The Ultimate Spider Plant Care Guide

Do you want to add a touch of green to your home? Look no further than the spider plant! With its long, elegant leaves and cascading baby spiders, it’s the perfect addition to any space. But did you know that spider plants also have air-purifying properties? In fact, a NASA study from the 1980s found that spider plants are one of the best indoor plants for removing toxins from the air.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about growing and caring for spider plants. Whether you’re a seasoned plant parent or just starting your indoor gardening journey, spider plants are incredibly easy to care for.

Background: A Fascinating History

Spider plants, also known as Chlorophytum comosum, are native to tropical and southern Africa. They were first described by Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish naturalist, way back in 1794. Since then, spider plants have remained popular for their beauty and simplicity.

Caring for spider plants
‘Vittatum’ Variety (green edges with a white stripe down the middle)

Spider Plant Characteristics: A Unique Beauty

Spider plants have a distinctive appearance that sets them apart. They can grow up to two feet wide and two to three feet long, making them a captivating addition to any room. What makes spider plants truly special is their ability to produce “spiders” or plantlets. These adorable offshoots look like spinning propellers and add an extra charm to the plant.

Pre-rooted plantlets usually develop in the fall when daylight hours shorten, or when the plant becomes “pot bound” due to lack of space. Before these plantlets form, small star-shaped white flowers appear at the end of the offshoots. The flowers eventually give way to the plantlets themselves. To learn more about propagating spider plants using these plantlets, continue reading the section below.

Further reading:  Welcome to Ames Farm Center: Your One-Stop Shop for All Your Agricultural Needs

Bunch of pre-rooted plantlets
Bunch of pre-rooted plantlets

Caring for Spider Plants: The Essentials

Now, let’s dive into the most important aspects of spider plant care. From light and soil to watering, fertilizing, and even troubleshooting common problems, I’ll cover it all.

Light: Finding the Perfect Spot

Spider plants thrive in moderate to bright indirect sunlight. Place them within three feet of large south or east-facing windows for optimal light exposure. However, avoid west-facing windows as the afternoon sun may be too intense. Spider plants also prefer a warm environment with temperatures ranging from 60-80°F (Fahrenheit) during the day.

Soil: Simple and Satisfying

Spider plants aren’t too demanding when it comes to soil. A general-purpose indoor potting soil will suffice. Just make sure to check the ingredients on the soil package to ensure it’s pest-free. Some potting soils may contain slow-release fertilizer or water retention crystals, which can be beneficial for your plants.

Water: Finding the Perfect Balance

When it comes to watering spider plants, it’s important to strike a balance. These plants prefer to dry out between waterings. To determine when it’s time to water, check the soil. Dry soil becomes lighter in color and may pull away from the container’s sides. Another method is to stick your finger about two inches into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Here are a few additional watering tips:

  • Tap water is generally suitable for spider plants, as long as it doesn’t contain fluoride. High fluoride levels can cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown. Rainwater or filtered water are also good options.
  • Water your spider plants during the day to allow any moisture on the leaves to evaporate.
  • Keep in mind that during the fall and winter, when plant growth slows, spider plants require less water.
Further reading:  Seeing Red: Embrace Vibrant Colors with Trees

Fertilizer: A Nutritional Boost

When it comes to fertilizing spider plants, balanced is best. Look for a fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K), such as a 20-20-20 blend. Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for the best results.

You can choose between liquid, granular, or slow-release fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers are convenient as they take the guesswork out of remembering when to fertilize. During the active growing season, fertilize your spider plant monthly with a half-strength balanced fertilizer. From September through April, withhold fertilizer as plant growth slows during this period.

Pot bound roots of a spider plant needing to be transplanted
Pot-bound roots of a spider plant needing to be transplanted

Transplanting: Encouraging Growth

Due to their unique root system, spider plants benefit from frequent transplanting. For the first three years, transplant them annually, and then every other year thereafter. Spider plants that are somewhat “pot bound” tend to develop more offshoots. When transplanting, move the plant to a container that is only one size larger than its current one. For instance, if your plant is in a 6-inch diameter container, select an 8-inch container for the next transplant. You can transplant spider plants in any season.

Propagation: Sharing the Joy

One of the most exciting aspects of spider plants is their ability to propagate easily. You can take advantage of the plantlets that develop at the end of the offshoots to create new spider plants. Here’s how:

  1. Cut either an entire offshoot or individual plantlets from the mother plant.
  2. Fill a small container with moistened indoor potting soil and make a small indent in the center.
  3. Dip the plantlet roots in water and then a rooting hormone to stimulate root growth (optional).
  4. Place the plantlet in the prepared soil and mist it with water to provide moisture.
  5. Put the container in a spot with moderate indirect light.
Further reading:  Don't Panic! Your Rose Bush Leaves Aren't Doomed

Moisten roots of plantlet
Moisten roots of the plantlet

Propagated baby spider plants
Propagated baby spider plants

Common Problems: Nipping Issues in the Bud

While spider plants are generally resilient, they can face a few common problems. Here are some troubleshooting tips for common issues you might encounter:

  • Root rot: This can occur due to overwatering. If your spider plant develops root rot, separate the healthy roots and replant them.
  • Brown tips: The tips of spider plant leaves may turn brown due to various reasons. It could be caused by underwatering, too much fluoride in the water or fertilizer, or an excess of soluble salts in the water. To remedy this, adjust your watering habits or switch to rainwater or distilled water for watering.

Conclusion: Enjoy the Journey

Congratulations! You now have all the tools you need to successfully care for your spider plants. Remember, good light, well-draining soil, and proper watering and fertilization are the keys to a thriving spider plant. Whether you’re a plant enthusiast or just looking to liven up your space, spider plants are sure to bring joy to your home.

Now that you’ve mastered caring for spider plants, you might also be interested in learning about caring for African Violets, how to care for other indoor houseplants, or exploring great indoor plants to give as gifts. Happy gardening!

Ames Farm Center