How to Grow & Care for Spider Plant (Airplane Plant)

How to Grow & Care for Spider Plant (Airplane Plant)

Krystal Slagle

When it comes to trendy houseplants, few species are as easy to care for as the spider plant (also known as airplane plant). Rather than the specific growing steps required to keep plants like the orchid or fiddle leaf fig healthy, your spider plant can thrive in a variety of conditions and even tolerate neglect. Their attractive, tropical green foliage never goes out of style.

Along with its hardiness, the spider plant is also a popular choice for those looking to propagate plants. Small offsets grow readily from the mother plant and trail downward to give this species its classic look. Learn how to grow new plants from these signature "spiderettes" and keep your spider plant healthy, full, and 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
spider plant
The Spruce

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.

Your plant's care needs may change with the seasons depending on the climate in your region. During the summer growing season, it may be thirstier than in the winter, so monitor the soil and adjust accordingly to ensure the top 2 inches of soil feel moist. When humidity is lower in the winter months, consider misting your plant occasionally to keep it happy. This species can survive in low humidity, but it grows best at higher levels.

Best Growing Conditions for Spider Plants

When shopping for a spider plant, choose a bushy, full specimen with vibrant green variegated leaves. Try to avoid specimens with yellow leaves or crispy brown sections. Many local nurseries offer spider plants that are already growing plenty of offsets (commonly called spiderettes). It's also worth asking your plant-loving friends if they have any rooted offsets for you to adopt, as these plants reproduce vigorously and many owners are happy to share.

Spider plants can survive a wide range of conditions, but they prefer temperatures above 50 degrees and moderate to bright indirect light. This species can thrive just about anywhere, even in a room with only artificial light, so it should tolerate most areas in your home. It's a good idea to rotate your spider plant periodically so that both sides get the benefit of nearby light sources.

Since they love humidity, consider growing your plant in the bathroom. If its 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 roots may be rotting due to overwatering.

A popular way to show off spider plants' foliage and dramatic flower shoots is to display them in hanging baskets in front of a window. They prefer a north-, east-, or west-facing window, or roughly five feet from a south-facing window that gets direct sunlight.

Types of Spider Plants

There are a variety of spider plants available at many nurseries and garden centers. The Bonnie spider plant grows with leaves that curl and twist, while the variegated Bonnie offers white-striped leaves. A few especially unique picks include the Hawaiian variant, with its multicolored leaves that fade as they age, and the Zebra grass spider plant that has edges of white around its green leaves.

How to Propagate Spider Plants

Once you get your first spider plant, it won't be long before it begins to produce plenty of offsets that can be grown as new plants or given away as gifts. With the proper care and conditions, a mature, healthy spider plant will send out several runners with spiderettes each year. Here's how to propagate your plant:

Step 1: Identify a healthy offset growing from the mother plant that has a few small rootlets at least half an inch long on its underside.

Step 2: Gently snip the offset from its runner (the long stem connecting it to the original plant).

Step 3: Prepare a small container with fresh potting soil, ensuring it has drainage holes on the bottom. Plant the offset with its roots facing down in the soil.

Step 4: Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet. Once you see new growth, care for the plant as usual.

While it's not a necessary step, some plant owners choose to root their spider plant offsets in water before planting them in soil. This allows the roots to grow longer and become more established before growing on their own detached from the mother plant.

Common Problems With Spider Plants

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. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:

Dropping Leaves or Slowed Growth

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 any white salt crust that may have formed on the soil's 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.

Brown Leaves

Broan tips on the leaves on a spider plant usually indicate improper water needs. Both underwatered and overwatered spider plants will begin to turn brown, so it's best to determine the root of the problem by checking the soil moisture. If the soil is dry, it's time for a soak; if it feels soggy, allow the plant to dry out and water it less frequently.

Using tap water that's treated with fluoride or chlorine may also 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.

Exposed Roots

Repot your spider plant if it's so pot-bound that water can't penetrate down to the roots. You'll know it's time if roots are growing above the soil line or out of the drainage holes, or if the soil continuously feels dry after waterings. 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.

Pests

Even low-maintenance plants like these 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.

Potting and Repotting Spider Plants

Spider plants grow best when they're a little pot-bound, so only go one size up (about 2 inches larger in diameter) if you plan to repot your plant. Avoid repotting during the fall or winter; wait until spring when the plant is actively growing.

Carefully remove the plant from its container, then use your fingers to loosen and remove soil from the large white roots. Use a well-drained, general-purpose potting soil and a container with several drainage holes in the bottom.

How to Get Spider Plants to Bloom

Not all spider plants bloom, but some mature, healthy specimens will produce tiny white flowers at the end of arching white stems during the growing season. Too bright or too little light, as well as too much fertilizer, can keep these plants from flowering. A single feeding in the spring with a bloom-specific fertilizer can make blooms more likely.

To encourage your spider plant to flower, keep it in an area with bright, indirect light and rotate it periodically so that both sides receive sun. Allow it to become slightly rootbound. Placing your plant near a window helps it experience natural fluctuations in light from season to season to aid flowering during spring or summer.

FAQs

How Long Do Spider Plants Take to Grow?

Spider plants typically reach maturity (2 to 3 feet long) within the first few years of their lives, experiencing faster growth when they're young. The signature offsets or "spiderettes" take one week to one month to grow roots, at which point they're ready for propagation.

Can Spider Plants Live Outside?

Native to tropical climates, spider plants prefer warm conditions and can survive outside in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 11. In colder regions, your spider plant should be brought inside once temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Are Spider Plants Toxic to Pets?

Non-toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets, spider plants are an excellent choice for plant parents to grow in households with animals.

How Long Do Spider Plants Live?

Spider plants typically live more than 20 years when cared for properly, and some specimens of this species have been known to survive for up to 50 years.