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What’s the point of doing all your research and learning how to take care of your spider plants if they’re going to die in a year anyway? Or two years…Or ten years…
Spider plants can live an extremely long time – as in, well upwards of twenty years.
I couldn’t get my spider plant to thrive for the longest time. I tried several, and they all inevitably died.
I couldn’t work out what was wrong – I tried it in different places, different soils, different pots…nothing.
It turns out that everyone who told me to just level it alone really unestimated my neglecting skills. I was basically just letting it dry out too much.
Now mine is THRIVING:
It’s produced two stems of babies and flowers. I actually chopped them off because the mother plant was suffering. Maybe when she’s a bit bigger I’ll let them hang off her.
Most house plants have the ability to live for a really, really long time, and if you keep chopping and propping them, then they could *technically* live forever.
Are spider plants hardy?
Spider plants are hardier than a lot of houseplants, but still won’t tolerate extended periods of neglect (very few plants will, without leaves dropping off)
They’re not too fussy about:
- Water quality
- Pot type
If you keep them somewhere with dry air and low light, forget to water them and keep them in a terracotta pot, they won’t last long.
Mine is THRIVING in 60% humidity about four feet away from a south-facing window. A tonne of growth and a tonne of babies.
It does have the odd brown tip, but nothing worth worrying about. Plants rarely produce 100% perfect growth.
How much light does a spider plant need?
Put in a bright-ish spot
Spider plants, like most tropical plants, don’t like dramatic changes to the amount of light they’re getting.
If your spider plant has been shoved in a dark spot and you want to move it, then do it gradually. Move it a little bit closer to the light every few days or so to reduce the risk of it burning.
Plants produce hormones that help them deal with more UV light, but they need time to both realise they need then AND to make them.
Should you choose to ignore this advice and just whack it in a south-facing window, the leaves will probably burn BUT you can just cut them off. The roots will most likely be fine and new growth (that’s more tolerant to brighter light) will come quickly.
How to get your spider plant to thrive and produce babies
The key to long-lived spider plants is a bit of a ‘Ship of Theseus’ situation. Whilst spider plants can keep growing for decades, convincing them to produce babies and then rooting the babies is a great way to ensure you’re never without spider plants.
They also make great gifts, especially if you go to the trouble of rooting them first.
So, how do we convince our spider plants it’s time to reproduce?
Give them plenty of light
I just typed ‘planty’ instead of ‘plenty’ and laughed for way too long. Anyway.
Spider plants tend to produce offshoots in spring, when the days get longer and warmer.
Spider plants have this reputation for being able to live in low-light conditions, and it's not unfounded. They can live for a long time in low light without showing any signs of neglect, but they won't do well.
Few plants actually THRIVE in low light. They just survive.
AND plants that DO thrive in low light tend to be picky little bastards like Calathea, that like to have high humidity and mineral-free water.
If you want your spider plant to thrive, pop them in a sunny spot without intense bright light (they might burn).
Increase the humidity
This isn’t necessary unless your humidity is super low (i.e. lower than 35%) BUT increasing the humidity can be a great way to get your spider plant to reproduce.
Spider plants tend to be pretty reliable at producing plantlets BUT the more favourable the environment around your plant, the more prolific it’ll be.
Water and feed it regularly
This is KEY. If you’re an under/overwaterer you need to identify this and take steps to minimise its effects.
If you tend to overwater, you’ll see yellowing leaves and a generally droopy, mushy plant. The soil will be wet all the time. If you’re watering more than once a week, this could be you.
If you tend to underwater, we’re looking at dry soil and brown marks/edges on the leaves.
Overwaterers need to add perlite, bark, or leca to their soil, and consider using a terracotta pot.
Underwaterers need a plastic pot, and a denser soil.
If you’re still unsure, check the roots. They should look like this:
Though mine are definitely more covered in soil.
I’ll go more in-depth re. fertilising later on, but I like to feed mine every other time I water it.
Don’t let it get too cold
Spider plants are generally ok during winter, even in colder parts of your home. My mum keeps hers in the conservatory in winter and the poor think goes all leggy and pale, but it survives.
