The spider plant, also known to many as the airplane plant, the spider ivy, or the ribbon plant, is one of the most popular choices for people who want to keep plants in their houses.
It’s a kind of a perennial flowering plant that is usually found in parts of Southern Africa and is native to tropical regions. However, the plant has been naturalized around the globe, including certain parts of Western Australia as well.
Flower plants have a very distinct appearance with long leaves that have a yellow border on each side, with a green stripe running through the middle. The flowers are generally produced in branched inflorescence, which is capable of reaching up to 75 cm. Over the passage of time, they start to bend toward the ground.
Spider plants generally create a rosette of thin, relatively long, arched leaves that can either be solid white, or may contain a bit of white. These houseplants are incredibly easy to grow on your own, and they look incredibly beautiful when kept in a hanging basket. In fact, these plants were quite popular in many households during the Victorian times.
When we talk about spider plant care, you should know that less is quite often regarded as more. You don’t even need much of a green thumb to grow the plant in a healthy fashion indoors or outdoors.
It is also quite important for you to make sure that you get off on the right foot, primarily when you just bring home the plant from the nursery.
When you buy a spider plant from the nursery, it’s probably going to come in a plastic container. So, your first step is to take out the plant from its plastic container and move it to its own pot.
The temporary pots in which most nurseries sell their plants aren’t just unattractive, but they are also incredibly inefficient. They prevent the proper circulation of air in the soil, and can eventually cause the plant to rot over time.
Then, you might want to look into repotting the spider plant. To do that, it’s best if you make use of a terracotta planter. Most terracotta planters already come with drainage holes in between, which makes drainage considerably easier.
Remember, if you leave your plants in standing water, they are going to die very quickly.
Most houseplants, including spider plants, are likely to succumb to root rot if they are left in standing water. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you might want to add an orchid bark, or even some peat moss at the base of the pot. Once you do that, you can then put the soil on top and repot your spider plant.
Since these plants are root-bound, you will only want to repot them once a year. Now that you understand the basics of repotting the plant, it’s important to focus on the types of spider plants, and if there is a difference in the amount of care each type requires.
Let’s go through them one by one.
Types of Spider Plants
In the tropical rainforests of South Africa, there are more than 65 different species of the spider plant.
However, we have only brought a handful of these plants into our houses, and in the following paragraphs, we shall focus on some of the most common types of spider plants available in the market.
The Airplane Plant
Known as the chlorophytum comosum “variegatum,” the airplane plant is the most common option available to people. It is the one we have described above, with streaked leaves. The outline is usually forest green, while the middle of each leaf is generally yellow.
The unique color scheme of the plant makes it a very unique addition to any room. More importantly, this plant can also be used as an excellent natural air purifier.
The Reverse Spider Plant
Very similar in appearance to the airplane plant, this one has the opposite outline and color scheme of the airplane plant, thus the name. The outline of the leaves is generally pale yellow, while the middle has a green stripe running through.
If you want to add a splash of color to your house, this is a fantastic addition. More importantly, you should know that these plants can grow quite large, so regular pruning is necessary.
The Zebra Plant
The zebra plant looks quite a lot like the reverse spider plant, though it has a considerably brighter yellow outline on its leaves.
Compared to other types of spider plants, this one doesn’t grow as tall as you might think, though instead of growing tall, it tends to spread wider in all directions.
You might have a hard time looking for the zebra plant at a local nursery, so it’s best if you check online for local gardeners and plant growers to find what you need.
The Bonnie Plant
Then, you have the bonnie plant. The bonnie plant is a type of the spider plant with curly leaves and a curly offspring. It’s very similar to the airplane plant, though the leaves are quite curly.
Compared to other kinds of spider plants that you will find in the market, these ones are definitely much harder to come across. However, you can buy the plant cuttings and start growing your own bonnie plant if you want.
Now that you know the different kinds of spider plants available, let’s talk about growing the spider plant itself. The spider plant is actually quite adaptable, and it will easily fit into any household without requiring any kind of special care. Not only that, but the spider plant grows well in various kinds of environments.
As mentioned above, the best way to care for the spider plant is to follow the “less is more” route. Here’s a brief guide for caring and growing spider plants in your house.
