While I was thinking about how to begin my post about the spider plant and in particular about the characteristics that differentiate it from other house plants, the following thought came to my mind: “the spider plant, with its bushy green and white leaves and shoots of little new plants hanging down, makes every room that it grows in seem quieter and more homely”. Apart from being easy to grow, it is precisely this feature that explains why there is always at least one specimen of this popular plant in my home.
A lot of scientific has been carried out about the air cleaning properties of this plant over the years, NASA published a study in 1989 and according to the results the spider plant performed the best. There have also been links between the the “Spider Plant and reducing “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBD).
You will be glad to hear that Chlorophytum comosum “Spider Plant” is non poisonous to us humans, cats and dogs.
The spider plant (sometimes also referred to as the airplane plant) is another flower I will describe which can be grown by literally anybody. It is a plant that requires very little attention and that will tolerate a great deal of neglect. This does not of course mean that it will survive in any conditions – you will have to satisfy at least its most basic needs.
Let us begin with light. The spider plant grows very well in a strongly lit place but it also does pretty well in places where the light is not so intensive, but it must not be left in the dark. However, the colour of the plant will depend on the light’s intensity. In a strongly lit place, the leaves of the spider plant will be brighter and the white stripe in the middle wide, whereas in a spot with more scattered light the leaves will be a darker green and the bright stripe in the middle narrower.
I myself try to keep the airplane plant in a bright enough place but not one that is in direct sunlight. Firstly, the livelier colours appeal to me more. Secondly, and maybe even more significantly, the tips of the leaves of chlorophytum are more prone to dry out in strongly lit places, especially when appropriate moisturising of the soil and air humidity cannot be guaranteed.
Talking of moisturising, water the spider plant only when the soil it stands in becomes dry. Do not, however, postpone the watering for too long, because a long period of drought, especially in summer, very often leads to the yellowing of the leaf tips and to the spider plant losing its good looks. You can additionally minimise the risk of a situation like that by increasing the humidity of the air by e.g. sprinkling the plant with water.
Here I would like to refer back to what I wrote in the post about the basics of house plant care, namely, that a short period of drought is in general less harmful for plants than overabundant watering.
This rule is most certainly true in the case of the spider plant, therefore do not water it until the soil it stands in dries out. Otherwise, the plant’s roots can rot and, as a result of this, the flower will probably die.
You do not particularly need to worry about fertilising the spider plant. You can add some fertiliser for green plants to the water once a week during the summer time for the plant to grow better.
The airplane plant does not have any special requirements as to the temperature of the air. It can bear a fall to as low as 0℃ (32℉), and this makes it a flower that can be successfully grown as a balcony or flowerbed plant during the warmer months, all the more so because it is a plant that likes fresh air.
The simplest way of propagating the spider plant is by rooting the plantlets (the young plants sprouting out of the shoots I described earlier) or by division of the root cluster. The spider plant grows quite fast – a plant obtained from a young plantlet will fill up a 10 cm (4 in) diameter pot after about a year. It is worth propagating the spider plant every few years to enable the old fading specimen to change into a new, bushy one.
And finally, a few words about repotting. Chlorophytum fills up the pot quite fast with thick fleshy roots. It is probably thanks to their big capacity and to the water aggregated in them, that the spider plant is able to survive short periods of drought. Because the roots of the plant grow quite fast, try to repot it to a bigger (about 2-3cm/ 1in) pot once a year, or divide it into two smaller specimens (by dividing the root cluster in the middle and placing the two parts of the flower in separate pots).
The most widely known and typical species of the spider plant is Chlorophytum comosum “Vittatum” (or Variegatum). It is a plant with long (20-40 cm/ 7-16 in), narrow (to 2,5 cm/ 1 in) green leaves with a white stripe in the middle. As I have already mentioned, the colour of the plant is less vivid in more intense light, and the bright stripe in the middle becomes wider.
From time to time the plant sprouts long thin creamy shoots with modest little flowers at their ends. After some time the flowers disappear and a new plant starts to develop in their place – you can root it and get a new autonomous plant this way. However, if you leave a lot of such shoots on the plant and put it somewhere higher (e.g. in hanging basket), then you will get a very attractive looking flower with several dangling leaf clusters arching down.
The plant can reach about 50 cm (20 in) in height and diameter after a few years.
The spider plant comes from South Africa. It was introduced as a house plant in England for the first time in the middle of the 19-th century.
The species’ name chlorophytum just means “a green plant”, and this is the colour of the leaves of the base species.
In English the spider plant is also known as the airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, spider ivy, or the ribbon plant.