Spider Plant- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#29
Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Spider Plants are a staple inside any home nowadays, and especially in the 1970's! They aren't known for their many varieties, or collectability, but they are known for their reliability and showy growth. I've seen these in plant shops and garden centers, ranging from tiny terrarium size plants, to large 12" hanging baskets. The are not offered in a wide range of colors, but you can commonly find them variegated, plain green, and they do have some curly leaf forms.
Spider Plant, Airplane Plant, St. Bernard's Lily
Variegatum, Zebra Grass, Bonnie, Variegated Bonnie, Vittatum, Hawaiian
Spider Plants can handle low, to bright, indirect light. The non-variegated varieties do great in low, to medium, light, but the variegated varieties should be placed in medium, to bright, indirect light. If you have a space that has low light you can put your variegated Spider Plant there but it may not grow as fast, as full, produce plantlets (see propagation), or the leaves may stay thinner. My recommendation is to put the non-variegated plant in medium light and the variegated plant in bright, indirect light, in order for your Spider Plant to really thrive.
During the active growing seasons (spring-fall) it is best to keep these consistently moist. This will help to avoid leaf tip browning. Spider plants can be sensitive to fluoride in tap water so if you have the means to use distilled water, or rain water, this will help to avoid browning tips. If you don't have that option, leave your watering vessel sitting out overnight before watering. This will act similarly to rainwater or distilled water. In the non-growing season (winter) you can cut back on watering and allow the soil to dry between waterings.
These guys do not need any extra humidity! Score! It won't hurt your plant if you end up giving it some extra humidity though.
I've seen several different takes on fertilizing for Spider Plants, but they generally all have a similar message. Many sources say that without fertilizing this could be another reason why leaf tips are browning. Other sources say over fertilizing can cause browning tips! As long as you are using the recommended, or slightly less than recommended, amount of fertilizer, you shouldn't have that last problem.
Here are a couple good options for you...
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant says, " in spring and early summer, feed every 2 weeks with a balance houseplant fertilizer, mixed at half the normal rate. In fall, feed monthly."
Doctor Houseplant by William Davidson says, "feed every two weeks through the year with good liquid fertilizer, especially once the plant has started to produce plantlets."
I fertilizer every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of Feb, and continuing every 2 weeks until October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active!
It's totally up to you how you want to fertilize and what you want to use! There is no "perfect" product that will solve all your problems! I currently use Espoma Indoor Liquid Plant Food but I've used MANY other brands and types before!
Spider Plants produce 'plantlets' off the end of their stems. Using the plantlets is the easiest way to propagate a Spider Plant. The plantlets will keep forming one, after another, on the stem. They will continue growing larger and fuller the longer you leave it there.
For best practice, and to ensure you have a successfully propagated plantlet, place the base of the plantlet in soil (while letting it still use the parent plant's stem to sustain it). You can do this by placing it in the soil of the mother plant, and pinning it down, or putting it in its own pot. Once it's rooted, you can cut it off the stem and place it in its own pot.
If this is a hanging plant for you, putting it in its own pot before cutting it off the stem is kind of impossible. So, you can cut the plantlet off the stem (wait until the leaves are a couple inches long at least) and place the base in a constantly moist potting mix. Over time it will form roots.
When you are placing a plantlet in soil, don't sink it too far into the soil; only place the plantlet slightly below the soil line so it is stable.
If you have a mature Spider Plant you can cut it down the middle and divide it into two plants (like you would a Hosta or Daylily). I would wait until spring to do this so the plant has plenty of active growth time to recover. Place each half into potting mix and water like you normally would!
Part of the Asparagaceae Family.
Native primarily to tropical and subtropical regions in Africa, Asia and Australia.
Other plants in this family are Asparagus Fer, Hosta, Lily of the Valley, Dracaena
These plants can grow around 1-2' tall but their stems, with plantlets attached, can drape down as long at 3-4'!
Do not to leave in temperatures below 50 degrees F and keep out of drafty windows and doors (like you would with most of your houseplants).
They may produce a small white flower but these are not showy. They usually form along with plantlets at the end of the stems.
I started asking followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. I plan to do this for future podcasts and blog as well! Here are the questions and answers for Spider Plants...
"I know spider plants like to be root bound, but when is too much? How do I know to repot?"
