Knowledge to Grow – Spider Plant

During a visit to my daughters’ apartment last spring I noticed “Spidey” was looking a bit under the weather.  Droopy, brown leaf tips and rather pale, she asked me if I would take it home for some plant doctoring.  I said I would of course as I cannot take seeing a plant in pain.  “Spidey” is looking much better now and will be returning to its Indy home soon.

The Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is one of the easiest houseplants to maintain.  They have long, arching leaves, some reaching up to 18 inches and the color can range from being plain green to a variegated green and white stripe.  They also produce stems with daughter plants or spiderettes and little white flowers at their tips.  They produce most of these offshoots in the fall when the days shorten.  The spiderettes can be left on the stem, which will create a very full hanging basket or they can be removed after roots have formed and placed into a pot ted growing medium to produce new plants.

It will grow under a wide range of light intensities, but its appearance is strongly influenced by the level of light it receives.  It is recommended to keep the plant away from direct sunlight as it prefers bright, indirect light.  Direct midday sunlight can scorch the leaves.  Move the spider plant a few feet away from the window during the winter months to protect it from drafts.  It tolerates artificial light rather well and therefore makes an excellent plant for offices and commercial settings.

They also act as an air purifier by removing formaldehyde.  Plants make their own food through a process called photosynthesis.  They take in carbon dioxide and certain other pollutants from the atmosphere and release oxygen. Research has shown that certain houseplants can play an important role in cleaning the air we breathe.

It isn’t very often that you see a spider plant with a disease.  Watering issues plus insects and mites are their main problems.  A soil mix that does not drain quickly, being placed in a pot with no drainage hole or watering too much will result in root rot.  Leaf tip burn can be caused by too much fertilizer, water that is high in soluble salts, water that contains fluoride, low humidity and soil that is excessively dry.  Spider plants are not heavy feeders so they only require a minimum amount of fertilizer.  I use spring water to water my plants as my house water is softened.  The low humidity issue can be solved by placing a pebble filled tray beneath the spider plant pot with water in it.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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