How to Grow and Care for Spider Plants
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 them 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.
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.
Common Problems With Spider Plants
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.