Few houseplants are as popular, versatile and easy to care for 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.
Best Growing Conditions for Spider Plants
When shopping for a spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum 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 can reproduce vigorously and owners are often happy to share.
Spider plants grow best when they’re a little pot-bound, so go only one size up (about 2” 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 50oF 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 of the plant 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’re humidity-loving, consider incorporating spider plants into your bathroom decor plan.
How to Care for Spider Plants
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 are located. 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.
Troubleshooting for Spider Plants
As hassle-free as spider plants are, there are some important warning signs to watch out for—and a few tips you can use 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 your plant’s leaves drooping, 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, 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 and allowing 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 and a container with a drainage hole.
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 set of sterilized garden shears. Do this once every year or two or when repotting.
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 or distilled or filtered water instead.
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.
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, you can trim them off the runner, 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, then follow usual care instructions.
Pests and Treatment for Spider Plants
Even a plant as low-maintenance as this one 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 many houseplants.
Remove scale—which look 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 treating the plant with neem oil or spraying the leaves with an insecticidal soap. Be sure to check any nearby specimens to see if pests have migrated.