cupboards, or wall shelves.

Hanging baskets containing several mature Spider Plants with lots of young babies

Mature Spider Plants with a cascading waterfall of Spider Babies

Caring for Spider Plants Summary

  1. Moderate Light Levels An adaptable houseplant that will grow well in both light shade or brightly lit spaces.

  2. Moderate Watering They can go for long periods without water but growth and overall health will suffer. Try to water at least once a week in Summer. Less often in Winter.

  3. Moderate Temperature Pick rooms in your home to grow your plant in that are warm.

  4. Feeding Provide feed to the soil once every month. No need to feed during periods of no growth, for example during Winter.

  • Avoid harsh direct sunlight which can scorch the leaves.

Spider Plant Problems

It's pretty difficult to kill Spider Plants so while it rarely just dies on you, your plant may get a few ugly side effects if you're not treating it quite right.

Spider Plant has leaves with brown tips

This is normally caused by excessively hot air (i.e. if it's above a hot radiator) or from underfeeding. You should aim to feed it at least once a month during the growing seasons. Once the ends go brown they stay brown, so nip the tips off with a pair of scissors.

Weak / Splitting Leaves

In general, all plants which are grown outside tend to be stronger and sturdier than those grown indoors. Quite simply they've "toughened up" and become acclimatised to cooler temperatures and the increased air movement (wind) that exists outside. Some houseplants, and in particular Spider plants, seems to suffer long term when grown in "perfect" indoor conditions. This means they're nice and happy with lovely warm temperatures and little air movement all the time.

In our experience we've found that in these perfect indoor conditions young plants grow really fast and robustly for about 6 months to a year. Then when they get to a decent size and produce their first flowering stem the plant seems to get sluggish and the leaves can be weak or even split lengthways. It's like they've given up.

To fix this, once the risk of cold snaps have passed, we do something horrible to them and put them outdoors for two or three weeks in late Spring or Early Summer and this helps massively. The leaves and stems thicken and have increased waxiness. This restores the plant to a robust looking beauty. If you can't put your plants outside then try relocating them next to an open windows for several hours a day.

Leaves with brown streaks (normally in Winter)

This is a watering fault. You don't need to water as frequently in Winter as the plant is hardly growing at this time of the year.

Leaves curl with spots of brown / yellowing and leaf fall

In the growing months this is caused by too little water. It usually means you have allowed the soil to completely dry out and then left it like that for another few weeks.

Spider Plant has very pale droopy leaves

Again caused by too little water with too much sunlight. Try to water your plant more often, or if that's not possible move it to a a spot with less light.

No Spider Babies

Quite likely this is because your Spider Plant is too young. Flowers and therefore babies, only appear on more mature plants, it also needs to be in a reasonably sized pot. If the plant has never been repotted from the tiny pot in which you originally received it, then it's time for a size upgrade. Remember - Thriving not Surviving.


About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Spider Plant rooting in a water vase - Jon Li


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