959 Chlorophytum comosumCommon Names: spider plant, spider ivy, ribbon plant, hen-and-chickens Family: Liliaceae (lily Family)
Possibly the most popular of all houseplants, spider plant is a grasslike, clump forming, evergreen perennial in the lily family. The leaves are linear, 8-16 in (20.3-40.6 cm) long and less than 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Small white flowers are borne along outward arching wiry stalks. The flowers give rise to seed filled capsules about 1/3 in (0.8 cm) long. After blooming and fruiting, little tufts of leaves - baby spider plants - develop on the stalks. These little "spiders" take root wherever they touch the ground. A healthy, mature spider plant can form a clump 3 ft (0.9 m) tall and across, with wiry stems cascading out as much as 5 ft (1.5 m). The roots and rhizomes of the spider plant are fleshy and thickened, and serve as water storage organs for dry periods. The wild species has green leaves, but most cultivars are variegated. 'Mandaianum' has a yellow stripe down the center of each leaf; 'Variegatum' has white stripes on the margins of the leaves with green down the center; and 'Vittatum' has recurved leaves with white central stripes.
Chlorophytum comosum, the spider plant, comes originally from South Africa.
CultureSpider plant is one of the easiest house plants to maintain. It thrives in bright light or shade; it is not particular about room temperature (as long as it doesn't freeze); it tolerates dry or humid air; and even if you forget to water it for a while, it will forgive you. Spider plants may develop brown leaf tips if the soil is kept too dry or becomes too salty from watering with hard water. Prevent this by watering with rain water; cure it by leaching the roots thoroughly and repotting. Light: Although it will survive in shady spots, spider plant does best in bright light. If you want maximum growth and production of flowers and little plantlets, keep your spider plant in a very bright window, or hang it outside on the porch (during frostfree weather). Avoid the midday full sun. If natural light is not available, provide at least 400 foot-candles of artificial light. Moisture: During the summer, when in active growth, spider plant should be watered regularly: keep the soil moist. In winter, water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Spider plant does not tolerate frost, but can be grown in Zone 8 where if will be killed to the ground but quickly revives with the return of warmer temperatures. Indoors it is happy at normal room temperatures. Propagation: The plantlets that develop on the elongated stalks can be rooted easily. The main root mass can be divided to make new plants. Spider plants seem to produce the most plantlets when they are slightly overcrowded in their pots, or "pot bound."
This is one plant that really tolerates neglect! Spider plant will thrive in an air conditioned dorm room or a humid greenhouse. Full sun, or shade - spider plant hangs in there. Forget to water it? Not a problem. This is one of the finest plants for hanging baskets. Placed in a bright window, a spider plant will grow into a fountain of gracefully arching stalks adorned with miniature versions of itself. Water regularly, and fertilize with a liquid plant food every two weeks during the summer. Withhold fertilizer, and water less frequently in winter.
In frostfree climates, spider plant is used as a groundcover, in borders and as edging around beds, walkways and paths.
There are more than 200 species in the genus Chlorophytum; all are evergreen perennials, but only a couple are regularly cultivated. Spider plant is sometimes sold under the name Chlorophytum capense, but this is a different species, and one that does not produce the little plantlets so characteristic of the real spider plant. It is said that the German philosopher and writer, Johann Goethe, was fascinated with the little "spiders" and kept spider plants indoors in hanging containers 200 years ago.
Steve Christman 8/24/02; updated 1/22/04