Most houseplants would rather be root bound or at least in a pot that isn't too much bigger. There are a few ways you can tell if your plant needs to be repotted.
One way is by pulling it out of its pot and checking where the roots are. If the root system is fully visible (all the way along the outside of the soil line), and its hard to loosen up the soil, this may be a good indication it is time to repot.
If you have a plant in its original nursery pot still and you start to see the pot deforming a little bit, or roots growing out of the bottom, this could be another sign it needs to be repotted.
My last suggestion is to pay close attention to its water consumption. If you notice less and less time between waterings (even in the less active season) this could be an indication that the root system is getting larger and there is more root than soil in the pot. The soil holds onto moisture for the root system to feed off of and this isn't happening anymore.
"Mine seems healthy, lotsa babies. But 1 of the offshoots has tiny babies that don't grow well. Why???"
This could be a few factors including inconsistent watering, not enough moisture or too much fertilizer. Lighting is actually a factor that affects plantlets and flowers too! This was something new I learned with my research. But basically Spider Plants are more successful at producing plantlets when they experience the fall/winter lighting change. Allowing Spider Plants to be in darkness at night for a few weeks in fall/winter will help produce healthy plantlets.
"Avoiding brown tips"
This was by far the number one question and problem I heard about. I discussed it at length above, but here are the basic reasons why...
Not enough moisture (Solution: keep consistently moist).
Fluoride in water (Solution: use rainwater, distilled water, or leave your tap water sit overnight before watering).
Not enough fertilizer or too much fertilizer (Solution: use slightly less than the recommended houseplant fertilizer every 2-3 weeks from spring to summer, minimize fertilization in fall and winter).
"How to make spider plants less scraggly!"
This could also be a few different factors. I would make sure you have it in enough light because that will help the overall fullness of your Spider Plant. If you aren't fertilizing, I would start. This will help with fullness and consistent growth. Lastly, make sure you are watering consistently. Don't allow all the soil to completely dry out, only allow the top layers to dry out. If you are worried about watering you can always invest in a moisture meter reader. They are fairly cheap on Amazon and it takes the guess work out of it.
"I wish mine looked that deep green! Mine are pretty dull greenish. Still thriving though!"
You may have it in too much, or too little, light! I can't say this definitely just because I don't know what your situation is, but if it seems washed out (and you have it sitting directly in a south window), it may need to be placed back away from the window or in a new space. If you don't have Spider Plants in enough light, the white variegation can begin to fade too. If this is the case, place it closer to the window or place it off of a south or west window.
"How long does it typically take for a spider plant to get old enough to produce babies?"
I don't have a definitive answer for this but as you can see in the pictures above, my tiny Spider Plant is already starting to produce plantlets! That plant is only about 3" tall and 4' wide and I've had it for about a year. If you have an older plant check your watering, fertilizing, and lighting situations as I explained a few questions ago.
"My cat keeps eating the brown tips of my spider plant, what do I do?"
Preventing them from coming near it may be your best option. Cats are sensitive to smells, so putting a citrus peal in the pot, or even a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, could deter them from coming near it.
You could try spraying the plant with a pet spray specifically for this problem. I have seen granular versions of this as well that are fragrant. You could also combine one part vinegar to 4 parts water and spray the leaves. This could be another way to prevent them from bothering it.
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I ordered my Spider Plant at the beginning of quarantine in 2020 from Pigment based in California! I also got a Peperomia obtusifolia from them. The plants came in very healthy and safe in transit. Since it was the peak of the pandemic, shipping took a while but they were very communicative about it the whole time! Someday I hope I can visit one of their shops in California!
I got a message from one of my followers, Twylah, after she listened to the 5th podcast episode about Pothos. In that podcast I mentioned that Pothos are invasive species in the state of Florida and to really be careful with those plants if you live there. Twylah is actually a field technician in Hawaii removing invasive species that threaten ecosystems. She was happy that someone was bringing this to light since it does get pushed under the rug. After discussing this a bit with her, I wanted to put this at the end of the podcast just as a reminder to be responsible with your plants and houseplants. If you are curious if plants are invasive in your area, google it, you can find it easily! Thank you Twylah for what you do and for messaging me!!! I love learning from you all and sharing your perspective!
Always written with extreme plant passion!