Spider Plant Care
Despite their creepy-crawly name, spider plants 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 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 & 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:
- Variegatum: This variety has leaf margins of cream or white with a dark green stripe down the middle. Its long stems are green.
- Vittatum: This plant’s leaves have a center white stripe surrounded by medium green margins. Its long stems are white.
- 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.
Potting & Repotting
Grow spider plants in containers that are slightly larger than their root balls. 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 & 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, 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.
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.
Information courtesy of TheSpruce.com