Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) have been popular house plants since the Victorian era. They’re easy to grow indoors, flourish in a wide variety of conditions and rarely have any issues. Naturally, these traits make them some of the easiest plants to care for.
We’ve put together a complete guide to caring for a spider plant. Whether you already have one in your home or plan to get one, we’ve laid out everything you need to know to grow these easy-care favorites.
Types of Spider Plants
Although they’re originally from South Africa, spider plants come in various types with many names. Some people call them ribbon plants or spider ivy, for example. They’re a popular choice in homes and offices, with variegated forms being some of the most common, including:
- Vittatum – Green foliage with one white stripe running along the center of every leaf.
- Variegatum – Green leaves with an off-white-colored stripe down the edge of each leaf. This is the most common variety found in garden centers.
However, there are also solid green varieties. These are rarer, although just as gorgeous.
The Best Conditions for a Spider Plant
A spider plant can grow in a wide variety of conditions, making it extremely easy to care for. They are known as tolerant and durable plants, and they adapt to a number of settings. However, the best conditions will help this undemanding plant thrive.
Bright, indirect sunlight if preferred, although spider plants can survive in moderate light and semi-shady settings as well. These plants tend to scorch in direct sunlight, leading to brown tips, but partial direct sunlight is also okay as long as shade in the afternoon provides relief.
As houseplants, they do well in a west, north, or east-facing window. South-facing windows are fine as well as long as the window doesn’t become too hot. Even lower light settings can be okay. They even survive well in artificial light, although the plant probably won’t produce as many pups without getting enough natural sunlight.
More water is required in the summer growing season than throughout the winter months. Spider plants cut back in the winter, and it’s best to keep the soil moist. Always water them when the plant begins to dry and allow the water to drain through the container.
Houseplants will probably need to be watered around every 10-14 days, depending on how bright and warm your home is. Mist the plant occasionally or place a humidifier nearby if moisture levels seem low.
When your plant is going through an initial growth phase, you may need to water more often. Once the plant becomes fully developed, which takes about a year, you can water moderately. Spring and summer months require constantly moist soil to encourage growth, and you may see small white flowers appear. These flowers will later turn into pups.
Although this durable plant can survive slight drought, the most common reason spider plants die is from overwatering. This plant is susceptible to root rot if the pot becomes waterlogged, or you water it too much. Drainage holes to allow water to flow freely and allowing the soil to dry in between watering is ideal. Dump any water that drains out onto the drip tray.
A well-draining soil or organic potting mix works well, as spider plants don’t respond well to wet or dry conditions. If you keep your plants potted, try a soil labeled for indoor plants. The most important part is that the soil drains well.
You don’t need to fertilize a spider plant often. Once a month is enough, although some people only fertilize these plants during the growing season. Use a liquid fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 fertilizer every week in the summer, or take advantage of pellets early on in the growing season.
Caring for Your Spider Plant
The most important thing to remember when caring for your spider plant is that they’re prone to tip burn. If you notice this happening to your plant, don’t worry. It’s often caused by fluoride in the water, which doesn’t harm the plant, but can result from a number of reasons. Reasons your plant may experience tip burn include:
- Dry soil
- Low humidity levels
- Public tap water high in salt or other chemicals
Avoid watering your plant with chlorinated or fluoridated water, and make sure to keep the soil partly moist. If you see brown tips begin to form, cut them off immediately and use your fingernail to scrape the brown residue from the leaves.
If you think your plant has a buildup of salt in the soil as a result of fluoride in your tap water, flush out the excess salt with a thorough watering. Drain the water and repeat the process, or use distilled water or rainwater for your plants instead of tap water.
Spider plants are perfect houseplants, as they prefer indirect light and 55-80-degree F temperatures. They also thrive when planted in containers, and look especially good when planted in hanging baskets. A sunny window near the bathroom is the perfect indoor spot to place this plant, but they do well anywhere with access to indirect sunlight.
These plants are great for growing indoors because they enjoy being pot bound, and they’re non-toxic to pets. They’ll grow quickly in a planter, and you only need to repot the plant every other year or so. More energy is spent growing reproducing than expanding in size, so you shouldn’t need to repot unless the pot is threatening to break. Then, you can either replant in a larger planter or divide the plant.
Spider plants also function as heavy-duty air purifiers. According to a NASA study on clean air, they filter toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the air. If you want to clean the air around your home, however, you’ll need at least a few spider plants to fully cleanse the space and reduce indoor pollutants.
These plants also grow well outdoors during the summer as annuals. You can transplant them in a garden bed or along the edge of a container garden, and they do best when planted out of direct sunlight. Some people also like to plant them as ground covers, or as border plants near trees.
The easiest way to start growing a spider plant outdoors is to simply move a potted plant outside when the weather warms up. Warm, tropical climates are best, but they can also be grown as perennials in zones 9-11 or as annuals in colder locations.
Growing these plants outdoors is just as easy as growing them indoors. Once there’s no chance of frost, you can transplant safely. They can’t handle direct afternoon sunlight, but they do prefer well with rainwater over city water.
The cool part about spider plants—and the reason some people call them airplane plants—is that they will produce babies known as pups. Some people also know them as “spiderettes”.
These offshoots develop from small white flowers you may see growing in the spring or summer. The pups that develop are easily removed from the mother plant and replanted in a new pot. Note that only mature plants will produce spiderettes.
Just let the pups grow to the size of about two inches in diameter, with healthy-looking roots forming at the bottom before you cut them off. Water generously and put the pot in a well-lit area. Some people like to put the plantlet in a ventilated plastic bag for added protection until it roots.
You can also pot pups that are still attached to the mother plant. Just set them in a pot of soil and place the container close to the mother. With this method, you wait until the pups root themselves into the soil before removing them. Keep the babies well-watered after they root. Some gardeners say this is the easiest and best way to root a baby spiderette, and will produce ideal results as the plant grows.
Common Pest Issues
Spider plants are quite hardy and can handle abuse or drought periods. But like all plants, there are pests that like to call spider plants dinner. Insects like aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites can pose issues for houseplants.
To fend them off, rinse your plants regularly with water and rub the leaves with a miticide. An insecticidal soap (like Dawn) and water mixture also works well. The biggest pest problems you may deal with are mealybugs and scale. If your plant becomes infested, treat them using rubbing alcohol on the leaves or spray them with an insecticidal spray.
If bugs become an issue for you, there are a number of natural insecticides you can try before using harsh chemicals, especially if you have kids and animals. Many natural methods are made at home using everyday ingredients such as vinegar.
Cats also adore munching on these plants, which contain hallucinogenic properties similar to catnip. Keep them away by hanging your spider plants in hanging baskets and placing them up high.
These plants are perfect for beginners, as they can handle a little neglect without suffering damage. With just a bit of effort, you’ll fill your home or office with gorgeous greenery.