With long, thin leaves that curve out and over the pot like spider legs, it’s not hard to see how this houseplant got its name. The spider plant has a growth pattern that’s fun to watch, especially when a baby plant grows into large houseplant and/or starts creating its own baby plants. The spider plant is also known for being one of the houseplants that will grow in almost any condition.
Being such a popular houseplant, several different cultivars have been created by growers and gardeners over the years. The classic plant is known as the “vittatum,” or variegated spider plant. The variegatum, or reverse variegated, spider plant has white-to-yellow edges and green stripes. Another popular cultivar is the Bonnie which has more defined curls and color contrast. Other cultivars go the other way and look for a more solid green color throughout the leaf, although some variegation is still usually noticeable.
Indoor Size and Growth Habits: Medium to large size with fast, cascading growth that eventually turns into baby plants.
Light Requirements: 2-4 *
Water Frequency & Soil Moisture: 2-4 *
Potting Mix, Fertilizer & pH: Standard potting mix, slightly acidic to neutral pH of 5.5-7.5. Likes but doesn’t need fertilizer in spring.
Humidity & Temperature: Tropical plant that will tolerate lower indoor humidity and temperature
Toxicity Level: Very Mild
Placement: Light, Size, and Décor
The spider plant will tolerate low-light conditions well but will truly thrive with lots of indirect light. Avoid lots of direct sunlight from south- and west-facing windows which can scorch the leaves. The plant is usually medium-sized but may grow a couple feet out of its pot. With the right care schedule, it will occasionally grow into a larger houseplant.
When the plant starts to become pot-bound, it will become a cascading houseplant with long shoots that have baby plants on the end, known as spiderettes. In many cases, healthy plants will also produce small and short-lived white flowers as part of these offshoots. With the right setup, you may also be to pot the baby spider plants in place, creating a connected plant that lives in multiple pots.
Houseplant enthusiasts tend to love how easily this plant propagates. Interior decorators like to explore the creative options of displaying spider plants. Office managers like how resilient this plant is, while decorators will appreciate its variegated color and fulsome growth habits.
Care: Water, Potting, and Soil
The spider plant likes moderate watering frequency and soil moisture. Avoid overwatering, while also looking for signs of drooping leaves or soil that’s dry an inch deep. As long as the plant has good drainage, you can water fairly regularly without being too worried about root rot. Usually, once a week is enough to meet its watering requirements. Water each side of the pot until the soil is saturated and/or water comes out of the drainage holes, but then it’s best to let the soil dry out. A resilient, easy-care houseplant, the spider plant offers some room for error.
The soil pH is another reason this plant is easy to care for. It prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0 but may tolerate conditions anywhere between 5.0-8.0. Most standard potting soil mixes have a pH around 6.0 which may grow more neutral over time if you use tap water. These standard potting soils provide good drainage while retaining some moisture for the plant.
Pests and Other Problems
This is one of those houseplants that rarely experience any problems so long as they have reasonable growing conditions. Once you have the plant potted and placed, focus on getting the watering schedule right. Overwatering can lead to root rot, but especially in very dry climates, the spider plant is also vulnerable to spider mites, whiteflies, scale, and aphids. For toxicity, the plant is a little like catnip. It’s generally listed as non-toxic to pets, but it may also produce mild nausea or hallucinatory effects in cats who are attracted to and ingest spider plant material.
Cost and Availability
This is one of the most affordable houseplants available. Fast-growing and seemingly always in demand, you will usually find spider plants cost anywhere from $3-$30. Of course, a robust and healthy spider plant can also become a free source of small plants for friends and family. That said, there are ways to spend money to create show-stopping plants. You can hire a houseplant decorator, for example, with experience creating multi-pot spider plant arrangements.
Propagation and Repotting
Not only is the spider plant incredibly easy to propagate, but it offers multiple options to manage new growth. It’s good to know that these plants don’t mind being a little snug in their pots. In fact, they must become at least somewhat pot-bound before giving off baby plants. These plants are easy to trim and repot. This growth and propagation pattern is why the spider plant is sometimes known as “hen and chickens.”
The plant can live a long time in this condition giving off baby plants, or you can be more aggressive about repotting and growing a larger spider plant. You can also cut back the bottom third of the root ball and repot in the same size pot. When first repotting, it will usually take some time for the plant to reach a point where it’s producing babies again.
Similar Types of Houseplants
If you love the look of the spider plant but want to expand your houseplant collection, you’ll have plenty of choices. First, there are similar species in the chlorophytum plant genus. Chlorophytum viridescens is often known as the Hawaiian spider plant. Chlorophytum laxum is sometimes called the zebra grass spider plant. There are dozens of chlorophytum species overall, but few that are commonly grown as indoor plants.
Other types of variegated houseplants are commonly confused with the spider plant, including the corn plant (dracaena fragrans) and a handful of ornamental grasses.