Best Way to Grow
As has been said countless times, the spider plant grows best in planted environments. If you leave them out in the ground, they are probably not going to fare very well.
So, let’s start at the bottom and talk about the soil preparation for the plant.
Preparing the Soil
Because these plants are best grown in pots, you might want to start by selecting a pot that is roughly four to six inches in diameter. Young plants don’t generally need to be planted in a relatively big pot.
Ideally, you should avoid using a clay pot in the beginning, as it’s going to limit the amount of space available for the plant to grow. Ultimately, this could cause the pot to break as well.
Instead of that, you should consider using a free draining planter. This plant grows very quickly, so it’s recommended that you choose a free draining planter.
More importantly, the soil needs to be free draining as well. Using compacted soil isn’t a wise move, as this kind of soil prevents water from draining freely.
General planting soil is generally a wise idea, as the plant grows just as well in this type of soil. However, avoid using any kind of soil that is fertilized.
The addition of fluoride into the mix can cause significant damage to the plant, so you have to move away from any kind of medium that might lead to the introduction of that mineral into the plant’s roots.
Ideally, you should consider using an organic mixture that contains loam, peat, a bit of compost, and coarse sand. This is perfect for growing the spider plants.
How Much Water Does the Plant Need?
As the plant starts to grow, it’s going to require a considerable amount of water. However, water consumption is going to decrease in the winter months. When watering the spider plant, you might want to soak the soil in an even and generous manner.
Avoid filling up a cup of water and just chucking it into the pot. This is a bad idea, and could damage the plant at its roots.
Once you are done watering the plant, you might want to wait a little while before you pour water in the pots again. The spider plant prefers a bit of dry soil, so you need to let it dry before watering as the roots of the plant tend to hold quite a bit of water.
More importantly, you should be a bit cautious when it comes to using tap water. Fluoride is capable of causing serious damage to the plant.
Instead, you should consider using distilled water, which is the best choice. If you have an aquarium, using the water from the fish tank from time to time is also a great idea.
Growing the Spider Plant From Seeds
If you have a few seeds and want to grow the spider plant successfully from these seeds, you will first need some important information about when to collect the seeds. Most people don’t know when they should collect the seeds (especially when they are fertile), and often end up making failed attempts.
Once the bloom begins to dry out, you will realize that the blooms have been replaced by these green pods. The pods carry the seed inside, but it would be a foolish move to collect them right now, especially until they have dried out.
Ideally, the best way to ensure that you are able to collect some of the seeds is to place a few paper towels underneath the plant.
As the pod dries off and starts to crack, you will notice that the seeds will be left at the bottom, falling in the area where you placed the paper towels. The seeds of a spider plant are generally quite small and flat, similar to those that you might find in a pepper. However, the difference lies in the color: these ones are usually black.
Once you have the seeds, you should avoid waiting to plant them. These seeds do not keep well at all, so it’s best to place them in a starter pot right away.
Plant the seed around half an inch deep, and then use the organic soil mix mentioned above. Then, just wait a few days, and you will notice the seed beginning to grow.
The new seedlings are generally quite fragile, so you should avoid trying to move them on your own, especially until there are at least four to five leaves on the plant itself.
Growing the Plant From Spiderettes
Spiderettes, also known as spider plant babies, can usually be separated from the mother plant, and can also be planted in a separate pot. They will soon begin to grow and flourish on their own.
Once the spiderette begins to grow roots, you can always plant it in separate soil.
You are going to need to add a bright light and make sure that you water the plant regularly. Before you know it, your plant will start to grow new roots. If the roots have not formed yet, hang the plant babies over a container of water.
Make sure that only the roots are in contact with the water. Within a few days, you are going to see a bit of growth. When that happens, you can always plant them in a separate pot.
List of Common Spider Plant Problems
There are a number of issues that you might have to encounter with your spider plant from time to time. One of the most common problems that you might have to deal with from time to time is when the tips of the leaves begin to turn brown.
This doesn’t mean that your plant is going to die, or even going toward death, but it does indicate the presence of fluoride in the soil, or in the water that you are using for the plant.
