Chlorophytumcomosum has many common names: Airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, Spider ivy, Ribbon plant, and Hen and chickens. But we know it best as the Spider plant – not because they attract or harbour spiders, but rather because of the way it reproduces. The offshoots hang from the ends of long wiry stems like spiders on a silken cord.
The spider plant commonly has long white stems and white leaves striped with green at the edges (the Vittatum variety), but there is another variety (the Variegatum) which has long green stems with green leaves and white edges.
While both will form small white flowers during the summer, the leaves of the Variegatum cultivar tend to be longer than those of the Vittatum.
Among the easiest houseplants to grow, spider plants also provide a number of benefits.
Growing spider plants
Even the rankest newbie gardener should be able to care for these narrow-leaved plants. They thrive in bright, indirect light so they should be placed near a window – ideally one that faces North, East or West. They can also survive in a South-facing window so long as it gets some shade during the hot summer days.
These fascinating plants can also survive in artificial lighting conditions, making them a great choice for offices, basement spaces, or even bathrooms.
Spider plants should be placed in a hanging container or on a plant stand to allow the stems to cascade down. It’s best to use a potting soil intended for houseplants rather than common garden soil.
The soil should be kept moist – but not soggy – during the summer months. Allow it to dry slightly between watering during cold weather. Spider plants are somewhat forgiving of over- and under-watering and can even survive if slightly neglected for a while.
They grow best at temperatures between 18 °C and 32 °C but can survive at just above freezing temperatures.
One of their best characteristics in that spider plants almost never get diseases, and they are immune to most pests. The main insect pests to watch for are small, hard brown scale insects on leaves.
You can wipe them off using cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. But if a plant gets too infested, it may be easier to just discard it and to get a new one, or to propagate clean plants from healthy offshoots.
Propagate spider plants
There are three main methods to produce new spider plants and they are all quite easy. You can grow them from seed, root the offshoots – also called plantlets or ‘spiderettes’, or divide an existing plant.
The spiderettes can be rooted while still attached to the mother plant, or cut off and placed directly into the soil; they can also be rooted in water first, but this practice has several disadvantages.
Either way, it’s best to wait until the baby plants have begun to grow starter roots before taking any cuttings – and remember to use sterile pruning scissors to prevent disease.
If your plant has not sprouted any offshoots, you can divide it so long as there are at least two clumps of leaves growing in the same pot. Splitting a mature or pot-bound plant can be difficult as it’s nearly impossible to separate the thick, tightly-packed roots – if you cannot tease the roots apart, t’s easiest to use a sterile knife to cut through the root system and separate the plant.
They are child-friendly and pet-friendly
For parents, a child’s safety is paramount. And for pet owners, it’s important to choose plants that are safe for cats and dogs. Luckily, one of the biggest benefits to the spider plant is that it is completely non-toxic. It’s perfectly safe for children or pets to chew on the leaves, stems, or flowers – not that we’d recommend snacking on a spider plant.
They have a surprising number of health benefits
During a US study, researchers placed spider plants and other indoor plants were placed in some surgical recovery rooms. Patients staying in the rooms containing plants had overall better recovery statistics than those who did not: lower systolic blood pressure, as well as lower ratings for pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
Spider plants improve air quality
Most plants feed on carbon dioxide (CO2) which they absorb through their leaves and roots. Using the energy of sunlight, they convert CO2and water into carbohydrates and oxygen.
They are natural air purifiers. Like some other indoor plants, spider plants have additional filtration capabilities – they are able to remove several toxic agents from the air:
This odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas can be a silent killer. Its primary source is motor vehicle exhaust, but it can also come from burning fossil fuels such as wood, gasoline, coal, natural gas, or kerosene.
Gas appliances, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, as well as tobacco smoke can all increase the level of carbon monoxide indoors.
Vital organs such as the brain, nervous system, and heart need oxygen to function properly. As a person or animal breathes in carbon monoxide, the level of it in their hemoglobin rises, simultaneously decreasing the oxygen saturation levels.
Mild or moderate CO poisoning can cause lack of coordination, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. There is an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in people suffering from chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems.
Spider plantsare effective at reducing indoor carbon monoxide levels, which helps to decrease fatigue, headaches, colds, sore throats, and flu-like symptoms that are caused by CO exposure.
This colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical is commercially used for making building products. Urea-formaldehyde resin is used as an adhesives in particle board wood so new flooring, furniture, particleboard, paneling, cabinet, carpets, and even mattresses increase the risk of formaldehyde exposure.
Formaldehyde can also be emitted in tobacco smoke, some paints, cooking, cosmetics, motor vehicle exhaust and more.
Formaldehyde increases the risk of nose and throat cancer. It can also irritate the eyes, nose, and throat or cause other severe breathing problems and allergies.
In studies, when spider plants were introduced to a space for 24 hours, they reduced the formaldehyde levels by almost 90%.
Widely used as a solvent in many industries such as printing, leather, and rubber, as well as in medical technology, it’s also present in small quantities in airplane fuel, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
Buildings with poor ventilation can have high levels of xylene – which causes irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, slow response to a visual stimulus, impaired memory, and stomach discomfort.
Spider plants helpto reduce the amount of xylene from the surrounding environment.
Small amounts of this toxinare found in paints and other finishes, adhesives, automotive products, and also in some personal care products.
It is also produced by tobacco smoke and is added to gasoline, which means it can enter your house through vehicle exhaust and even from the attached garage if you store fuel there.
If your home is located near an industrial area, it can also result in higher levels of toluene.
Short-term toluene exposure mostly affects the nervous system, causing neurological effects such as loss of attention and concentration, vision and hearing difficulties, and memory loss. Necrosis can also be caused by long-term exposure to toluene.
But you can easily lower these risks by planting a spider plant.
Particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone
Particulate matter can be one of the most harmful pollutants to humankind as these fine particles can be inhaled, entering the lungs and bloodstream and causing many health conditions.
Nitrogen dioxide is colorless and odorless at lower concentrations but can irritate the mucous membranes and eventually lead to such health hazards as coronary artery disease and stroke.
It is often released into the environment during fuel combustion, mostly in automobile exhaust or by power stations.
While ozone forms the shield layer than protects the Earth’s surface from the sun’s harmful UV rays, pollution from car exhaust can react with UV rays and cause ozone to form at or near ground level.
When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs – even relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation.
Spider plants have been proven to absorb particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone – purifying the air and allowing us to breathe easier.