Spider plants aka Chlorophytum comosum (kloh-roh-FY-tum kom-OH-sum), likely originated in the south and west of Africa. Peter Thunberg, a plant explorer, is said to have brought the Chlorophytum to Europe in the 18th century.
A member of the Lily family, the Chlorophytum plant has long slender leaves that branch out from a large clump of roots at the center.
The variegated variety with the white stripe is the most common. Start your own plant collection with Chlorophytum Vittatum and Chlorophytum Variegatum.
The spider plant gets its name from its unique ability for the parent plant to grow baby plants, or offsets, at the end of its leaves. These include starter roots.
Some of the common names include:
- Airplane Plant
- St. Bernard’s Lily
- Spider Ivy
- Ribbon Plant
Indoor Plant Care For Spider Plants
Size and Growth
Spider plant care indoors often involves growing in hanging baskets or as single potted plants. These bushy beauties became popular in the Victorian era.
A mature plant will grow up to 2 1/2′ feet wide and up to 3′ feet long. Airplane plants also grow long, slender stems from which offsets (or what looks like baby spider plants) form.
Flowering and Fragrance
When a healthy spider plant blooms it produces long arching stems with small white flowers at the end. The flowers are roughly the size of a dime and contain six white petals.
Once flowering ends new plantlets begin to form at the ends of the arching stems. The plantlets are also called:
The flowers have a very light scent.
Light and Temperature
Spider plants are known as hearty houseplants. It takes a lot of neglect to kill them.
Spider plants thrive in a variety of light conditions. Spiders do best in bright indirect light.
They also grow well under artificial light. It is true too much direct bright light may scorch the leaves. But, once the plant acclimates spiders can grow in full direct sunlight.
In general, spiders do best with consistent temperatures ranging from 70°-90° degrees Fahrenheit. Plants maintained at a consistent 65° degrees Fahrenheit temperatures will look great. But, growth will slow and produce fewer pups.
When exposed to occasional temperatures as low as 35° degrees Fahrenheit, plants will survive.
Chlorophytum can handle extreme heat for a while. Consistent temperatures over 90° degrees Fahrenheit are not recommended.
Learn more about Lighting For Spider Plants
How Should I Water and Feed My Spider Plant?
The reason for killing most spider plants is from overwatering. Allow the top inch of the soil is dry before watering (usually once a week). Get rid of any excess water that drains from the bottom of the pot. Keep soil moist but not wet.
NOTE: Always use a pot with drainage holes.
Water Quality and Why are the tips of my spider plant turning brown?
Spider Chlorophytum is well known for browning leaves. Water can play a part in the browning of leaf tips.
Many homeowners with public tap water and chlorinated water to water their houseplants. Some houseplants like Dracaenas and Chlorophytum are sensitive to fluoride and chlorine found in home tap water.
Over time these chemicals can build up in the plant leaves resulting in brown leaf tips.
If your home has a water softener and you use the water the salts can also build up and cause yellow leaves and damage to the root system.
If you must use tap water, fill a container with water and let it sit for 24 hours so the allow chemicals to evaporate before watering.
A better option is to water with rainwater or distilled water. This ‘clean’ water will help flush out salts and minerals building up in the soil.
If your plant has a lot of brown tips, look first at the water you use.
Dry soil – aka allowing the soil root ball to dry out between watering can also result in browning Spider plant leaf tips. Maintain even soil moisture.
During the winter months allow the soil to dry out more between waterings.
Feed your plant a 1/2 strength balanced liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing season.
Soil and Transplanting
Spider plants need well-drained soil to maintain their best health. Both potting soil or soil-free mixtures are appropriate for this plant.
When using the soil-free variety (think African Violet mix), it should contain perlite or vermiculite for drainage.
When selecting or making a soil-based mixture, provide better drainage by adding:
- Bark chips
Before moving a spider to a larger pot, inspect the roots. Trim off any damaged or rotted roots.
Add enough moist potting soil in the bottom of the pot, but not so much that the root ball sits higher than a couple of inches from the top.
The soil needs are the same when repotting.
Grooming and Maintenance
Spider plants are very low-maintenance houseplants, but grow large enough to need pruning. Pruning will make Chlorophytum plants look healthier.
Start by cutting old, damaged, or dead leaves at the base of the plant.
You may want to remove some offsets (the baby spider plants growing on the long stems). To do this, cut the stem at the base of the original plant.
How To Propagate An Indoor Spider Plant
The easiest way to propagate a spider plant is by using the offsets and placing them directly in a new pot of soil. The offsets have little nodules underneath that will serve as the source of the new roots.
Allow the baby spider plant to establish roots in another pot before separating it from the mother plant.
Or, snip it and plant the offshoot immediately into its own pot.
Water propagation is another method. It allows you to watch the roots forming.
Place the baby spider plant in a glass of water, then transplant it to a pot once roots have been established.
Spider Plant Pests or Diseases
Pests and insects, such as aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, scales, and spider mites are more of a problem for indoor spider plants than diseases.
Both commercial and natural remedies are available to get rid of these pests. Try using insecticidal soap, Neem oil.
The treatment depends on the particular pest that’s invaded your spider plant.