Spider Plants: Easy Care & Durable As Can Be
Spider plants (chlorophytum comosum) may also be called Airplane plants. Spider plants form arching clumps of grass-like leaves and get their common names from the baby plantlets that form on their dangling stems. They are one of the most adaptable and easy to grow houseplants, so they’re perfect for people who don’t necessarily have a green thumb!
Here’s what you need to know about caring for these trailing plants whose arching leaves look like large blades of grass. Most importantly, they adapt to a wide variety of conditions in your home.
Providing the Best Location
- Choose well-draining soil or potting medium. If your spider plant is outdoors, plant it in an area with well-draining soil, such as soil that contains sand. If your spider plant is indoors in a pot, select a potting medium like vermiculite or coco coir. Don’t fret too much over the soil, as spider plants are very adaptable.
- Provide moderate to deep shade or indirect light. Spider plants don’t need a ton of natural light, so they do well in bathrooms and bedrooms. They also thrive in windowsills, though they should be set about 12 inches (30 cm) away from south-facing windows during the spring and summer months. Outdoor plants should have moderate to deep shade during the day, as too much direct sunlight may scorch a spider plant.
- Maintain moderate and consistent temperature and humidity. If you live in an area where the temperature fluctuates wildly or reaches extremes, your spider plants will do better indoors. They prefer a temperature between 50 °F (10 °C) to 80 °F (27 °C) and can’t thrive in outdoor areas with freezing or searing temperatures. Spider plants thrive in humid climates, so place a humidifier in the same room as your spider plant.
Administering Basic Care
- Water your spider plant with distilled or purified water. Spider plants in particular are sensitive to the fluoride in tap water. Tap water also leaves behind other minerals that build up and can destroy your plant, so it’s important to use distilled or purified water. The water should be kept at room temperature, as cold or hot water can shock your plants and weaken them.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Gently poke your finger into the soil to see if it is dry. If the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so of soil is dry, it’s time to water your spider plant. Watering moderately or once per week during the first year should be sufficient to keep the soil consistently moist, but not overly wet. After the first year, you can water the plant sporadically. Empty excess water from drainage trays immediately if your spider plant is potted.
- Fertilize spider plants 1 to 2 times per month during the spring and summer. During the growing season, use a general liquid fertilizer to feed your spider plants. Liquid fertilizers will provide better results than granular fertilizers. Follow the directions on the fertilizer to know how much of the solution to apply to the soil at the base of the plant. Avoid fertilizing spider plants during the winter of if they are outgrowing their pots.
- Transplant your spider plant when it outgrows its container. If your spider plant’s roots begin to grow through the drainage holes, you’ll need to repot it into a larger container in the spring. Be sure to provide fresh potting medium and choose a container with drainage holes to keep the plant from becoming waterlogged.
- Propagate large plants. Divide spider plants that are too large by pulling or cutting the root ball into several sections, each with some leaves, and repotting the sections with fresh potting medium. Alternatively, you can pluck off plantlets and root them in a cup of water.
When propagating the baby plants, it can help to place a cotton ball or wad of napkin in the cup of water to keep the roots from being immersed.
Dealing with Common Problems
- Trim dead leaf tips or leaves with scissors. If you notice brown or dead leaves or leaf tips, you should remove them. Snip the tip or leaf off using scissors so that the plant’s energy can be directed toward growing healthy leaves. Be sure to use distilled or purified water on your spider plants, as brown leaf tips could indicate mineral buildup in the soil or potting medium.
- Treat spider mites with natural insecticides. Signs of spider mites include dull, graying leaves and webby substances on the undersides of leaves. Spray a natural insecticide, like neem oil, on the plant to rid it of spider mites. You can find neem oil at your local garden shop.
- Heal blanched leaves by reducing the sun exposure. Leaves and stems that are faded or bleached indicate too much sun. If your spider plant is outdoors, transplant it to a shadier location or place a tall plant near it to provide shade. If your spider plant is indoors, move it away from windows so that it receives indirect, rather than direct, sunlight.