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Description

 

Spider plants or “Chlorophytum comosum” are a classic beginner houseplant. They grow quickly, can withstand quite a bit of neglect and are easy to divide and propagate. They are originally native to tropical areas of southern Africa but have taken a strong foothold in Australia and California.

Spider plant

Light and Temperature

 

Spider plants are very tolerant to most light conditions and temperatures. This means you can put it just about anywhere and it will be fine. Avoid freezing and temperatures above 90°, overexposure to direct sunlight for long periods can also burn the leaves. Below 50° the plant will survive but it will go dormant and will stop growing.

 

Watering

 

Spider plants need a decent amount of water but also need to dry out between watering. The root of the spider plant retains water for quite a while and can develop root rot if you don’t let it dry out a few inches down.

 

Medium

 

Spider plants, like most other houseplants, require a free draining soil mix in a pot with good drainage. Having a mix with a high amount of organic material is good for these plants.  Combine 1 part aged compost, 1 part loam or humus, 1 part coarse sand and 1 part sphagnum peat.  You can add 1 part perlite if your humus or compost seem dense or heavy to be sure of a good porosity.

 

Pests and Problems

 

Browning of the leaves starting at the tips and eventually the whole leaf will decay. This is usually caused by water that has high fluoride content or just a high PH in general. Try using distilled water and your plant should bounce back quickly. If that does not work then try the next fix.

If the leaves begin to fade and become bleached out, usually but not always beginning in the center of the leaf and spreading outward.  This is probably due to too much light or too high a temperature. Give it more shade or try putting it lower to the ground where it might be cooler.

If your plant starts to smell or look like it is dying from the base up, wilting looking leaves that may turn a yellowish or brown color. You probably have root rot.

Spider plants are very resilient and don’t succumb too many pests but spider mites and scale can infest even the strongest specimens.  You may see spider webs or mottled leaves indicating an infestation of spider mites.  Small bumps on the leaves that appear to be eating the plant are most likely a form of scale.

Overall the spider plant can handle just about anything. Flat out neglect for many months is about the only way to kill them.

 

Propagation

 

There are a few ways to propagate your spider plant all of which are extremely easy to do.

The first and what I think is the easiest is to just cut the “babies” off of the runner with a sharp knife. I recommend cutting them as oppose to just breaking them off but you could do either. You can even just snip the runner behind the plantlet and stick the runner into the ground up to the new root then push some dirt around the base and tamp.

spider plant with runner and big plantlet

You can let the plantlets get pretty big before you remove them

The second way you might find even easier is to place a pot next to the existing plant and drape the runner over the top. The next step is to take a paper clip and bend it into a hook, then hook the runner and push it into the dirt so the root area of the plantlet is below the surface. You should remove the hook after the plant has firmly taken root.

 

Re-potting

 

For the most part you should not have to re-pot a spider plant. In fact they will do quite well when root bound, this is when they will produce runners and babies. If you want a larger plant or you want to slow the production of new plantlets then it is time to re-pot.

When you remove the plant from the pot you will probably find a dense tangled root mass. This will have to be teased out, soak the root ball for twenty minutes or so to loosen the soil and do your best to separate the roots a bit. Take your new pot and fill it to about 2-3 inches from the top, position the plant so the roots spread out over the top of the soil. Fill the rest of the pot with your soil mix covering the roots, tamp it down a bit around the base of the plant and water thoroughly.

 

Tips

 

The spider plant is one of the top three purifiers of household air and will make a great office plant for someone who can not care for their plant every day.

 

 

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