This is a collaborative post.
Also known as the ribbon plant, airplane plant, or spider ivy, the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is an extremely versatile houseplant. Small plants can decorate shelves and windowsills while larger, mature plants look amazing cascading from a hanging basket or tall unit.
A spider plant’s leaves are instantly recognisable. They are long, slender, arching, and often variegated with creamy hues. These hugely popular indoor plants are easy to propagate from the baby plants a mother plant produces, so you can share them with family and friends, fill your own home with spider plants of various sizes, or simply leave the baby plantlets attached to the parent plant to create a full, bushy appearance.
Are Spider Plants Easy to Grow?
Yes! Spider plants are among the easiest indoor plants to grow and care for. They are undemanding and tolerate a little neglect, making them the ideal starter plants for new plant parents. Spider plants are fast growers but prefer to be slightly root-bound, meaning they don’t need re-potted too often. There’s a reason these house plants have become a classic, and that’s because they are so easy to look after.
How to Water a Spider Plant
Types of Water
First things first – what kind of water do spider plants prefer? Ideally, rainwater or distilled water is best for watering house plants. However, tap water does the job just fine. Fill a watering can or tub with tap water before bed, and leave it out overnight before using it to water your spider plant the following day. Doing this allows any chemicals, such as fluoride, to evaporate before being applied to the soil.
Top Watering vs. Bottom Watering
Top watering is when you use a watering can or similar to pour water over the plant’s soil. This method is ideal for a regular watering routine. It lets excess water drain freely from the drainage holes and is a quick and easy way to keep the soil consistently moist.
Bottom watering involves sitting the plant in a shallow tub of water and allowing the roots to soak up the moisture. This way takes longer as the plant needs time to absorb water, but it is a handy watering method if your spider plant’s soil has completely dried out.
How Much Water Does A Spider Plant Need?
To give you the short (and somewhat unhelpful) answer – it depends. How much water a spider plant needs is determined by several factors:
- The time of year
- The size of the plant
- Pot material
- Type of potting mix
- How much light the plant gets
- Humidity and temperature
Rather than saying your plant needs, for example, one pint of water every week it’s much better to go with the flow. As you become more experienced, knowing whether or not your spider plants need watering will become second nature.
Check the plant’s soil and aim to keep it consistently moist but not wet. Water all around the top of the soil until you see excess water draining from the bottom of the pot. Remember that spider plant roots develop right out to the edge of the pot, so don’t just concentrate the flow on the centre of the soil. Water all of the soil to ensure the moisture reaches the whole root system.
How to Know If I’ve Given My Spider Plant Too Much or Too Little Water
The most common problems spider plants encounter are a result of under- or over-watering. Luckily, spider plants have a rather forgiving nature, and most issues are simple to rectify.
Symptoms of Over-Watering Spider Plants
- Dark brown tips on the leaves
- Dying leaves
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s likely your spider plant has had too much water. Check the soil to confirm it is overly moist, and leave the plant for a while before checking again. Don’t water your spider plant until the top two inches (at least) have dried out. Cut away any dead or dying leaves to help prevent pest infestation.
For soil that is extremely wet or doesn’t dry quickly, you may need to remove the plant from the pot and replace the soggy soil with fresh potting mix.
Symptoms of Under-Watering Spider Plants
- Crispy brown tips on the foliage
- Pale or yellow leaves
- Drooping foliage
These symptoms are relatively easy to remedy. Feel the soil to ensure it is indeed dry, and give the plant a good, long drink of water. You’ll soon notice drooping foliage bounce back into place, and pale leaves regain their colour. Crispy brown tips can get pruned to remove them and improve the spider plant’s appearance. They won’t grow green again, and cutting them off won’t hurt the plant.
Top Tips for Watering Spider Plants
Don’t Use a Watering Schedule
Many beginner indoor gardeners believe that watering plants religiously on the same day every week helps them thrive. However, sticking to a strict watering schedule can leave spider plants in soggy soil. By all means, check how moist the potting soil is every week, but only water your spider plant if it needs it. Let the top two inches of soil dry out before giving the plant a drink.
Choose the Right Size of Pot
Spider plants prefer to be slightly root-bound, which means they don’t like a pot that is too big. When potting or re-potting a spider plant, choose a small pot that is only slightly larger than the root ball. Doing this affords the spider plant plenty of room to grow but keeps the roots happy. Too much excess soil around the roots can leave them sitting in overly wet soil, which can lead to root rot.
Ensure the Pot Has Adequate Drainage Holes
Never let spider plants sit in standing water or overly wet soil for long. Doing this can lead to root rot, which can ultimately kill the plant. Ensuring the pot has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom helps keep the soil moist but not wet by allowing excess water to drain away freely. Note that while placing gravel or rocks at the bottom of the pot helps aid drainage, it doesn’t substitute for holes that let the water flow away.
Choose the Right Soil
Spider plants thrive in moist, well-draining soil. An all-purpose houseplant potting mix is perfect. Depending on how well water drains from the pot, you may wish to add perlite, sand, or another drainage aid and mix it into the potting mix. Feeding the plant with a liquid fertiliser during the growing season helps ensure the potting soil retains all the nutrients your plant needs to flourish.
The finger test is the easiest way to determine whether or not your spider plant needs a drink. Dip your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If the soil feels moist, leave it for another few days before checking again. If the soil feels dry, water the spider plant. If you prefer not to get your fingers dirty, a chopstick does the job just as well.
Regularly mist spider plants to boost humidity levels and keep the foliage clean and free of dust. Aim to mist your spider plants about once a week to mimic their natural environment. Spray spider plants more often if they are kept in drier rooms, such as the living room, and less often in kitchens and bathrooms.
Consider Light Levels
Aside from watering, the key to spider plant care is providing the plant with the correct amount of light. Spider plants prefer a spot in bright to moderate indirect sunlight. Avoid too much direct sunlight, as too much sunlight can scorch the leaves. Just like humans, a plant left in direct sunlight all day long needs more water, so adjust your watering frequency to take light conditions into account.