The Secret to Caring for Spider Plants? Don't Overthink It.

A little sun and not too much water are just about all your spider plant needs.

When it comes to spider plant care, less is often more. In fact, you don't need a green thumb to grow spider plants indoors or outside in the garden. Here are some expert tips to help your spider plants thrive.

How to Plant a Spider Plant

To start out on the right foot, remove your spider plant from the plastic container as soon as you bring it home from the nursery. The temporary pots are not only unattractive, but they are also inefficient, preventing air from circulating and eventually causing the plant to rot.

Re-pot your spider plant in something porous, like a terracotta planter with a drainage hole. 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.

Caring for Your Indoor Spider Plant

It's easy to grow a spider plant indoors. "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 at sunrise 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.

Sunlight Requirements

"Spider plants appreciate bright to 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 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 or directly shining on the plant, they will burn."

Watering Requirements

Every spider plant has its own water needs. Bendall's rule of thumb is to wait until the top 2 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 feel for how quickly water evaporates from soil in your home or office." In spring and summer, the water will likely evaporate faster, so you'll need to keep a closer eye on it.

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 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.

How to Fix Common Spider Plant Problems

If you overwater your spider plant, it may or may not be viable. If the leaves start to turn yellow or lime green, don't worry, but proper care is key here. "Take the plant to a place where it can receive a little more shade and be sure the topsoil is dry before watering again," Bendall says. Then remove all the yellow leaves.

If you notice the leaves turning brown, the plant has likely been overwatered, probably with tap water. The high levels of salt in tap water are toxic for tropical plants like spider plants. Switch to distilled water if possible. If just the tips of the leaves are brown, your spider plant is probably fine. 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," Bendall says. "If you must trim the leaves, just know it can be risky. Be sure to trim off the brown tips with sharp, sterile pruning shears, or use 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."

If the leaves are fully wilting, your spider plant may be too far gone. Bendall suggests giving it 10 days to see what happens. If no progress is made, the plant is probably not salvageable.

What to Do With Spider Plant Babies

Sometimes your spider plant will sprout little babies. If you are growing the plant indoors, Bendall suggests leaving them 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."

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