To fix this problem, it might be a wise idea to trim the edges that have turned brown, and make sure that you only provide distilled water to the plant. The spider plant is an incredibly durable plant that is capable of growing just as well in your house as in your office. They don’t fall susceptible to a lot of problems.
Even if you don’t water the plant for a few days, you won’t have to worry about it dying off or anything as such. It’s a pretty resilient plant, though like all other plants, it does require a little bit of care.
Because it’s generally an indoor plant, you don’t need to worry about providing the spider plant a whole lot of light.
In fact, the plant only requires moderate to deep shade, and will do just as well with indirect light. They can do quite well in your bedroom or even your bathroom, and they love to sit on the windowsills.
Ideally, you should keep them at least 12 inches away from windows that face toward the south. The outdoor plants also require moderate to deep shade during the day.
Exposure to the direct sunlight could cause the plant to burn out.
Ideal Temperature and Humidity
As mentioned, this plant requires moderate temperature and humidity to grow well. If you reside in an area where the temperature tends to fluctuate rapidly and often hits the extremes, it’s best if you keep your spider plants within an enclosed environment. Bring them in, as they have a better chance of survival.
The plants prefer temperatures between 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and won’t survive for long in areas that have really hot or really cold temperatures. The spider plant also thrives quite well in humid climates, so if your room is generally quite dry, you might want to consider placing a humidifier in there too.
Keeping the Soil Moist
Watering the plant has already been talked about. You need to make sure that you only use distilled water for the plant, and avoid exposure to fluoride.
However, it’s important that you only use water at room temperature, as the hot or cold water can shock your plant drastically, and cause severe weakening.
More importantly, you need to manage the soil. The soil should be moist, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t turn soggy.
You might want to poke a finger into the soil to see if it is completely dry. If the top one inch of the soil has dried out, you need to add some water to your spider plant.
Watering the plant moderately at least once per week is a great way to begin, and it’s enough to keep the soil consistently moist. Once the first year has gone by, you can water the plant more sporadically.
It’s best to place a drainage tray underneath the potted plant, and empty it out every now and then to ensure that there is no water at the bottom of the tray. This is important to prevent the roots from rotting.
Fertilizing the Spider Plants
You will also want to fertilize the plants during the summer and the spring months.
These are the growing seasons, and you might want to consider using a general liquid fertilizer to feed the spider plants all the nutrients that they need. Liquid fertilizers are better for the spider plant than the granular fertilizers you find in the market.
The directions are usually given on the back of the bottle, making it easy for you to determine just how much fertilizer you should add into the mix. If the plants are already outgrowing their pots, you should avoid adding fertilizer to them.
More importantly, you need to avoid adding fertilizer to the spider plants during the winter months, as they are usually going through a tough time.
Transplant Your Spider Plant
The spider plant is a fast grower, as we have already discussed. When it outgrows the container, you need to decide what to do with it.
The best thing to do is transplant the spider plant into a second, larger container. You might notice the roots coming out of the drainage holes underneath. Before spring arrives, you need to make sure that you take out the plant and put it in a larger container.
Before you do that, it’s important that you add fresh potting medium into the mix and then select a container with appropriately sized drainage holes. This will prevent the plant from getting waterlogged quite easily and also make sure that there’s adequate drainage.
The spider plants need to be divided from time to time, so that you can propagate them properly. You need to divide the spider plants that are too big by pulling them or cutting out the root ball into various sections.
You can then repot the different sections using a fresh potting medium (we have already talked about the soil that you should use). Similarly, you can also remove the plantlets and put them in a cup of water.
Spider mites are the most common pests that you are going to find running all over your spider plant.
A common sign that your plant has been infested by spider mites is if you notice the leaves getting dulled out or if there are graying leaves on the plant. You might also notice a webby residue on the leaves, which is a clear sign that spider mites are calling your plant home.
Thankfully, there are a host of natural insecticides that you can use. Neem oil, for instance, is a very effective oil that can help get rid of the spider mite problem.
You can easily find it at your local garden store, or you can visit a general store and find some natural insecticides. There’s no need to use any specialized pesticide for the plant at all.
If the leaves are getting blanched, you might want to reduce the sun exposure for the plant. These are just some of the best ways to care for the spider plant and make sure it grows healthy!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.