This is fine - it perks back up in summer BUT it reduces the chance of your spider plant reproducing and can cut short its life span. Move it to a warmer spot in winter, even if it's just a couple of feet back from the window.
How to water your spider plant
Spider plants can tolerate a bit of underwatering – if you look at the roots, they look quite tuberous and juicy, so can probably hold a decent amount of water.
However, I’ve found that regularly watering them ensures healthy growth.
I keep mine in a fairly dense soil mix (a terrarium one is ideal) and add leca to it to increase aeration without reducing its ability to retain water.
I've found that spider plants grow best if they're snug in their pot. Their roots grow quickly so I repot it often, but it's worth it for the quick growth.
Tap water is fine for spider plants, and I say that as someone with fairly hard water.
I use a moisture meter to check when to water my spider plant. When it reaches the 2 or 3 mark, I water it thoroughly.
If you don’t want a moisture meter, wait until the soil is practically dry before watering. Stick your finger in to check.
Sometimes I bottom water (it's in a plastic pot with a cache pot so it's easy to just pour the water in the cachepot and let it sit) but it's not necessary - just make sure the substrate is thoroughly dampened when you water.
How to fertilise a spider plant
It’s more or less impossible to determine whether a plant is a light or heavy feeder by researching it, because everybody says something different.
In my experience, plants can take more feed than you might think.
I fertilised my plants every time I watered at the start of the spring this year, and my plants THRIVED. Then a few of them stopped growing. I assumed it was the fertiliser, so I gave them a break for about three waterings, and then started adding feed every other time I watered.
My spider plant is LOVING life (tbf the only plant that has hated this whole experiment is my Pothos N-joy) and the ample feed suits it.
I’ve been using the General Hydroponics Flora series because I don’t want to use multiple fertilisers.
Using something I can use on all my plants regardless of substrate is necessary for lazy people like me.
Also, using a hydroponic fertiliser ensures you have a full range of macro and micronutrients.
When I run out of the GH, I am switching to a one-step fertiliser, but I think I have a couple of year’s worth left.
What do you do with spider plant babies?
The babies grow on the ends of stalks.
Just snip them off and pop the baby in a jar of water. You don’t need to spend money on propagation vessels.
I actually use a glass bottle that once housed sweet chilli sauce (I washed it thoroughly). After a few days, roots should start to form.
Once the roots are over half an inch long, pot ’em up.
Once you transplant them into potting mix, it's important that you keep the soil more moist than you usually would, to allow the spider plant pup to get used to soil.
If you notice your pups aren’t thriving in soil, pop them back in water and let their roots grow a little longer.
Home-propagated plants are an incredible gift for these three reasons:
Propagating spider plants is practically free
You might have to ‘harvest’ your babies in summer because they’re slower to grow in winter – though if you’re organised you can have Christmas gifts taken care of by September. Yessss.
Sure, you may need to invest in a nice pot, but you can get a decent-sized terracotta pot for well under a fiver that your spider plant child will LOVE.
You could even print out a little sticker of care instructions to accompany your offspring to their new home.
It’s a thoughtful gift
Although give too many away and you run the risk of becoming ‘the plant girl’. Still, people love plants in the main.
They’re a great piece of cheap-to-keep home decor and if you get sick of them, you can neglect them until they die or give them away.
Please give them away.
I’ve done the former so many times and now the guilt is REAL.
Spider plants are non-toxic
Not only will they not kill their recipient’s cat, but it’s thought that spider plants are a mild hallucinogen for cats. Fun for everyone!
Can you cut the brown tips off spider plants?
The brown part is dead, but acts as a seal for the living tissue, preventing bacteria and disease from getting into the plant.
If you cut the brown tips off your house plant, the edges where you cut will go brown in a week or two, because the plant needs to seal the leaf. There nothing wrong with the plant – it’s just protecting itself.
Spider plants (in fact, a lot of tropical plants) don’t have a finite lifespan. As long as their roots are healthy and they live in a suitable environment, they can technically keep on growing forever.
This spider plant is 35 years old. It looks incredibly healthy, so will probably keep going for as long as someone’s prepared to care for it.