Spider Plant Basics: A Care Guide for Spider Plants

Spider Plant Basics_ A Care Guide for Spider Plants
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Spider plants have a curious look. They produce a rosette of thin, long, arched leaves that’s variegated with white or is solid green. These houseplants are easy to grow and look particularly lovely inside a hanging basket. They’re also a favorite among Victorian-era homeowners. In the summer, a spider plant can produce petite white flowers on long stems called pups. In fact, the plant gets its name because these pups look like tiny spiders.

NASA once recognized these plants for their air-purifying ability. However, you would need vast amounts of this plant to create much of an impact on your home’s air quality. Nonetheless, a spider plant is an attractive and classic plant to add to any home. If you’re looking to grow this plant indoors, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out how you can grow and nurture spider plants.

Planting a Spider Plant

Planting a spider plant is relatively easy and doesn’t have a lot of demands. When it comes to planting them in the ground or on the soil, every step is straightforward. Follow the steps below to get started:

  1. Pick out a container with enough room for the plant to grow over the next one or two years. A rule of thumb is to choose a container no larger than one-third of the plant’s root-ball size. Additionally, be sure to select an indoor plant pot with drainage holes that will allow water to drain away, preventing soggy roots.
  2. Choose a well-draining, soil-based potting mix. Spider plants like moisture and don’t take kindly to being too wet or too dry. Look for a potting mix that is less prone to gnats since they are common pests with this plant. Fill your container about one-third of the way.
  3. Plant your spider plant inside the container, so the root ball’s top is ¾ below the top of your container. Doing this will leave enough space for water without it running out the sides.
  4. Fill your pot with soil all around the root ball, then thoroughly water your plant and allow it to drain.
  5. Once done with planting, move your spider plant to a bright area of the house but away from direct sunlight. An ideal location for your spider plant is a north-facing window where it will get indirect sunlight.
Spider Plants

Growing a Spider Plant

This plant is considered one of the easiest plants to care for. When done correctly, your spider plant will reward you with cute little sprouts. You can then use these sprouts to grow others or give them to friends and family. Use this guide to take you through the journey of caring for and raising your spider plant.

Light Needs of Spider Plants

Spider plants can tolerate low light conditions but prefer soaking in bright, indirect light. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight — this will burn the leaves and cause brown spots and tips. When provided with indirect lighting, the striping on the leaves is highlighted and made more prominent. However, if given too little sunlight, its leaves will become yellow and will droop. If you notice that the plant is becoming limp, move it to a darker place to help it recover quickly. And if your plants need more light than your home can naturally provide, consider using inexpensive indoor grow lights.

Water Needs

This plant needs good watering, but you can’t allow its roots to get soggy — this will lead to root rot. Spider plants also prefer to dry out before their next watering. If you notice its leaf tips are browning, check the water. Your tap water may have chemicals that can cause a build-up. If you do encounter this, use filtered water or leave it to sit overnight before using it on the plant.

Humidity Needs

Spider plants can survive in environments with low humidity but will thrive with higher humidity levels. If your plant exhibits brown leaf tips, this could be an indication that the air is dry. If this happens, be sure to mist your plant regularly. Alternatively, you can use a room humidifier.

Temperature Needs

During the day, the spider plant should be in an environment where the temperatures are between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, they will do well with temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit and above.

Spider Plant Feeding Needs

You can fertilize your spider plant twice a month during spring and summer. However, it is best to avoid over-fertilization since this can cause browning leaf tips. Spider plants don’t need to feed during the winter or autumn seasons because their growth naturally slows down. It’s also best to keep in mind that the soil should be damp before using fertilizer. When you fertilize, use a high-quality, organic houseplant fertilizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions.


Spider Plant Toxicity

The spider plant is not toxic and is safe for humans, cats, and dogs.

Spider Plant Propagation

If you plan to grow new spider plants from an old one, this plant makes the process easy for you. They provide you with tiny plantlets that sprout from the ends of the shoots. These can then easily root in a damp potting mix. Arrange small containers with soil around the parent plant and lightly push the plantlet into each pot. Keep the plantlet’s soil moist for it to take root in two to three weeks. After this time, cut it away from the parent plant. It’s best to keep them in small houseplant pots until they grow big enough for larger pots.

Spider Plant Tips

For a higher chance of success when it comes to growing your spider plant, follow these guidelines.

