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Spider plant

Chlorophytum comosum

Botanic name:             Chlorophytum comosum

Common name(s):      Spider plant, ribbon plant, airplane plant

A favourite of black thumb gardeners, spider plants are drought tolerant and can take a bit of neglect, largely due to its thick fleshy root system. This tropical plant is native to South and West Africa.

The common spider plant has long green strappy leaves growing from a centre rosette, but a variegated cultivar is easily found too (Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum'). Its claim to fame is the growth of long wiry stems which have one or more small plantlets growing at the tips. Sometimes, 6-petalled star-shaped flowers can be found growing along these wiry stems.

While spider plants are not toxic to cats or dogs, why is it that cats can’t resist batting those baby plantlets that grow from the base of the main plant? Keep them trimmed back if the plant is in danger of being pulled off a shelf!


Spider plants do well indoors at room temperature in medium to bright light. Water regularly and allow the soil to dry slightly in between watering. Ensure that the plant does not sit in water to prevent root rot.

Over time, the main plant can become too pot-bound. As with all houseplants, re-pot with a general-purpose potting mix for indoor plants. Always use a pot with drainage holes. Fertilize sparingly in spring and summer, using half-strength all-purpose fertilizer.


The easiest way to propagate more plants is to root the “plantlets”. You can easily root a plantlet in a jar of water to be potted into the soil-less potting mix once the roots have grown.

Another way is called the “layering” method. Simply set the base of the plantlet (still attached to the main plant) into a small pot of damp soil-less potting mixture. Use a bent paper clip to keep the plantlet in place. Keep moist and the plantlet will root directly into the potting mixture. Once the roots are established, snip the stem.

Tip: If you have a lot of plantlets, root them up in spring and add them to your outdoor planters in early summer. They add a nice hit of texture in mixed containers. They grow best in spots with morning sun.

Pests and diseases

Spider plants have few problems. Scale insects such as mealybugs are an infrequent problem. Read about how to deal with mealybugs here.

Apart from that, the tips of the leaves sometimes brown off. There are many possible causes for this including excessively dry soil, low humidity and excess fertilizer. Spider plants are sensitive to chlorine and fluoride found in tap water. Chlorine will dissipate if tap water is left standing for a day, but fluoride will not. If browning is persistent, water with rainwater or distilled water.