Arachnophobes, don’t be put off by the Spider Plants’ slightly creepy name! These air-purifying plants have been a firm favourite amongst houseplant enthusiasts for over two hundred years. Their elegant cascading appearance disguises a robust, resilient, and low-maintenance temperament. In fact, spider plants are almost impossible to kill, even for the least green-fingered and most sporadic indoor gardeners amongst us!
If you’d like to add one of these understated beauties to your home, here’s our ultimate guide to growing and caring for spider plants. (Spoiler: It’s incredibly easy!).
What are Spider Plants?
Chlorophytum is a genus that contains over 200 different species of evergreen, perennial plants, which are more commonly known as spider plants. Despite being native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, spider plants have become naturalised in Asia, Australia, and the Americas where they thrive in warm, humid regions.
The spider plant takes its common name from the long, slender leaves which protrude outwards in a rosette formation and hang down beyond the main plant, similar to the way spider’s legs protrude from their bodies. The smaller offshoots which emerge from the mother plant are known as ‘spiderettes’ because they too resemble miniature spiders.
Most varieties of spider plants display elegantly variegated green and white foliage, usually in the form of a stripy variegated pattern that stretches down the length of each leaf, although some varieties have pure green foliage. Each leaf can reach a length of up to two feet, and once a mature plant starts producing spiderettes, they can continue to cascade downwards at even more impressive distances.
During the summer months, spider plants often produce delicate star-shaped white flowers which extend from long, spiked stems.
The Asparagaceae family, to which spider plants belong, contains many edible plants, one of them being the common garden asparagus. Whilst they probably don’t taste quite as nice as their veggie cousin, both the leaves and roots of the spider plant are edible and are packed full of nutritious vitamins and minerals.
First recorded by botanists in the late Eighteenth Century, spider plants were soon brought back to Europe and quickly became a popular houseplant in the grand homes of Victorian Britain. Their popularity as houseplants in the western world has endured for the past 200 years, and they remain one of the most common houseplants today, largely due to their undemanding, tolerant temperament and their simple, understated elegance.
What Benefits will Spider plants bring to my Home?
Spider plants are more than just a pretty plant! Not only do they add a touch of naturalistic elegance when hanging in baskets, draped over shelves, or cascading from windowsills, but spider plants also bring health benefits to your home. Recognised in the NASA Clean Air Study as being highly efficient air purifiers, spider plants can remove common toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, carbon dioxide, and xylene from the atmosphere.
These toxins are found in a huge variety of everyday items, such as wood, plastic, and clothing. One spider plant per hundred square feet should be sufficient to keep any air-borne nasties at bay, and 15 spider plants will be enough to purify the entirety of the air in an average family home.
Best Varieties of Spider plants to Grow
With over 200 varieties of spider plants, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting which of these fantastic plants to grow in your home. And they’re so easy to care for, why stop at one? Opt for a few different varieties to create a diverse spider plant display. Here’s our top pick of the best varieties of spider plants to have a go at growing yourself.
Variegated Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’) is, without doubt, the most common spider plant variety, readily available from pretty much every garden centre, nursery, houseplant specialist, and even supermarkets. Each leaf features a uniform variegation pattern of a single white stripe sandwiched between a bright green stripe on either side.
Green Spider Plants (Chlorophytum Comosum ‘Green’), as the name suggests, are one of the non-variegated varieties. They produce a stunning spray of densely packed true green leaves. Non-variegated varieties such as Greens tend to be much rarer than variegated varieties, but are equally as stunning.
Bonnie (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’) has a similar appearance to the classic variegated variety, although the stripes are less linear and its leaves are a little broader. This variety is also known as the ‘curly’ spider plant, because its leaves tend to curl under as they grow, as opposed to most other varieties which have straighter foliage.
Zebra Spider Plant (Chlorophytum laxum’ Zebra’) are another variegated variety, except their variegation pattern is the inverse of the classic variegated spider plant. Instead of a single white stripe sandwiched between green, Zebra leaves have a central green stripe bordered on each side by a deep green stripe.
Hawaiian Spider Plant (Chlorophytum viridescens ‘Hawaiian’) is similar in appearance to the classic variegated variety, except in place of white central stripes, each leaf features a gold-toned stripe. It is this gold colouring that has earned the Hawaiian the nickname of ‘golden glow’.
Ocean (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Ocean’) has a slightly more compact growth habit than other varieties, with shorter, but more densely packed foliage. Its leaves are broad with a defined, spiky tip.
Fire Flash (Chlorophytum amaniense ‘Fire Flash’) is a true show-stopper among spider plants. They take their name from their vivid orange stems from which short, broad, oval-shaped green leaves protrude in a firework-like formation.
Capense (Chlorophytum Capense) is a unique spider plant variety in that it does not produce miniature plantlets, known as ‘spiderettes’. It offers plenty of dense, slightly spiked foliage that can be either true-green or variegated.
Spider plants are without doubt some of the easiest houseplants to care for. These seemingly indestructible houseplants almost thrive on neglect. The trick to spider plant care is ‘everything in moderation’. Here’s our in-depth guide to caring for your spider plant.
Potting and repotting
The most important thing to look for when choosing a pot for your spider plant is drainage. Make sure there are plenty of holes in the bottom of the pot since spider plants hate having wet feet. Terracotta pots are great for spider plants since they are porous which allows for plenty of airflow to reach the roots. Choose a pot that is around a third larger in diameter than the root ball of your new spider plant.
The long trailing leaves of spider plants mean they look particularly enthralling in a hanging planter or placed on a high shelf or windowsill where they have plenty of space to cascade downwards.
