Chlorophytum comosum: How to grow the easy care Spider Plant

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Chlorophytum comosum, better known as the Spider Plant, is an incredibly popular house plant choice.

Even if you are completely new to plant parenting and to the whole world of indoor plants, you’ll probably be familiar with the Spider Plant.

You’ll almost certainly have seen it somewhere – and you might well have been fascinated by the mini, spider-like plantlets that it produces, and that give the plant its name.

Originating from tropical and South Africa, the plant grows strongly outside in warm, frost free conditions. We grew it in our garden when we lived in Sydney and, if left unchecked, it can quickly colonise the ground around it by cleverly depositing its plantlets. Hence it is a good outdoor ground cover plant.

But indoors, the Spider Plant is a great houseplant to grow because of its striking appearance, its easy care nature and its air purifying qualities.

It is, therefore definitely, a good plant for beginners, or those who wants some indoor greenery around them, but don’t have a lot of time for plant pampering.

You can display the plant in hanging baskets or on high shelves to allow the shoots and baby plants to cascade down, adding an element of vertical interest to your decor.

Chlorophytum comosum: Spider plant plantlets.

Chlorophytum comosum: Spider Plant care guide

  • Light: Bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight. Ideal positions are near north or east-facing windows.
  • Water Requirements: Water moderately, allowing the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Humidity Requirements: Prefers moderate to high humidity but can tolerate lower levels.
  • Temperature Requirements: Thrives between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). Avoid temperatures below 50°F (10°C).
  • Potting Soil Requirements: Well-draining potting mix. A mix of peat, vermiculite, and perlite is ideal.
  • Fertiliser Requirements: Balanced, water-soluble fertiliser every month during spring and summer.
  • Propagation: Easily propagated through offsets (baby plants) or division.
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years, preferably in spring.
  • Pruning: Trim off brown tips or damaged leaves as needed.

All about Chlorophytum comosum

As mentioned, the Spider Plant is known for its ability to produce small plantlets which dangle from the mother plant like spiders on a web. These mini-plants are also known as spiderettes – and, if that was not the name of a sixties girls group, it certainly should have been!

The Spider Plant benefits the indoor environment by purifying the air and removing harmful substances, such as formaldehyde.

Interestingly, when exposed to formaldehyde in laboratory conditions, researchers found no visible harmful effects of the compound in the plant’s leaves. This suggests that the plant can withstand less than perfect conditions very well, and is consistent with the Spider Plant’s reputation as a tough and easy-care plant.

Chlorophytum comosum: Spider Plant key facts

  • Scientific Name: Chlorophytum comosum, c.comosum
  • Meaning of Name: Chlorophytum means ‘green plant’, and comosum means ‘tufted’.
  • Common Names: Spider Plant, Airplane Plant, Ribbon Plant, Spider Ivy
  • Plant Family: Asparagaceae
  • Origin: Tropical and Southern Africa
  • Type of Plant: Perennial
  • Size (Indoors): Up to 12-24 inches tall
  • Foliage: Long, slender green leaves with white stripes
  • Flower: Small, white flowers
  • Fruit: Rarely produces fruit indoors
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets and humans (ASPCA]

How to maintain Chlorophytum comosum

There is not much you need to do for the Spider Plant, other than meet its basic requirements, as outlined in the care guide above. However, here are some extra maintenance tips to help you get the best out of your plant.

Regular Care Tips:

  • Watering: Water when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Reduce watering in winter.
  • Temperature and Humidity: Maintain a consistent indoor temperature and moderate humidity. Mist the leaves if the air is too dry.
  • Cleaning: Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust, which can hinder photosynthesis.
  • Fertilising: Use a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilising, as it can cause salt buildup in the soil.
  • Monitoring for Pests: Regularly check for signs of pests like spider mites or aphids and treat promptly if detected.

Read more in our comprehensive guide to the 7 critical requirements of house plant care here.

Spray and wipe the leaves to keep the plant at its best

Light

Ensure the plant receives bright, indirect light. It will take direct sunlight, but not the hottest mid-day and afternoon sun.

