What you need to know about spider plants
Name: spider plant, hen and chickens, Chlorophytum comosum and named varieties
Height: to about 60cm high and 60cm spread in a pot; 60cm high and spreading in the ground
Foliage: ribbon-like or strappy, mid-green or variegated.
Climate: tropical to cool temperate.
Soil: well-drained soils.
Position: bright indirect light.
Flowering: small greenish-white flowers on stalks; flower stems develop plantlets at their tips.
Feeding: controlled-release fertiliser as directed on container.
Watering: prefer moist but never wet soils; can tolerate dry conditions.
Appearance and characteristics of spider plants
Spider plant grows from a fleshy root known as a tuber. Each plant is capable of producing multiple tubers, resulting in rapid spread over large areas if these are not lifted, separated and only a few replanted. The original species has strappy or grass-like leaves that are plain and mid green; more popular are the named varieties that have white central striping or white margins on each blade.
Spider plant’s flowers are small, white-green and in clusters on arching stems that grow 75cm or longer. The tip of each stem produces a small bunch of leaves. When these plantlets come into contact with the soil or potting mix, they form roots and new plants form. These are the “spiderettes” or “chickens” of the mother plant.
One established plant in the garden may have dozens of arching stems that are anchored to the soil by young plants. These in turn will grow to flower and produce even more spider plants, so it's easy to see how invasive it can become.
How to plant and grow spider plants
Spider plant is very easy to grow and care for. It doesn’t need a lot of attention, and is terrific for busy people who don’t have time for gardening.
Because of its weedy tendencies, it is best grown in a pot on a table or bench, or in hanging basket so its arching flower stems cannot touch the ground. Its ‘babies’ will simply hang at the ends of the stems around the container.
It is also easy to propagate—simply cut off some of the plantlets and pot them up or put them in a glass or bowl of water. They’ll grow roots in no time!
It thrives indoors or outside in most climates, but don’t place it in direct sun, because its leaves can burn. It has been described as “the perfect indoor plant” because it needs minimal care and is very efficient at improving air quality in buildings.
Growing spider plants in pots
Choose a pot that comfortably holds the root mass, and a premium-quality potting mix that drains well. Spider plants don’t mind being potbound.
Growing spider plants in the garden
In some situations, where its spread can be confined by barriers such as walls or solid edging, spider plant can make an attractive ground cover. It does, however, need to be watched so it doesn’t escape its confines and take over the rest of the garden. Removal of some of the plantlets around the outside of the area will also slow down its progress.
Caring for spider plants
Spider plant likes a moist soil or potting mix that drains well, but it can also tolerate periods of dryness. Don’t over-water or the roots may rot.
As long as it’s given an application of controlled-release fertiliser once a year at the start of spring, your spider plant will be happy. It is not a gross feeder, so additional feeding with liquid or water-soluble fertilisers should not be needed.
How and when to prune spider plants
Removing some of the arching stems and plantlets to reduce both plant size and its ability to spread is recommended in autumn.
Diseases and pests
Spider plant is not usually troubled by diseases or pests. Sometimes the leaf tips of potted plants may turn brown—this is not a disease, but rather, is due to a build-up of fluoride or chlorine in the soil from tap water. If this occurs, flush the pots through with rainwater or filtered water.
If you like this then try
Peace lily: easy-care indoor plant with white flowers and glossy green leaves.
Anthurium: flamingo flower with large, glossy, dark green leaves and red-orange “flowers”; ideal indoor plant.
Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sanseveria): hardy indoor/outdoor plant with strappy upright grey-green or variegated leaves.
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