How to Grow a Spider Plant
A few years ago, when it was fashionable to cram your house and office with houseplants, spider plants, along with snake plants and philodendrons, were all the rage. Spilling over the corner of book shelves and credenzas, perched on a windowsill or suspended in a macramé hanger (with the help of a jumbo paperclip) from a track in the drop ceiling, easy-to-care-for spider plants spruced up living rooms and corporate offices alike with their quirky appearance. Spider plants, often called airplane plants, are non-toxic to pets, easy to care for and are tolerant of a wide range of conditions, making them the ideal houseplant for beginner gardeners or those with a less-than-green thumb.Here's how to grow spider plants for your own home or office.
Why the Creepy Name?
Don't worry - spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) don't attract or harbor spiders. These pretty perennials produce long, thin, arched foliage that is solid green or variegated with white. During the summer, the plants may produce tiny white flowers on the long stems, as well as baby spider plants called pups, which simply look like tiny spiders - hence the plant's name.
Spider plants are adaptable when it comes to how much light they need to remain healthy. While they prefer bright light (like a west, north or east window) they also perform well in lower light conditions, although the variegated varieties are known to revert to solid green. A southern exposure is fine as long as the plant is not placed in a hot window. Spider plants will also grow in strong artificial light, one reason they were so popular as office plants, although they probably won't produce as many babies without natural light.
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Go Easy on the Water
Pot spider plants in a good quality, well-draining potting mix that is specific for indoor plants. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, which can lead to root rot. During initial growth, water moderately, or once per week. After the first year, water the plant as needed. If the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry, it's time to water your spider plant. Empty excess water from drainage trays immediately if your spider plant is in a pot or, if possible, take it to the sink for watering so the excess water can drain out. Spider plants can be sensitive to the fluoride and other minerals in tap water which can build up and harm your plant. If possible, water with room temperature distilled or purified water.
Not too Hot, Not too Cold
Spider plants prefer moderate temperatures between 50 °F to 80 °F and will not thrive outside in either freezing or excessively hot temperatures. Thankfully for gardeners in the South, you can add spider plants to the list of plants that love humidity; keep them on your shaded porch or deck where they can enjoy the weather but are protected from the glaring sun.
How to Propagate
As I mentioned above, healthy spider plants may eventually produce pups, offshoots from the adult plant that can be removed and replanted to start new plants. Allow pups to reach approximately two inches in diameter before removing them from the mother plant. Another option: with the pups still attached, set them into pots of soil placed next to the mother plant. Once the pups have rooted, you can cut them loose from the mother plant. Don't let too many pups hang onto the adult plant, however, or they will consume too much of the energy and nutrients needed to keep the mom healthy.