Spider plants are some of the hardiest houseplants out there. These effusive-looking, bright green little plants can survive a lot of neglect. If you’re sick of babying your houseplants, you should be growing spider plants.
They’re also prolific. They grow adorable little plantlets that you can pot and grow. It’s like getting multiple plants for the price of one.
These days, I have six spider plants, crowding my little house – I’m keeping up with them, but only because I keep giving away tiny pots of young spider plants to friends. Here’s how you can make them thrive in your home.
Meet the Spider Plant
I grew up in a house full of plants. My mom loves growing things. She has a bright sunroom full of her favorites – including a towering rubber-tree plant that she inherited from her mother. When I moved into my own house, she gave me a few of her hardiest plants and mounds of good advice.
Of course, I still managed to kill off most of my first houseplants. At the end of my first year with houseplants, I had only one, sad-looking spider plant left. Now, spider plants are known for being hardy, which is why this one little guy survived.
Despite that hardiness, it took me most of the summer to get my sad, little spider plant back in shape.
If you signed up for a houseplant 101 course, spider plants would be one of the first lessons. This plant is so forgiving. It doesn’t need direct sunlight, tolerates neglect, and propagates incredibly easily.
Spider plants can brighten up almost any room and need only minimal care to thrive. Named for the small, plantlets that grow on trailing vines, the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), can grow to about 15 inched in height.
When healthy and happy, spider plants look lush and full, spreading their leaves to almost two feet of foliage, and then sending out plantlets as well.
Because they produce a visual cascade of greenery, spider plants look stunning hanging in pots. Best of all, the spidery plantlets produced by Chlorophytum comosum can be planted to form new, independent spider plants. They make a perfect housewarming gift.
In warm climates, spider plants can live outside. Planted in the ground, they spread quickly, forming a lush groundcover. But they aren’t cold hardy. These natives of South Africa will only live as perennials outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11.
Those of us in the north have to bring our spiders back indoors before the temperatures dip below 35°F.
Spider Plant Varieties
There are solid green cultivars of spider plants and variegated ones. The variegated (green and white striped) cultivars are the most common. While you can occasionally find solid green spider plants in nurseries. The best place to find solid spider plants is online.
‘Milky Way,’ ‘Varigatum,’ and ‘White Stripe’ are common varieties of variegated spider plants. Un-varigated spider plants usually belong to the aptly named variety ‘Solid Green.’
There is also a curly variety of spider plant called ‘Bonny Curly.’ Both the leaves and the vines of this unique plant curl. It’s a beautiful option for spider plant enthusiasts. Like ‘Solid Green,’ ‘Bonny Curly’ is hard to find offline.
Starting Spider Plants
The easiest way to start spider plants is to get a plantlet (spider plant aficionados call them “pups”) from a friend or your local plant store. I’ve seen small, rooted plantlets at the grocery store too.
Starting from Seed
While it is possible to start spider plants from seed, the seeds don’t store well and even newly purchased spider plant seeds have a low-germination rate.
If you do start spider plants from seeds, be patient. It can take two to three weeks for the spider plant seeds to germinate and start growing. Once the seeds have sprouted, you’ll need to give them even more time before transplanting.
Young seedlings hate having their roots disturbed, so make sure they have a lot of true leaves before transplanting. I try to start seeds in 3-inch pots so that they don’t have to be transplanted for a few months because successfully transplanting spider plant seedlings is so difficult.
Potting Up Pups
The easiest way to start spider plants is by potting up the plantlets that form at the end of long trailing vines. These ‘pups’ are designed to root easily and grow into new plants.
To pot them up, simply fill a small pot with potting soil and pop the pup (still on the vine) into it. Sometimes, these pups will have a partial root forming at their base. If so, cover the rootlet with soil.
If there is no rootlet, just tuck the bottom tip of the pup into the soil and keep it there. Water gently every couple of days, keeping the soil moist but not saturated.
Don’t cut the pup off the vine until it has formed a healthy root system and started growing into the soil. Once your pup is rooted into the soil, you can clip the vine.
This rooting can take a couple of weeks, or up to a month, depending on the season, your watering consistency, and the maturity of the pup. I’ve planted some pups that root within a week, and others have taken almost a full month. So be patient, every pup grows at a different rate.
Care and Feeding of Spider Plants
Spider plants don’t need a lot of care. That’s one of the reasons they’re so perfect for new growers. But just because spider plants can handle neglect doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate a little care.
I water my spider plants once a week (most of the time). I keep the watering light most of the time, to make sure the spider plants have time to dry out between waterings. Spider plants had soggy roots, so avoid overwatering.
It’s much easier to bring back a dry spider plant than it is to cut off rotting roots and replant an overwatered one.
But if you’ve been overwatering, don’t worry, just give your spiders a chance to dry out a bit before watering again. If your spider plant soil is overly soggy, let it dry out completely before starting a gentler watering routine.
Spider plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer to keep growing happily, quite the reverse. Too much fertilizer will cause your spider plant to stop producing plantlets. But every 4 months, a light application of balanced, organic fertilizer is beneficial.
I like to use my bonsai fertilizer, which is an organic 3-3-3 liquid. But fish emulsion (5-1-1) works as well.
Every houseplant has an ideal space in the house. Spider plants like bright, but indirect, light. Don’t expect them to thrive in hot, direct sunlight. Instead, hang them near a bright window, but out of direct sunlight. It’s also important to give your spider plants an opportunity to enjoy cooler temperatures for at least part of the year.
Spider plants love temperatures between 55-65°F. Try to avoid putting your spider plants in hot rooms. Keep them far from heaters and wood stoves in the winter.
Spider plants also like moderate humidity. They can do well in humid rooms, but if you shower daily, the bathroom might be too humid for your spider plants. In the winter, mist your spider plants occasionally if your house tends to be dry.
Spider plants grow quickly. They also prefer living in a slightly pot-bound environment. Unless you notice bits of root sticking up out of the soil, or you’re having trouble watering your spider plant, there’s no need to re-pot.
I usually end up repotting my spider plants every 2 years or so. When transplanting, you may want to divide the roots of the spider plant as well. Spider plant roots are thick and white. They grow clustered together and dividing can be tricky.
When dividing spider plant roots, use a sharp knife. Slice cleanly through roots that look strangled or unhealthy and then gently pull the root mass apart. I usually just divide the root mass in half and repot each mass in two separate containers.
Once you’ve repotted in fresh, new soil or potted up the whole plant, water thoroughly and give your spider plant time to rest and readjust.
Spider plants have a few consistent issues: aphids, spider mites, and browning leaves.
Spider mites and aphids are easy to control with a bit of insecticidal soap. As soon as notice mites or aphids on your spider plant, spray it with insecticidal soap. Treat with soap every 2 weeks until the problem is resolved.
Browning leaves are just a part of life when it comes to spider plants. It’s not always a sign of distress, but it can be. If you notice just a few leaves browning at the edges, don’t worry about it. But if more than a third of the leaves are browning at the tips, take a look at a few of the possible causes.
Spider plant leaves turn brown if the plant isn’t getting enough water, or if the air isn’t humid enough. Over-fertilizing can also cause browning tips. But often, spider plants turn brown at the tips because of fluoride or chlorine in the tap water.
When this happens, the best thing to do is switch to rainwater for a while to give your plant time to flush the toxins from its soil.