Choosing the Correct Soil

While spider plants are always thirsty for water, they can’t sit in wet soil for extended periods. Use soil that will drain well, such as Leca or a mix of Leca balls and soil. Aim to water the plant frequently and let the soil absorb as much of it as possible. Allow the excess water to drain away. The soil needs a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. This pH will help prevent your plant from drying out quickly.

Choosing the Best Pot

The suitable pots to use for growing spider plants have a drainage hole at the bottom. This drainage will allow excess water to drain away from the plant. You can also use terracotta pots since it is a breathable material and will help give oxygen to the plant’s roots. Furthermore, it helps to evaporate moisture around the pot quicker, reducing the risk of overwatering.

Spider Plant in Pot

Spider Plant Problems

Browning Leaves

Spotting brown leaves on your spider plant may be a signal that you’re under or overwatering it. Don’t allow the roots to become soggy, but don’t let the soil dry out too much either. Moreover, winter heating can make the atmosphere dry, making indoor plants suffer from a lack of humidity. This humidity deficit can be especially true if you keep the plant near a radiator or vent. Moving your plants away from these sources of heat along with running a humidifier are just some ways to help. You can also keep plants in a humid space such as the bathroom or grouped with other plants.

Another reason behind browning leaf ends is a gradual build-up of salts or minerals from fertilizer. Leach out these salts by watering the plant until it runs off — repeat this process a few times. Water that went through a water softener or heavily chlorinated water can also contribute to browning tips. If you think this is the cause, try using mineral water as mentioned above or collected rainwater.

Plant Isn’t Growing

If your plant won’t produce shoots or plantlets, it may be too young or growing in a pot too large. Possible solutions can be to keep it rootbound or give it bright, indirect sunlight. A plant that doesn’t receive enough light may have a stunted development.

Overwatering Your Plant

When you overwater a spider plant, the leaves will start turning brown and slowly dying. If this happens, cease watering the plant, let the soil dry out, and then water it again. The plant will usually recover well and be able to bounce back within a few days.

Underwatering Your Plant

When you let the soil dry out, be sure the plant doesn’t go for days without water. When a spider plant doesn’t get enough water, its leaves will fade to a lighter color. Leaves on this plant are generally deep green, making it easy to spot when your plant needs water.

Pests and Diseases

As mentioned, spider plants are prone to burning their tips. Burnt tips could result from low humidity, dry soil, or a build-up of chemicals and salt found in tap water. One solution is to keep its soil moist and avoid using chlorinated or fluoridated water. Be sure to cut off any brown tips that you see. Pests are another common problem that spider plants face.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are common pests that attack houseplants, which means they attack spider plants too. Fortunately, these bugs are easy to recognize and will stand out against the green foliage. You’ll most likely catch these bugs before they can do much harm to your plant. If you see white residue on the stems of your spider plant, that’s them. These members of the scale family will make your plant look like it has bits of cotton sticking to it. You can get rid of these cotton-looking pests by wiping them with a paper towel soaked with rubbing alcohol. Make sure to inspect the leaves and the base of the leaves when looking for these pests. If rubbing alcohol won’t fight the infestation, you can use a neem oil solution to wipe out fungi and pests. However, make sure you follow instructions before using this product.

Scale

This insect camouflages as harmless, little brown bumps on plants. In truth, they’re related to mealybugs and possess hard, brown shells. When they settle on our plants, we tend to think that they’re nothing but dirt or some disease. But just like mealybugs, these insects will drain the nutrients out of the foliage and weaken your plant. One tell-tale sign that gives away the presence of scale is yellow leaves. You can get rid of these pests the same way as you would mealybugs (see above).

Spider Mites

If you see yellow spots or webs on your plant, it may be a sign of mites. You may also see small colonies of mites moving throughout the plant, on webs, and the undersides of foliage. Like with the first two, these pests suck nutrients from leaves and leave the plant malnourished and sick. To treat an invasion from these insects, wipe off the plant with a moist paper towel. Then, use the same methods as the first two pests and treat them with neem oil.

Spider Plant Varieties

Bonnie Curly Spider Plant

This cultivated option gives growers a surprising twist because it has leaves that curl. These playful plants certainly look as though they just came back from getting a perm. Its curled leaves are also variegated, with white stripes at the plant’s center and green on the edges. While it looks pretty different from its usual spider plant variety, many people appreciate it for its unique look. So if you find yourself instantly drawn to the Bonnie Spider Plant’s curly locks, you’re not alone!

