A Spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum) is a member of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and is in the same family as the popular asparagus fern. First found growing in the subtropics of Africa, Asia, and Australia, the graceful spider plant grows well outdoors in warm areas and indoors with very little care. Chlorophytum comosum got its common name, Spider plant, because the small plantlets that grow on the long, hanging stems were thought to resemble a green and white spider.
The plant produces grassy-looking, narrow leaves about 8”-10” long and less than 1” wide directly from the center of the plant. When kept root-bound, a spider plant sends out numerous long runners (stems) that produce small, delicate, star- shaped, white flowers. Once the flowers die, baby plants (plantlets) develop and can be easily used for propagation. A spider plant can also be propagated by dividing the fleshy, tuberous, plant roots.
Spider Plant Varieties
There are several varieties of spider plants available today:
Chlorophytum comosum has solid green leaves.
Chlorophytum comosum “Vittatum” is the most common spider plant. It has green leaves with a wide, cream colored or white stripe down the middle of each leaf. Even though this variety tends to grow more slowly than the solid green spider plant, it is the most popular variety sold.
Reverse Chlorophytum comosum “Vittatum,” has a green center stripe and white leaf edges. This is the second most popular variety sold.
Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’ (Curly spider plant) has the same leaf color as the Vittatum but the plant leaves are curly.
Chlorophytum laxum “Zebra” is like the ‘Reverse Variegatum’ spider plant but starts with yellow leaf edges that eventually turn white.
Green Spider Plant Variegatum Spider Plant Curly Spider Plant Spider Plant Flower
Quick Spider Plant Care Tips
Be careful not to over water. Water less in winter when the plant is resting.
Wait until the roots have filled the pot before re-potting
Keep the plant in temperatures above 45°F. (7.4°C.)
Bright, indirect light but no direct sun
All spider plant varieties are easy to care for and fun to have. This popular, attractive plant grows quickly and produces graceful arching stems with small white flowers and and tiny plantletts in the spring and summer. A spider plant is inexpensive and a great choice for beginning plant lovers. An added plus, spider plants clean the air of harmful toxins. and are safe to have around children and pets. Read about other easy-care houseplants in my book Don’t Talk to Me I’ll Grow Better: A Guide to Easy Care Houseplants.
How much light for a spider plant: A spider plant likes medium to bright indirect light. Solid green plants need less light than green and white varieties. No spider plant should ever be put in the direct sun.
How to water spider plant: How you water is a very important part of how to care for a spider plant. Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry out before you water. A good way to tell when the plant needs water is to look at the leaves. The green color starts to fade when the soil is dry. Using water with a high salt or chemical content (fluorine or chlorine) causes brown leaf tips. Never use water that had passed through a water softener; it is much too salty.
How to fertilize a spider plant: Feed monthly with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Spider plants need food only when they are actively growing. Over fertilizing can cause brown leaf tip burn.
Best temperature for a spider plant: These plants grows best when the temperature is between 65°- 75°F. (18°-23° C. ). They will survive in temperatures as low as low as 45°F (7.4°C) without damage, but the plant will not grow very much.
Does a spider plant need high humidity: Spider plants prefer high humidity but still grow well in the basic humidity found in homes and offices.
Does a spider plant flower: A spider plant produces very small, white flowers at the ends of long, aerial runners (stems). These flowers are usually followed by “baby spider plants” that can be used for propagation.
Spider plant pests: Mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, and aphids can all be a problem. Read more about each of these plant pests, and how to identify and treat them, in the Glossary of the website.
Spider plant diseases: Fairly disease resistant, the main problem is root rot due to over watering.
Best soil for a spider plant: Use a rich, organic plant soil such as an African violet mix.
What size pot for a spider plant: A spider plant likes to be root-bound in a small pot. Don’t worry about re-potting until the roots have filled the entire pot and the plant’s bulbous tubers have popped out of the soil. Small pots encourage more “babies.”
How to prune a spider plant: If the plant produces too many runners with “babies,” you can cut them off and use the cuttings to propagate new plants. Cut off any brown leaf tips due to too much fertilizer or chemicals in the water using a sharp, wet scissors.
How to propagate a spider plant: Using “plant offsets,” the baby plants that grow at the ends of the long runners and plant division are the best propagation techniques to use. Read complete details on the different ways to propagate houseplants in the Glossary of the website.
Clean Air Plant
Does a spider plant clean the air plant: NASA lists a spider plant as an excellent plant for cleaning the air of harmful chemicals.
Poisonous Plant Info
A spider plant is not toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets and is not poisonous to small children.
You can encourage a spider plant to produce “babies” or “plantlets” as the are called by reducing how often you feed the plant, keeping the plant root-bound, and moving your spider plant to a brighter location. Do not cut off all of the stems that the plant sends out. A spider Plant needs the stems to produce flowers which are followed by the baby spider plants.
The tiny brown bumps of the leaves of your spider plant are a plant pest called scale. Scrape the scale off the leaves using a child’s toothbrush. Spray the entire plant with the “ green solution” (recipe in the Glossary) or Neem Oil every 10 days for a month to prevent the scale from returning.
Too much fertilizer or using water that contains chemicals or salt causes the tips of the leaves of a spider plant to turn brown. Rinse the soil with distilled water to remove the excess chemicals and salts. Fertilize once a month with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength when your spider plant is actively growing. Never use water from a water softener; it is too salty.
Leaving a spider plant outside for the winter depends on where you live and how cold the temperatures get. Spider plants prefer temperatures between 60°F-80F° (15.6°C-26.7°C) though they can handle temperatures as low as 40°F ( 4.4°C) with minimal leaf damage.
Spider plants like to be very root- bound in small pots. I wouldn’t re-pot a until the rhizomes (tiny bulbs) are bursting out of the pot.