Today I want to introduce you to one of my oldest houseplants. Except that actually, the ones pictured here aren’t the original; they are clones of it, however. Confused? Don’t worry – I’ll explain it all.
The spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, is probably one of the most common houseplants around. And for good reason. It is one of the easiest to grow and care for. They tolerate fairly low-light conditions (though, like most plants prefer the most light they can get inside of a house), they can handle being watered only once a week (don’t be afraid to let it dry out a little between waterings), and as an added bonus, they are on the list of houseplants that act as air filters. And as another added bonus? They are the plant that keeps on giving.
Spider plants often come in variegated forms – sporting both a light and dark green striping on the leaves. But, you can also find the monotone variety like I have. The spider plants I have now all came from a common ancestor: the spider plant in the office of the soil analysis lab I worked at as an undergraduate. That particular spider plant was quite large and had lots of little plantlets dangling off (the little “spiders” from which it gets its name). I clipped one or two (the particulars escape me…it’s been about 8 years ago) and potted them up. I think my mom still has one, and my sister the other. They grew and grew and soon had their own little plantlets. So I clipped one or two of those off, and potted them up. And repeated the process maybe one more time. Of the ones pictured below, the biggest one is a second generation (I think) from the original lab spider plant, and I propagated the other two from it.
You can do the same with your spider plants. Here’s how:
- Fill a small container with a good, well-drained, potting mix
- Clip off a plantlet (first clip it close to the mother-plant, but then you can also clip off the stem close to the baby plant too)
- Situate it on the surface of your potting mix (you could push it in just a bit, but you don’t want to cover the crown). I like to hold it in place using a paperclip – I bend open a paperclip so that it can go around the plant and anchor it into the soil.
- Water it thoroughly, and put it in the sunniest place you can find
When propagating plants this way – through cuttings – I like to put a clear plastic bag over the top for the first week or so. This creates a little greenhouse effect, and it helps it stay moist during those critical new-root-producing days. You’ll want to make sure that you still check to make sure that the soil is moist enough, but not so wet that it’s soggy and growing fungus.
Another way you could propagate the spider plant is to place your new pot of soil close to the main plant and anchor the plantlet into it like I described above. When it’s nice and rooted in, then you can clip it off of the mother-plant and move it to its own location.
Like many houseplants, the spider plants are grown more for their foliage (it has a nice cascading effect) and the little plantlets than they are for their flowers. But, if you do get it to flower (lots of bright light), they are small, dainty, white little things – not a real “show-stopper”, if you know what I mean, but fun to see anyway.
Spider plants tend to like to be a little “root-bound”, so you won’t need to re-pot your new little plant for a while. But once it does get too big for it’s pot, go ahead and find a bigger pot, get some new potting mix, re-plant it, and when it starts producing little spiders of it’s own you can plant them up for your friends and family. See? The plant that keeps on giving.