Would you like a plant that is easy to grow and able to withstand neglect? Try your hand at growing a spider plant, also known as “Chlorophytum comosum.”
The spider plant is one of the most common houseplants. It is easily grown and is popular for the ease and speed with which it forms new plants.
It gets its name from the small plantlets produced on long trailing stems that vaguely resemble spiders.
The most widely grown variety is the variegated cultivar “Variegatum,” with one or two broad yellowish-white bands running along the length of each leaf. There is also the cultivar “Mandaianum” which is a dwarf spider plant, with leaves that are only 4 to 6 inches long. It has dark green leaves with a bright yellow stripe. There is also the cultivar “Vittatum” with pale green leaves 4 to 8 inches long with white central stripes.
When grown in a hanging basket, spider plants grow quickly to about 2 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet long. It is also one of the best plants to use for hanging baskets. Long stems appear with many small white flowers and miniature plantlets. The leaves will gracefully arch down, giving a fountain effect. If the new plantlets touch the soil, they will root. They can be either pinched off to produce more plants or left on the mother plant to create a very full basket.
Spider plants basically will propagate themselves. Set the plantlet, still attached to the mother plant, on the surface of a pot filled with soil-less potting soil and allow it to root before severing the stem connecting it to the mother plant.
A bent paper clip or piece of wire, placed over the stem, can be used to hold the baby plant in contact with the soil until it roots. You can also select a plantlet that has already started to develop roots and pot it up.
Spider plants seem to produce the most plantlets when they are slightly overcrowded in their pots, or pot bound. Divide and repot plants before the roots expand enough to crack the container. They can be repotted any season, but they produce most of their plantlets when the days shorten in the fall.
These plants grow best with bright, indirect light and are great plants for a dorm room or office. They are excellent air purifiers, because they take pollutants out of the indoor air and add oxygen. They can tolerate some direct sunlight, but midday light may scorch leaves.
Fertilize during periods of active growth with a water-soluble or time-released houseplant fertilizer. Allow the plant to dry out between watering as root rot will result from a soil mix that does not drain quickly. Too much or too little water, plus insects and mites, are the main problems with spider plants. Leaf tip burn is caused by too much fertilizer or water that is high in soluble salts. Low humidity and very dry soil may also cause brown leaf tips. The spider plant forms thick, fleshy tuberous roots which help in storing food reserves. Temperatures between 65 degrees and 70 degrees during the day and 50 degrees and 55 degrees at night are ideal for these plants.
For a positive, houseplant-growing experience and for a plant that can tolerate neglect and purify your home, be sure to check out the spider plant. They are easily grown and very attractive.
Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993, and she serves as the Master Gardener’s liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.