Popular and easy to grow, the spider plant is an excellent house-plant for beginners. Its strap-shaped leaves, which grow to 15 in/37.5 cm long, arch outward from a central crown. Spider plant also does an admirable job of cleaning the air of airborne pollutants, though its roots are sensitive to tainted water. The brown leaf tips are often seen on this plant sometimes are the result of fluoride and other minor contaminants present in many public water supplies.
Common name: Spider plant
Other names: Airplane plant
Origin: TROPICAL AFRICA AND SOUTH PACIFIC
Botanical name: Chlorophytum comosum
Spider plant is phenomenally prolific. When less than a year old, plants eagerly produce small, white flowers on the tips of upright stems, which gradually arch outward and develop plantlets on their ends. Sometimes the plantlets themselves produce plantlets. However, when a spider plant is kept in a room where lights are used at night, the urge to flower is likely to be weak. If you want your spider plant to propagate itself, either place it outdoors in the fall so it can respond to days that are becoming shorter, or move it to a room that is not used at night, for 3 weeks in fall or winter, when days are naturally short.
Spider plant specifications
Light: Bright to moderate year-round.
Temperature: Average room temperatures (65–75°F/18–24°C) year-round. Avoid chilling below 55°F/13°C, or temperatures warmer than 80°F/27°C.
Fertilizer: In spring and early summer, feed every 2 weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer mixed at half the normal rate. In the fall, feed monthly.
Water: In spring and summer, keep the soil lightly moist. In fall and winter, allow the surface to dry 1 in/2.5 cm deep between waterings. Use rainwater or distilled water if your tap water is fluoridated.
Soil: Any good potting soil.
Repotting: Repot young plants annually in spring. Mature plants grown in 6 in/15 cm pots need repotting every other year.
Longevity: 5 years or more; indefinitely if plantlets are propagated.
Propagation: Set plant in a place where you can put several small pots filled with damp potting soil next to it. Sink the young plantlets into the soil in the smaller pots, so the root buds are barely covered, and use a bent-out paper clip or small stone to hold the plantlets in place as they root, if necessary. They should root in 2 to 3 weeks. After that time, sever them from the parent plant. Discard excess plantlets.
Selections: The very common ‘Vittatum’ selection features a white stripe down the center of each leaf. All-green spider plants are increasingly difficult to find.
Display tips: This is an ideal plant for a hanging basket, though it grows equally well in a pot placed on a table or windowsill.
Leaf tips turn brown.
CAUSE: Tainted water; overfertilization.
REMEDY: Snip off brown tips with sharp scissors (see page 257). Leach soil using rainwater or distilled water (see page 263). Use rainwater or distilled water to water this plant. Dilute liquid fertilizer to half strength or less.
Plant does not bloom or produce plantlets.
CAUSE: Too-large pot; too much light at night; too much fertilizer.
REMEDY: Keeping plants slightly rootbound increases flowering. Plants bloom and produce offspring in response to short nights. In fall or winter, keep plant in a room where no supplemental lights are used at night for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, it can be brought back into living areas used at night. Overfertilization also can cause plants to produce lush leaves but no offspring.
Brown discs on leaves.
REMEDY: Use your fingernail to remove the scale. Repeat every few days. Isolate plant until problem is controlled.
Plantlets die when transplanted to pots.
CAUSE: Plantlets too old.
REMEDY: Plantlets root best when they are small to medium-sized. Older plantlets often develop dry calluses over their roots, so they root very slowly. Plantlets also may fail when suddenly severed from the parent plant. For best results, secure young plantlets in pots for 2 weeks before detaching them from the parent plant.