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What Is a Spider Plant?
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), also called airplane plant, is a perennial flowering plant native to South Africa. Spider plants have long, thin leaves—both solid-colored and variegated—and grow to be one to two feet tall. Spider plants are known primarily for their long grass-like leaves, but they also produce clusters of small white flower blooms that mature to form baby spider plantlets, commonly referred to as "spiderettes."
How to Care for a Spider Plant
Spider plants tolerate such a wide array of growing conditions, which makes caring for them easy.
- Provide bright indirect light or partial shade. Spider plants grow well in most lighting conditions, except for direct sunlight, which can scorch the plants’ leaves. If you do choose a bright light location, make sure it is indirect light. During the hot summer months, it’s best to keep your spider plants away from south-facing windows.
- Water regularly with filtered water. Tap water in many areas has traces of harmful minerals that cause spider plants to develop brown leaf tips. To avoid brown tips, water using room temperature filtered or distilled water. Avoid overwatering—keeping your soil moist but not waterlogged—in order to prevent root rot. Your spider plant should only need water once or twice a week during its first growing season. In later years you can typically water less frequently, especially during the winter months.
- Keep the temperature moderate. Whether indoors or outdoors, spider plants grow best in temperatures between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Spider plants also thrive in humid environments, so if necessary, mist their leaves to keep them moist. For an indoor spider plant, you can even place it near a humidifier or bring it into the bathroom when you take a hot shower.
- Plant in well-draining soil. Spider plants can grow in a variety of soil types as long as they have good drainage. For indoor plants, most high-quality potting soils should do the trick, or you can also choose a well-aerated potting mix containing vermiculite. For outdoor plants, a sandy soil typically has sufficient drainage.
- Fertilize during the growing season. In the spring and summer months, feed your spider plants once a month with a liquid fertilizer according to the specific fertilizer's instructions.
- Re-pot once your spider plant is root-bound. When your spider plant outgrows its container, it becomes root-bound—meaning its roots have run out of space. You’ll know the plant is root-bound when roots emerge from the pot’s drainage holes. When repotting, make sure to use fresh soil, and choose a new container that’s a few inches wider.
- Prune dead leaf tips and plantlets. Trim off any brown leaf tips and spiderettes to ensure that your spider plant directs all its energy into growing healthy leaves. To remove spider plant babies, snip off their longest stem at its base.
- Treat pest infestations when necessary. Spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids are the primary pests that plague spider plants. Treat spider mites with a natural insecticidal soap, remove mealybugs with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol, and remove aphids with a strong spray of water from a hose.
How to Propagate a Spider Plant
Propagating your spider plants is a simple way to add new plants to your houseplant collection. There are two main methods of propagating spider plants:
- The easiest propagation technique is to divide a spider plant that has grown too large for its container. When you re-pot the plant, remove a smaller portion of the mother plant's root ball and leaves. Plant the new plantlet in a small pot.
- Another propagation option is to remove plantlets that grow in your mother plant's container and root them in a cup or bowl of filtered water. Keep all the roots submerged underwater, but make sure the water level doesn't reach any leaves. Place your plantlet in indirect light, and replace its water daily to avoid bacteria buildup. Once your plantlet has a strong root system, transplant it into its own pot.
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