Plant Sheet: Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

* Image sources: All images used in this post are from the author

The grass-like Spider Plant decorates so many of our homes, it is certainly one of the most common houseplants. Not for no reason! It is easy to care for, grows well, and looks good year-round.

Short Sum-Up: Chlorophytum comosum, or Spider Plant, thrives in tropical Western and Southern Africa amidst the undergrowth of bush and riverside forests. Under optimal conditions of bright indirect light and adequate watering, it develops the characteristic small flowers and ‘spiderette’ offshoots.

The Chlorophytum comosum is a great beginner’s plant as it is very undemanding and forgiving. Find out in this post what is special about this plant and how to care for it!

Tip: Do you want to know more houseplants that are great for plant newbies? Explore 9 common beginner houseplants in my post linked here!

Origin and Natural Habitat of the Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum, also called Spider Plant or Hen and Chickens Plant, originates from the tropical regions on the African continent such as West Africa, and the regions from Ethiopia down to South Africa. It naturally grows as undergrowth in forest and bush areas close to rivers and waterbanks.

Its common name Spider Plant stems from its spider-like look with the grassy long leaves stretching out to all sides. Though spiders may induce fear in many of us, the Spider Plant certainly doesn’t! The lush bright green leaves with white rims freshen up any space.

Even though its natural habitat is the African tropics, it has been widely used as an ornamental plant and over time has naturalized itself in tropical regions all around the world.

Its botanical name translates from Latin as ‘abundant, long green hair’. This plant won’t grow bald on you!

Brighten Up Chlorophytum’s Day: Light and Water Requirements

Spider Plants are used to tropical rains but also periods of drought in between. Hence, it is most important to give it a good rinse when watering but to always empty excess water from the bottom of the pot.

Checking the soil moisture before watering is the best way to prevent overwatering. If the top layer of soil is completely dry, water it. If still moist, wait another two days and check again.

As for the light requirements, bright indirect light up to even half-shade suits it fine. Direct early morning or late afternoon sun is normally fine but avoid exposing the Chlorophytum to bright direct light such as the midday sun.

Tip: In half-shade, it will stay healthy but it won’t thrive and probably won’t grow the beautiful flowers and ‘spiderettes’ it is known for.

A Spider Plant’s Guide to Happiness: Care Tips

Spider Plants are such an easy beginner plant not just because of their low maintenance but also because it gives you visible signs if it is unhappy, such as the following:

  • Pale, leggy leaves: If the leaves’ color seems pale and washed out, this either means it hasn’t had water in a while, or that it gets too much bright sunlight causing the leaves to bleach.
  • Brown leaf tips: The Spider Plant has most probably been waterlogged from overwatering. Empty out excess water from the pot and water it less frequently (only when the topsoil is completely dry). Sometimes, brown leaf tips also appear as signs of drought – when checking soil moisture you will know if it is drought or overwatering that causes the brown tips.

I’ve read in several forums that some people recommend misting the Spider Plant to give it a little humidity boost. Although misting might do that, it only does so for let’s say 5 minutes. Mist disappears too quickly to really make a difference to humidity and the water just settles in droplets on the leaves.

Tip: Is misting a myth? – Discover why misting is more a myth than a best practice in my post through this link!

To raise humidity levels effectively, it is best to use a humidifier in your home during wintertime (when the heating is on). There are also other ways to raise humidity, all more effective than misting, which I have summed up in my post linked here. However, the Spider Plant is one of these houseplants that can also do well with less humidity.

If you mist your Spider Plant to free its leaves from the dust layer, there is a better way to do this, too: Just give your Spider Plant a gentle rinse in the shower occasionally. This properly cleanses the leaves from dust and also helps to flush out any unwanted residues from the soil. After a plant shower, always make sure to let all excess water flow out for 1-2 hours and then refrain from watering until the soil has dried again.

How To Propagate Chlorophytum Comosum

Mature Spider Plants grow lots of so-called ‘spiderettes’, tiny offshoots that dangle from the end of their flower stems. These offshoots can be used for propagation.

I recommend placing them in water until they grow roots which takes about 2-3 weeks and then planting them into their new plant pot home. By letting them root in water, it is easy to watch the process and know when the timing is right to pot them in.

Tip: Instead of taking the offshoots off the mother plant and placing them in water, you can also place a second plant pot next to the mother plant and place one or two of the ‘spiderettes’ directly on the soil without cutting them off the stem. They will root directly on the soil as well. Sometimes, rooting in soil takes a bit longer, though.

Another way to propagate this plant is to split the mother plant. This is possible if your plant has grown several twin plants in the pot (which they usually do). Remove the whole plant from its pot, gently disentangle the rootballs of the twin plants, and then repot them separately.

Chlorophytum Superpowers

Some cat owners who also have Spider Plants at home claim that the plant attracts cats and has a slightly hallucinogenic effect on them after nibbling its leaves. Though this is not scientifically proven, cats really seem to particularly like nibbling the Chlorophytum’s leaves.

I say let them nibble – the Spider Plant is completely non-toxic and pet-friendly. In fact, it is safe for humans, too. Just so you know in case you fancy a nibble to find out whether its hallucinogenic powers are real.

Read on: What other common houseplants are pet-friendly? Read on in my post linked here to discover 7 pet-safe plants for your home!

A scientifically proven superpower of the Spider Plant is its air filtering capacities. It filters several volatile organic compounds (VOCs) out of the air such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and xylene. It is a real natural air purifier that does its work for free!

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