How To Grow Spider Plant (Airplane Plant)

Three hanging spider plants

Dorling Kindersley:Rob Streeter / Getty Images

Few houseplants are as popular as the spider plant. Many of today's trendiest plants, like fiddle leaf figs, require lots of TLC and specific growing conditions to survive. But spider plants never go out of style thanks to their hardiness, attractive tropical foliage, and nearly foolproof care instructions. Here are our tips for keeping your spider plants healthy and looking lush.

  • Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum
  • Common Name: Spider plant, airplane plant
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature Size: 2–3 feet long
  • Sun Exposure: Partial, direct sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained potting mix
  • Soil pH: 6.0–7.2

Plant Care

Allow your plant's soil to dry out completely between waterings. A spider plant's fleshy, white roots hold a lot of water to allow the plant to survive during dry periods, but this becomes a liability if you're watering too heavily.

The care your plant needs may change with the seasons, depending on the climate where you live. During the summer growing season, it may be thirstier than in the winter, so monitor the soil and adjust accordingly. When humidity is lower in the winter months, consider misting your spider plant occasionally to keep it happy.

Best Growing Conditions for Spider Plants

When shopping for a spider plant, or airplane plant, choose bushy, full specimens with vibrant, green variegated leaves. Try to avoid specimens with yellow leaves or crispy brown leaf margins. You can often purchase a spider plant that's already bursting with offsets, also called spiderettes, at your local nursery. It's worth asking your plant-loving friends if anyone has a recently rooted offset for you to adopt, as these plants reproduce vigorously, and owners are often happy to share.

Spider plants grow best when they're a little pot-bound, so only go one size up (about two inches larger in diameter) if you plan to repot. Use a well-drained, general-purpose potting soil and a container with several drainage holes in the bottom.

Spider plants can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but they prefer moderate to bright indirect light, with temperatures above 50 degrees and moderate humidity. When it comes to placement, spider plants will do well just about anywhere, even a room with only artificial light. It's a good idea to rotate your spider plant periodically so that both sides get the benefit of its nearby light source. A favorite way to show off spider plants' foliage and dramatic flower shoots is to display them in hanging baskets in front of a window. They're perfect in a north-, east-, or west-facing window, or roughly five feet from a south-facing window. Since they love humidity, consider incorporating spider plants into your bathroom decor plan.

Spider Plant Varieties

You can choose from a variety of different spider plants, including the Bonnie spider plant (with leaves that curl and twist), the Hawaiian spider plant (with multicolored leaves that fade as they age), the variegated Bonnie spider plant (with white-striped leaves), and the Zebra grass spider plant (with green leaves edged in white).

How to Propagate Spider Plants

Once you get your first spider plant, it won't be long before you’re growing new ones for your home, your office, your neighbors—you get the idea.

With proper care and conditions, a mature, healthy spider plant will send out several runners with spiderettes each year. When you see the tiny rootlets on the bottom of a spiderette grow half an inch long, trim them off the runner, and then plant in a small pot of well-drained soil. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet until you begin to see new growth, and then follow usual care instructions.

Common Growing Problems

As hassle-free as spider plants are, there are some important warning signs to watch out for—and a few tips to keep yours looking their best.

If your plant's leaves are looking pale and droopy and you haven't watered it in a while, give it a deep, thorough drink. If the leaves are turning brown or black and you've been keeping the soil moist, the plant may be rotting due to overwatering.

If you notice dropping leaves, brown leaf tips, and slowed growth, a buildup of soluble salts might be the culprit. These salts will concentrate in the soil over time and can cause roots to rot or inhibit the plant's ability to take up water. If you use a water softener in your home, you should use rainwater or distilled water on your plants instead, as the softener can make your tap water too salty.

To avoid salt buildup, always water your spider plant deeply, and don't let the pot sit in water. Leach the soil every six months or so by scraping off the white salt crust that may have formed on the soil surface. Allow lots of water, at least twice the volume of the pot, to flow through the container. If you're dealing with a buildup of salts in a pot with no drainage, repot the plant using fresh soil in a container with a drainage hole.

Using tap water that's treated with fluoride or chlorine may cause the tips of your plant's leaves to turn brown and dry. While this won't affect the plant's health, you may prefer to trim these tips off and switch to rainwater, distilled water, or filtered water instead.

It's time to repot your spider plant if it's so pot-bound that water can't penetrate down to the roots. Carefully remove the plant from its container, then use your fingers to loosen and remove soil from the large white roots. Before you repot in a larger container with fresh soil, prune away about one-third of the roots with a clean sharp knife or sterilized garden shears. Do this once every year or two or when repotting.

A mature, healthy spider plant will send out long, arching stems with tiny white flowers on the ends. Too bright or too little light, as well as too much fertilizer, can keep spider plants from flowering.

Even a plant as low-maintenance as this can have issues with pests. Sticky leaves? Inspect the undersides for scale or aphids. Both insects excrete a sticky residue called honeydew onto the leaves of houseplants. Remove scale—which looks like flat brown ovals on leaves—by rubbing them off the leaves with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Check back weekly to treat until the scale has been eliminated.

You can treat for aphids or mealybugs, which resemble a fluffy white mass, by spraying the plant with neem oil or spraying the leaves with insecticidal soap. Be sure to check any nearby specimens to see if the pests have migrated.

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