Despite being particularly fast-growing, spider plants are happiest when their dense, tuberous roots are slightly pot-bound, so you should only need to repot yours every two to three years. If you notice the roots beginning to emerge from the drainage holes or above the soil, then it’s probably time to think about repotting.
The best time to do this is in the spring when the active growing season is just about to begin. Select a pot that is around one size up from its current pot and has plenty of drainage holes.
Spider plants grow best in a loose, nutrient-rich substrate. They are tolerant of less fertile soils, but they might not grow with as much vigour. Spider plants aren’t fond of having wet roots, so mix in plenty of additional drainage material such as perlite or vermiculite at a ratio of around two parts soil to one part drainage material. A neutral soil pH level is ideal, but these robust plants can cope well in slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soils too.
In their natural habitat, spider plants grow low to the ground in the dappled shade from the forest canopy. In the home, you can recreate these conditions by positioning them somewhere with plenty of moderate, indirect sunlight. Too much intense light will cause their foliage to fade and the tips of their leaves to become brown or crispy. Spider plants can survive even in heavy shade, but their growth may be quite stunted and their foliage may become sparse.
Try to rotate your spider plant regularly so that all parts of the plant receive an even distribution of sunlight, otherwise, you may find it starting to grow asymmetrically. The flat leaves have a tendency to collect dust which can stop them from gaining enough sunlight to photosynthesise effectively, so give them a wipe down every now and then.
Variegated varieties tend to need a little more light than pure green varieties since the white parts of the foliage lack the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis.
Juvenile spider plants will need regular, light waterings. As they mature, the watering frequency can be reduced slightly. The soil should be kept evenly and very lightly moist, but never soggy. Always remember to let the soil drain fully after watering, as spider plants are prone to root-rot when left standing in waterlogged soil.
Despite being fairly resilient to short periods of drought, underwatered spider plants will begin to develop brown leaf tips or faded foliage. During the winter when they become dormant, you can reduce your watering schedule even more, to around once per month.
Perhaps the only delicate feature of the otherwise resilient spider plant is its sensitivity to chemicals. Watering your spider plant with fluoride and chlorine supplemented tap water can cause the tips of their leaves to curl and brown. You can avoid this by using rainwater instead of tap water.
If you do use tap water, allow it to sit out in a jug for 24 hours before watering your spider plant. This allows the harmful chemicals to dissipate to a safer level.
Temperature and humidity
One of the reasons that spider plants make such great houseplants is that they are happiest in an average room temperature environment of between 13–27°C, meaning no special temperature adaptations need to be made. Try to keep them away from extreme or fluctuating temperatures, such as draughty windows, air conditioning units, or radiators.
Hailing as they do from tropical regions, spider plants adore a moderate to high humidity level between 50 and 80 percent. A kitchen or bathroom are ideal places to achieve this naturally, or alternatively, you can treat your spider plant to a weekly misting with a water sprayer.
During the summer months, you can fertilise your spider plant with a well-balanced, all-purpose houseplant feed. This will help your spider plant to produce plenty of vigorous, bright green foliage, although it’s certainly not essential. Be careful not to over-fertilise your spider plant though, as this can scorch the leaves, causing them to become brown and crispy.
Monthly feeds should be plenty regular enough. You won’t need to feed your spider plant at all during the winter months when it becomes dormant.
Spider plants, although fast-growing, tend to be quite uniform in their growth habit, and aren’t prone to becoming unruly, so very little pruning is required. At most, you should snip off any dead, brown, or fading leaves as the plant matures to encourage fresh new growth. You can also prune off any spiderettes to redirect energy to the mother plant if you notice its foliage becoming sparse.
Another example of how effortless spider plants are is the simplicity of propagation. They are some of the easiest plants to propagate since the mother plant does most of the work for you by producing lots of little mini spiderettes.
These spiderettes will begin to appear once the plant reaches maturity at around a year old. They look like tiny copies of the mother plant dangling amongst the foliage. Wait until the spiderette is a couple of inches tall, with a few small air roots emerging below and plenty of new leaves growing from above.
Simply snip off this baby plant with sterile pruning shears and place it into its own small pot filled with well-draining, fertile soil. Water the spiderette thoroughly, keeping the soil lightly moist until it becomes established. You can then reduce the watering schedule to match that of the mother plant.
Even less mature spiderettes without viable root systems can still be propagated using a technique called layering. Simply fill a small pot with loose, fertile soil and place it next to the mother plant. Lay the undeveloped spiderette on the surface of the soil, and keep lightly moist until roots emerge.
This usually takes a few weeks. Once your spiderette has produced a few roots, you can snip the spiderette away from the mother plant and move it with its potto a position with moderate, indirect sunlight.
How long do spider plants live?
It’s no surprise that these robust plants have a reputation as being almost indestructible! They have exceptionally long lifespans as houseplants go, often surviving for up to fifty years.
Are spider plants toxic?
No, spider plants aren’t toxic to any animals or humans living in your house. In fact, both the roots and leaves of spider plants are edible, although they probably don’t taste great.
Will my spider plant flower?
Yes! During the summer, spider plants often produce long, tendril-like stems which are studded with elegant white star-shaped flowers. You can encourage flowering by providing regular monthly feeds, and exposing your spider plant to a little more light.
You don’t need to be a master horticulturist to be able to care for a spider plant. They really are the most effortless of plants, offering not just elegant beauty but pure air for your home too!
And with their tendency to produce plenty of brand new baby plants over the years, a spider plant may just be the only plant you ever need to grow!