Rotate the plant occasionally for even growth.

House plant bright light
Chlorophytum comosum: ideal location for optimum light

Propagation

Spider Plants dangle the material for creating new plants right in front of our eyes, making them one of the easier house plants to propagate. Here is how to do it:

  1. Identify a Plantlet: Choose a healthy plantlet that has already started developing small roots.
  2. Preparation: Fill a small pot with a well-draining potting mix. Water the soil to make it moist.
  3. Cutting the Plantlet: Using a clean, sharp pair of scissors, cut the plantlet from the stolon (long stem) just below the roots.
  4. Planting: Plant the plantlet in the prepared pot. Bury the roots gently in the soil, ensuring the base of the plantlet is just above the soil surface.
  5. Positioning: Place the pot in a location with bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the young leaves.
  6. Watering: Water lightly to settle the soil around the roots. It is critical that there is contact between soil and roots to encourgae more root growth Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  7. Growth Monitoring: Over the next few weeks, monitor the plantlet for growth. New leaves will indicate successful rooting and growth.
  8. Aftercare: Once the plantlet is established and shows new growth, care for it as you would a mature Spider Plant.
Plantlet for propagation

Common Problems and Solutions

Chlorophytum comosum: Spider Plant troubleshooting guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Brown leaf tips can be a sign of fluoride in water. Use distilled water if possible. Remove badly affected leave at the bases

Roots

  • Root rot due to overwatering. Ensure good drainage and let soil dry between waterings.

Pests

  • Prone to spider mites and aphids. Use insecticidal soap to treat infestations.

Diseases

  • Rarely affected by diseases. Avoid overwatering to prevent root rot.

Winter care

During winter, reduce watering and stop fertilising. If kept in a very dry heated environment, mist the leaves on a fairly regular basis.

Ensure the plant is not exposed to cold drafts and maintain a consistent temperature above 50°F (10°C).

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Buy

So, if you’ve got this far and are feeling like you can’t resist this beautiful plant, I’ve listed some buying options below – depending on whether you are US or UK based.

The buy links are affiliate links, which means I’d be paid a (very) small commission if you go on and buy after clicking these links. But that does not affect the price you pay.

Spider Plant

US Buyers

Spider Plant

Uk Buyers

Uk

Chlorophytum comosum: Frequently asked questions

Can Spider Plants tolerate low light?

Yes, but growth may be slower.

Do Spider Plants like direct sunlight.

They can tolerate morning sun, but keep them protected from the harsh and hot afternoon sun.

How often should I fertilise my Spider Plant?

Monthly during the growing season (spring and summer).

Are Spider Plants safe for pets?

Yes, according to the ASPCA, they are non-toxic to cats and dogs.

Why are the leaves of my Spider Plant turning yellow?

This could be due to overwatering or poor drainage.

Spider Plant Varieties

Look out for these interesting Spider Plant varieties

  • Chlorophytum laxum: Known for its narrower leaves and more compact growth.
  • Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’: Features more pronounced white stripes on the leaves.
  • Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’: Recognised for its curly leaves and vibrant green colour.

Other great foliage plants

See our guides to caring for these other great foliage plants:

Key references and resources

Alloway, Z and Bailey (F). (2018) RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, Royal Horticultural Society, UK.

Camilleri,L and Kaplan, S. (2020), Plantopedia: The Definitive Guide to Houseplants, Smith Street Books.

Hessayon, Dr D.G. (1991) The New House Plant Expert, PBI Publications, UK.

Brickell, C. (2016). Royal Horticultural Society AZ encyclopedia of garden plants. 4th Edition Dorling Kindersley.

Squire, D. (2017). Houseplant Handbook: Basic Growing Techniques and a Directory of 300 Everyday Houseplants, CompanionHouse Books.

Nelson, G (2021). Plant – House plants: Choosing, Styling, Caring. Mitchell Beazley. London

Brickell, C. (2011). American horticultural society encyclopedia of plants and flowers. Penguin.

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