Spider plants—also known as airplane plants—are some of the easiest houseplants to propagate. There are a few methods you can use, but the easiest way is to allow the spider plant babies to become full-grown plants. In this post, we’ll show you how to propagate them, and the 3 methods you can use, complete with step-by-step instructions.
What are Spider Plant Babies?
Spider plant babies are offshoots or plantlets that spider plants grow in favorable conditions. They make it easy to grow new plants, as each baby will eventually mature into a large plant. Like Tillandsia, the tuberous root system develops directly on the plant.
With well-draining soil, some water, and a bit of sun, these low-maintenance plants will reward you with cascading stems where babies will dangle freely. After your spider plant reaches maturity, multiple runners with small white flowers at the ends will appear. The tiny spider plants will sprout from these flowers. They’re basically miniature spider plants themselves, and thus extremely easy to propagate.
3 Main Ways to Propagate Spider Plants
First, you’ll notice small nubs beginning to form on the bottoms of your spider plant’s babies. Soon, these “pups” have mature, lengthy roots. The best time to propagate your spider plant babies is during the spring, when the plant should become root bound and will start reproducing. Propagating these plants can take between a few days to a few weeks, depending on which of the following methods you choose.
Grow Spider Plant Babies Attached to Full-Size Plants
The most common and easiest way to propagate these plants is to root the spider plant babies directly into the soil. You can do so when the offshoots grow roots of their own, and just root them into potted soil while keeping them attacheded to your mother plant. This method is close to how the plant would behave in nature, and therefore produces the best results.
Simply get a pot with soil ready, place it near the mother plant, and drape the plantlet into the container to mimic this natural process. Don’t cut them loose from the stem yet: just allow the baby plant’s starter roots to touch the soil. The new plant will take in nutrients from both the soil and mother plant and begin to grow on its own.
As soon as the plant takes root in the soil, you can cut the stem. This severs the umbilical-like cord attaching the baby to the parent, allowing it to become autonomous. Then, you can completely remove the stem, or leave it where it is: that’s up to you.
Some gardeners will also fill a pot with a few pups, or allow spider plant babies to fill out extra space in the container they already live in. This process is known as layering, and it allows new plants to become fully established while still receiving nutrition and moisture from their parent.
Grow Spider Plants from Cuttings
Another popular method for propagating spider plants is to grow a new plant from cuttings. For the best results, you’ll want to wait to take cuttings until the babies have grown mature roots of their own.
When the plantlet is ready, cut the baby from the mother plant as close to the plantlet as possible using sterile clippers. Sometimes you may not even need to cut the baby off, as the plant will release the offshoot easily. After you remove the baby from the mother plant, prune back the stem by cutting it as close to both the baby and mother as possible. The stem won’t grow a new offshoot, so you might as well snip it away.
You then have two options: you can plant the baby in soil, or allow it to root in water. Some gardeners prefer to cut off the babies and root them in a propagation box as well.
Plant Cuttings in Soil
If you want to root your offshoot cutting directly into the soil, plant them in their own tiny pots using a general potting soil. Using moisture-retaining soil often produces good results, although spider plants do well in a wide array of various soil types. The pot you select must contain drainage holes.
Simply dig a shallow hole in the center and place the baby plants upright into the soil. Fill the hole, packing the soil around the roots to keep the plant upright on its own. Water your new plant well and keep the soil moist until the plantlet is established.
This method is simple, but the plantlet may take a while to settle into the container and grow. Keep the soil moist until new foliage grows, which means the plantlet has taken root.
Plant Cuttings in Water
If the roots aren’t fully developed, allow the roots to grow in water before transferring the plant to soil. However, you can use this method whenever you want. To plant spider plant babies in water, use the following steps:
- Pour a few inches of clean water into a small glass or jar.
- Remove the plantlet from the mother by carefully cutting the long stem attaching the two.
- Place the plantlet into the glass, allowing the water to cover the roots and not the baby plant.
- Make sure the leaves of the plant aren’t submerged by leaning the plant against the side of the glass container.
- Allow the baby plant to grow for a week or two, changing the water regularly.
- Once the plantlet offers mature, stable roots, transfer the plant into soil in a small pot.
Caring for Spider Plant Babies
Because spider plant babies aren’t as hardy as a mature plant, they require special care while they take root. It’s best to keep them on a high shelf or in a location where kids and children can’t jostle them. Placing the babies in a humid bathroom can help them recover. Just make sure they receive plenty of water and bright, indirect sunlight and you move them indoors during cold temperatures.
The soil should remain moist, not wet. You’ll want to check the soil each day, and when the plantlet begins to show new growth, you can start to allow the soil to dry in between watering.
As they grow, keep in mind that spider plants thrive when they’re slightly pot bound. They enjoy a close space, which allows the roots to stop focusing on growing and makes the plant instead focus on reproducing. You can keep multiple plants in a single container or plant spider plants in hanging baskets, as the runners can reach up to 3 feet or longer.
How to Encourage More Spider Plant Babies
If your spider plant isn’t producing babies, it is most likely unhappy about something. Make sure you are providing the right care for your plant. With the right amount of sunlight and water, the plant should sprout babies like crazy. Don’t fertilize spider plants too frequently either (no more than every two weeks from the spring to summer), as this may reduce the number of babies the plant produces.
Don’t worry, you can still boost your plant’s health and encourage more babies by considering the following.
Questions to Ask:
- Does your plant receive enough sunlight? Most of the time, a spider plant doesn’t produce babies because they require a lot of sunlight to do so. They don’t like direct sunlight, but they still require lots of bright light each day. Try a bright, south-facing window.
- Are you watering the plant enough? Water your spider plants every time the soil feels dry and ensure the container offers proper drainage or you may face root rot.
- How cold is the area? If your plants are indoors, keep the thermostat between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit to promote the formation of flowers and runners. If your plants are outdoors, make sure the temperature is also between this range for the best results.
- Is your plant mature enough? Spider plants need to grow to the right size before they can reproduce, and often they’ll produce babies after the first couple of years.
- Is the plant rootbound? The roots should be close to the edge of the pot, which encourages the plants to stop growing longer roots and begin producing babies. However, too tight of a container will also cause the plant to stop producing babies.
- Consider what’s in your water? If you’re giving your spider plants tap water, high concentrations of minerals in your water could be the reason the plant’s not reproducing. Fluoride and other common chemicals found in drinking water can cause issues, so try distilled water or collect rainwater.
In my experience, spider plant babies are rarely preceded by tiny white flowers. My plant will just sprout stems and the plantlets quickly follow in the summer. I’ve had excellent results with planting the babies while they’re attached to the mother, never once having an issue.
Cutting the babies off and immediately potting them has worked well occasionally, though my babies don’t always take root using the method. Remember not to cover your spider plant babies with too much soil, and you should be fine!