The spider plant is a very hardy houseplant, an ideal 'low-maintainance' plant for the beginner, or for someone who hasn't the time to look after 'fiddly' plants1. It is very tolerant of sporadic watering, and grows at an astonishing rate. Best of all, spider plants reproduce very rapidly - Baby spider plants can often be aquired from friends who have a healthy spider plant.
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) has long, thin leaves, growing from a central crown. It has no trunk or stem. The leaves can be solid green, or variegated. The spider plant is named for its appearance when small - the thin leaves diverging from the center give it the appearance of a green spider. The name 'spider plant' is sometimes given incorrectly to the Cleome Pungens, more commonly known as the spider flower, which has flowers with long stamen that resemble spiders' legs, and clusters of leaves that resemble spiders2.
Spider plants can reproduce asexually3. Once a spider plant is large enough, it begins sending out hardy cylindrical stems (runners), from which 'baby' spider plants grow. These plantlets have a few roots, and some some small leaves. If they are cut off and planted, they may grow into a new spider plant. This not the best way to do it.
The baby spider plants do not have a fully developed root system - although the central roots are present, the roots have few branches, and no root hairs, making them far less efficient at gathering water and minerals than a fully grown root. However, the baby spider is connected to the main plant by the runner, which is analogous to the umbilical cord used by developing placental mammals. The runner provides the growing plant with water and nutrients until it can grow a root system of its own.
To grow on a plantlet, simply fill a pot with soil (just about anything aimed at houseplants will do), poke a small hole with your finger, and drop the plantlet in it. Do not detach the plantlet from the parent plant, simply position the pot alongside the parent, and manuever the plantlet in, taking care not to damage the runner. Push down the soil around the hole to bury the roots. It doesn't really matter if you bury some of the leaves as well - the plant quickly recovers. Plantlets can also be planted in the same pot as the parent to 'bulk up' an existing plant. Once the plantlet has grown some proper roots, the runner can be cut off, and the baby plant moved or given away.
If you have several houseplants in the same place, and one is a spider plant, check that it hasn't reproduced without your help - spider plants often send out runners into nearby pots!
1 - Spider plant troubleshooting:
- Spider plant wilting: water it.
- Spider plant wilting, turning yellow: water it immediately!
- Spider plant wilting, bits turning brown: water it, cut brown bits off.
- Spider plant wilting, turning yellow, but I just watered it last week : Re-pot spider plant into a larger pot. Water it.
- Spider plant completely brown: Throw spider plant in bin, aquire something easier to look after, like a cactus, or a pet rock.
2 - And, to the untrained eye, marijuana leaves (
. Spider flowers have five leaves per clump, while marijuana plants have nine.
3 - They also reproduce sexually - if conditions are right, the spider plant will grow flowers on its runners. There's a picture of this at