The Secret to Caring for Spider Plants? Don't Overthink It
When it comes to spider plant care, less is often more. In fact, you don’t need much of a green thumb to successfully grow spider plants indoors or outside in the garden.
It’s important to make sure you start out on the right foot, especially when you bring your plant home from the nursery. The first thing you need to do is remove your spider plant from the plastic container that it likely came in. These temporary pots are not only unattractive, but they are also inefficient, preventing air from circulating and eventually causing the plant to rot.
The next step is to re-pot your spider plant in something porous, like a terracotta planter with a drainage hole. It’s important to never let your plants sit in standing water. To ensure maximum drainage, use orchid bark or peat moss at the bottom of the pot before adding soil. Because they are root-bound, spider plants only need to be re-potted approximately once every other year.
If you’re wondering how to care for spider plants so they thrive, here are some expert tips.
How to take care of a spider plant indoors
It’s easy to grow a spider plant indoors, as long as you know what to do. “Mist the plant with distilled water that has been sitting for 24 hours,” says NYBG certified horticulturist Bliss Bendall. “If your plant receives a lot of full sunlight, I strongly recommend doing this first thing in the morning when the sun is coming up or an hour or two before the sun goes down. This will ensure it doesn’t burn, get too cold, or become damp and rot.”
Bendall suggests regularly rotating the pot so one side isn’t constantly getting more sun. It’s also important to avoid keeping a spider plant directly on or in front of a heater or air-conditioning unit.
How much sun does a spider plant need?
“Spider plants appreciate bright, moderate, indirect sunlight. But that doesn’t mean they can’t survive without sunlight,” Bendall says. “Established spider plants can accommodate different types of light conditions if they are watered specifically for the particular condition they’re kept in.”
Keep in mind that spider plants tend to get sunburned easily. “If you water spider plants when the sun is high and or directly shining on the plant, they will burn.”
How much water does a spider plant need?
Every spider plant has its own water needs. According to Bendall, there is a good rule of thumb: She recommends waiting until the top two inches of soil are dried out, but not totally dried through. “During the first month, once a week, gauge how dry the soil is getting in between watering to get a better feel for how quickly water evaporates from soil in your home or office.” In spring and summer, the water will likely evaporate faster from the sun, so you’ll need to keep a closer eye on it.
You should also be cautious about overwatering if there is a lack of humidity in the place where your spider plant grows. This is known as water stress. Knowing how often to water can be tricky, so buying a soil moisture meter ($10; amazon.com) is an inexpensive and easy way to take out some of the guesswork.
“When watering the plant makes it feel heavier than before you watered it, let the water drain through the holes for at least one to two minutes. Over time, you’ll get used to the change in the weight of the plant and be able to feel the difference and know when it’s time to water,” Bendall says.
When in doubt, it’s best not to overwater spider plants. “Wait a day or two and test the soil again. It’s more detrimental to overwater than to wait longer between watering,” she says.
If you make a mistake and overwater your spider plant, it may or may not be viable. If the leaves start to turn yellow or a shade of lime green, don’t worry, but proper spider plant care is key here. “Take the plant to a place where it can receive a little more shade and really be sure the topsoil is dry before watering again,” Bendall says. Then remove all the yellow leaves.
If you notice the leaves turning brown, that’s not a good sign. The plant has likely been overwatered, probably with tap water, which can have high levels of salt. Salt is toxic for tropical plants like spider plants because it is out of their native element. An important spider plant care tip is to only use distilled water.
But your spider plant is probably fine if just the tips of the leaves are brown. You can even trim them. “Go for it in the growing months, which are spring and summer,” Bendall says.
However, avoid trimming your spider plant in the winter. “During colder seasons, the plant goes dormant and needs all of its chlorophyll to feed itself and survive. If you must trim the leaves, just know it can be risky. But whenever you do so, be sure to trim off the brown tips with sharp, sterile pruning shears or using a florist knife. Cut at an angle to recreate the sharp tip shape of the leaves. It’ll scab over and be like nothing ever happened,” Bendall says.
If the leaves are fully wilting, your spider plant may be too far gone. Bendall suggests giving it 10 days to see what happens, but if no progress is made, the plant is probably not salvageable.
What to do with those spider plant babies?
Sometimes your spider plant will sprout little babies. If you are growing the plant indoors, Bendall suggests leaving the babies alone. “They are called pups and are like newborns. While the pup is still attached to its mother, plant it in its own container in lightweight, easily drainable soil. Wait to detach until the pup is established on its own and then cut them apart. You’ll be able to tell it’s established once there is new growth.”
She also recommends planting a few babies in the same pot. “This also works for a mature plant you want to fill out and thicken a bit more. Don’t do this hydroponically, but rather grow them in lightweight drainable soil.”