The spider plant is one of the most popular houseplants in the world. It gets its name from its leaves, which resemble the legs of a spider. This is a low-maintenance plant that tends to survive harsher than normal conditions, and is quite easy to propagate. If you are able to successfully simulate the plant’s natural tropical habitat, its arching, slender leaves will grow best.
In this article, we will discuss the proper cultural care of the spider plant and how to propagate it correctly.
If you are considering adding this plant to your collection and you want to learn more about it, then just keep reading!
Spider plant care
1. Water requirements
Spider plants will do just fine if you occasionally forget to water them on time, but try not to do this too often as it can have some negative effects in the long run. These plants can survive a certain level of drought because their roots are able to store water for the plant to use when the soil is completely dry.
There is no set schedule to follow when watering your spider plant, because the rate at which the plant’s soil dries out will depend on several factors. These include the local climate where you live, the season, and the current weather conditions.
Thus, if you live in a place with a cooler climate, and it is winter with lots of rainfall, you will not need to water the plant as much as someone who lives in a warm climate, during the summer, with little to no rainfall.
The easiest and most foolproof way to determine whether your spider plant needs water is by touching the top two inches of soil to see if they are dry. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Another way to tell whether your plant needs watering to lift the pot and feel its weight. Lift it when you have just watered the plant, so that you know the weight of a watered plant. Then, the next time you lift the pot and it feels noticeably lighter, you will know that all the water has dried up.
Spider plants prefer water that does not have high concentrations of fluoride, so gather rainwater or use distilled or filtered water rather than tap water. You will know your tap water is high in fluoride if the tips of the plant’s leaves are turning brown for no other reason. You can remedy fluoride toxicity in spider plants by removing the soil around the plant’s roots and replacing it with fresh soil. Thereafter, only use rainwater or filtered water on the plant.
Overwatering is another mistake to avoid; this can cause the roots to drown and die. Dead roots will start to rot and become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens. These pathogens will cause the rot to become more aggressive and spread faster through the rest of the plant. Before you know it, the stems and leaves will be affected and the plant will have no chance of recovering.
If you suspect that your plant is overwatered, you can try to save it by removing it from the pot and washing off as much of the old soil as you can. Inspect all of the roots and cut off any brown or black ones because those are rotten. Make sure you use sterilized tools when pruning them, because you do not want the bacteria or fungi in the affected roots to find their way to the healthy roots.
After removing the rotten roots, only white, healthy roots should remain. Spray these healthy roots with fungicide and let them air-dry for a couple of hours. When they have dried, you can repot the plant in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom, using fresh, well-draining soil.
2. Light requirements
Spider plants can survive varying intensities of light, but they prefer bright, indirect light. Do not put the plant under full sun for extended periods because the leaves will burn.
Although they can tolerate shade, the plant’s leaves will be noticeably paler and less vibrant in shady conditions than plants that get the right amount of light on a daily basis. So, if you want your plant to look its absolute best, give it bright, indirect sunlight.
Place the plant near a north- or east-facing window or, if the only available window in your house lets in harsh light, you can diffuse the intensity by placing a sheer curtain over the window.
If you want to keep the plant outdoors, make sure it is under a garden net or a large tree so that it only gets dappled sunlight.
When the plant gets plenty of bright, indirect light, it will also produce a bounty of offsets that will make propagation easier.
3. Temperature requirements
When it comes to temperature, the spider plant will do fine in room temperature. As long as the temperature is kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant will be satisfied.
Daytime temperatures may be alright for the plant outdoors, but nighttime temperatures may dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit so it is best for the plant if you take it indoors before nightfall.
Never leave the plant outdoors during winter, because the frost will kill it.
Indoors, keep the plant away from heating vents and air conditioning vents, because warm and cold drafts will quickly dry it out. Even cold drafts that pass through small cracks in doors or windows can dry the plant out.
4. Humidity requirements
The humidity inside most homes is generally sufficient for spider plants, so you do not really need to take any special measures to increase the humidity for the plant. But, if you do live in a place with a dry climate, you may need to increase the humidity so that it is between 25 and 50 percent.
You can help increase the humidity by misting the plant in the morning to moisten the leaves.
You can also place the plant in the bathroom, laundry room or kitchen, because these rooms tend to be the most humid in any house. Another trick is to place the plant next to other plants that also appreciate high humidity, so that together they can create a microclimate. You can also place a pebble tray filled with water under the plant’s pot, so that when the water evaporates, it will moisten the leaves as well as the soil in the pot.
If it fits your budget, you can just buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in your home without you needing to worry about it.
4. Fertilizer requirements
Spider plants do not really need to be fertilized because their roots have tubers that not only store water, but also nutrients and minerals. These plants are also sensitive to soil toxicity that leads to the browning of their leaf tips.
If you want to fertilize your plant, do so sparingly. Use fertilizer at half-strength and only give it to the plant during the spring and summer when it is actively growing.
If you think the plant’s soil has toxicity due to too much fertilizer, you can flush the soil with water to remove the mineral buildup.
Spider plant propagation
Propagation in water
- When propagating the spider plant in water, you are letting the roots develop in water first before transferring it to a pot. Some people prefer this because the plant already has established roots before it is planted in soil.
- To do this, prepare a clear glass container and fill it with water. Let the water sit so that it dechlorinates and becomes room-temperature. Prepare a sterilized pair of pruning shears or scissors and cut off the spiderettes from the stolon of the parent plant. Remove any leaves that are too close to the base of the cutting.
- Place the cutting in the glass container, making sure the bottom of the spiderette is completely submerged. Place the glass container in a spot where the cutting can get plenty of bright, indirect light. If the water in the jar starts to look murky, change it, and refill the water if the level starts to drop.
- After a few weeks, the roots should be long enough and you can now remove the new spider plant from the water. Prepare a new pot with a seed starting mix. Make a hole in the middle using your finger or a pencil, making sure it is deep and wide enough to accommodate all of the new roots. Place the new plant into the hole and water the soil enough that it is moist but not soggy.
- You can now care for the plant as you would a regular spider plant.
Propagation in starting mix
- When propagating the spider plant in starting mix, cut a spiderette from the parent plant using sterilized pruning shears or scissors. Cut right along the base of the stolon to carefully remove each spiderette.
- Prepare a small pot with a seed starting mix and poke a hole in the center using your finger or a pencil. Place the spiderette into the hole. Moisten the starting mix, but do not overwater it. Place the pot in a spot where the plant can get bright, indirect light.
- After four weeks, check the viability of the roots by gently pulling on the plant. If you can feel resistance, that means the roots have established well and you can proceed to care for the plant as you would a regular spider plant.
Spider plants are some of the most hardy, low-maintenance houseplants in the world. They make great indoor plants because they do not grow very fast, or very big. They are also quite tolerant of a little drought or shade.
They only need to be watered when the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch, and prefer bright, indirect light. They do well in room temperature with normal humidity, and do not need to be fertilized because they are sensitive to mineral buildup in the soil.
You can propagate spider plants directly in a starting mix, or you can choose to let the spiderette root in water first before planting it in the starting mix.
Image: istockphoto.com / Pratchaya