Bonnie Spider Plant
Ocean Spider Plant

Ocean

This variant is a more recent cultivated plant. Like the spider plant above, it also displays white stripes at the center and green leaf margins. It is a compact variety, with foliage reaching just 8 – 12 inches in length during maturity. Ocean Spider Plants have a spiky appearance because of their broader, shorter leaves. As usual, ensure the plant has adequate space to grow and that pests aren’t present before purchasing one.

Variegatum

The “variegatum” is a cultivated spider plant variety with thin, white margins and green leaves. It displays long, elegant leaves that reach up to 16 inches long. This variant is also known as “reverse variegated” due to the reversed markings of the “Vittatum,” the most common variety. Compared to other variants, the reverse variegated spider plant can handle more direct sunlight. Moreover, it doesn’t produce a heavy load of offsets that you will typically find in other spider plants. This variant also won the distinguished Award for Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Variegatum
Vittatum

Vittatum

This variant is the most common type of spider plant found in nurseries today. This cultivar has foliage with a white stripe at the center and pale green margins. Some growers call this variant the “variegated spider plant” without mentioning its cultivar name or species. Like the plant mentioned above, it also won the Award for Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Other Benefits

Research has shown that the spider plant, scientifically known as Chlorophytum comosum, can improve air quality indoors. They do this by absorbing unhealthy elements in the air. And while one plant won’t make much of a difference, these plants contribute to a home’s well-being.

The spider plant comes from tropical Africa and is grown as a houseplant throughout the U.S. However, you can expand it outdoors during summer, away from direct sun. Just make sure to take it back inside when the temperature drops; otherwise, you risk damaging the plant. Also, remember that spider plants will die if exposed to frost.

Whether you keep them inside or outside the home, spider plants look lovely in a hanging planter basket. Place them on a table to make an eye-catching display with their long shoots and little pups at the end.

Trivia About the Spider Plant

Spider plants are also known as “ribbon plant,” “airplane plant,” and “spider ivy.”

Spider plants hail from the tropical climates of South Africa.

Research has confirmed that placing a spider plant on your desk helps to reduce indoor pollutants.

FAQs for Spider Plant Care

The Chlorophytum comosum — the spider plant’s scientific name — can improve air quality. Research suggests that they can absorb harmful elements in the atmosphere. Having more of these plants in your home can encourage the production of clean air. They may also contribute to the home’s general well-being, along with its occupants.

Mealybugs attack many houseplants, including your beloved spider plants. Look out for white residue on your plant or things that look like little bits of cotton on your plant. You can eliminate these insects by soaking paper towels in rubbing alcohol and then rubbing them on the plant. If there is a more extensive infestation, use neem oil to fight back against these pests and other fungi. Before using neem oil, however, follow the instructions closely before using the product.

Spider plants come in a variety of cultivars and species, some of which are unique, while others are common:

  • Bonnie: This spider plant comes with a quirk — it has curly leaves! This one is an excellent choice for those wanting to place a statement piece inside their home. You may also hang these plants outside on the patio to create a beautiful look.
  • Ocean: The ocean variant is a newer cultivated plant and a more compact spider plant than the others. It has a spiky appearance due to its shorter and broader leaves.
  • Variegatum: These plants display elegant leaves that stretch up to 16 inches long. It carries a reversed pattern of markings compared to the “Vittatum” variety. It can also handle direct sun and won’t produce a heavy load of offsets like other spider plants. The variegatum is also known for winning the Award for Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Vittatum: This variant is the most summon kind of spider plant. It has the well-known appearance of pale green margins and a white stripe at the center of its foliage. Like its cousin above, it also won the Garden Merit Award in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

If you find any of these plants to be the next addition to your home, look for pests first. It’s also best to make sure that it has a big enough pot to encourage growth. Doing these steps will ensure that you will have a smooth and easy time growing your spider plant.

Spider plants need a lot of water, don’t let their roots become soggy because it will lead to root rot. Allow time for the soil to dry out before you next water the plant. If the leaf’s tip is browning, check the water you use, it may have chemicals that cause build-up. Be sure to leave the water overnight before use or use filtered water on the plant.

If you see that your spider plant has brown leaves, you may be overwatering or under watering your plant. Make sure not to let the roots soak in too much water but don’t allow the soil to dry out. During winter, indoor heating systems may create a dry atmosphere and take away the humidity they need. It’s best to move your plants away from heat sources and run a humidifier to help your plants cope. You can also place your plants in the bathroom or other humid areas of the house.

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