How to care for a spider plant without killing it

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Susan in the cubicle over from you at work has a flourishing container garden surrounding her computer and desk. Her variegated spider plant is producing too many offshoots, and she decides to cut one off and give it to you. Thanks Susan, now what?

Working in an office can be pretty bleak. Especially open concept offices with cubicles, and walls in need of new paint. Cubicle gardens are becoming a popular way to spruce up such a depressing environment. But what do you do when someone gives you a cutting of their overgrown spider plant, and you don’t know what to do next?

Don’t worry, spider plants (also known as Chlorophytums) are actually a really easy plant to take care of, and they’re a pretty good choice for an office. Because they’re pretty low maintenance, they tend to do really well in offices. So even though you don’t have that desk by the window, your new cutting is sure to do well if you follow these tips.

Potting

Potting a new baby spider plant can seem daunting, but is usually pretty straight forward. If the baby plant has been cut from the parent plant, place the baby on top of water.

The root clump, or cluster at the base should be in the water, but the remainder of the plant above water. Leave it in water until the root cluster grows roots about an inch long.

Once the plant has its own root system, place the plant in a small 3″-4″ pot of mix blend soil. If the pot is too large the plant will struggle to fill out the pot with roots, stifling its growth.

If the baby is still attached to the parent, place it onto separate pot of soil. The baby will grow roots into the soil while still attached to the parent. After six weeks the baby plant will be rooted enough to be severed from the parent plant.

Now its time to find a good home for your spider plant to get nutrients to grow.

Lighting

If you are caring for a variegated spider plant, you will need to make sure it has a lot of light. The variegation of the leaves can diminish if in low light situations. Meaning, the green and white stripes might disappear, or the green sections may increase as a way of adapting.

Even if you are not near a window though, the bright light from the overhead fluorescents should be enough to keep your spider plant looking healthy and fresh.

If the spider plant is not variegated, it will still need light, but may require less. The green of the leaves contain chlorophyll which generates food and energy for growth. The less green on the leaves, the more light it needs to convert for food.

Read here for information on choosing a grow light

Watering

Spider plants don’t need a huge amount of care in this area. They need to be watered about once a week. Water thoroughly so the soil is soaked, but not so much that the plant is swimming. It should be soaked to the touch, but not enough for anything to be floating.

If they dry out too much, the colour will fade away from the leaves leaving them a very pale, almost white. If spider plants are left like this they can die. But if you catch it before they have wilted they will perk back up with some water.

Watering is most crucial when the plants are young, and just establishing a root system. Once the plant has started to grow forgetting to water on a regular schedule now and then won’t do any real harm.

Place the spider plant on your desk, or in a spot where you can see it. This way you will notice when the soil has dried out and is in need of a drink.

RePotting

After about six weeks or so your spider plant should have an established root. Your plant will need to spend a few more months in this first pot size before it is ready to move on.

Once the leaves begin to grow, and their length overtakes the size of its current pot its time to repot.

Repotting should be done to allow space for the roots to grow. Find a pot that will allow for the current plant to be surrounded by 1″ of soil on all sides.

Steps to Repotting

  1. Place an inch of soil at the bottom of the new pot
  2. Take your spider plant out of its current pot, keeping the root and soil in the shape of the pot.
  3. Place your spider plant in the centre of the new pot, making sure that the top of the plant is level with the pot. If it is not, add or take away soil underneath to make sure it reaches the top of the pot.
  4. Fill in soil around the spider plant and gently pack down.
  5. Water the newly potted plant to encourage settling.
  6. Place plant in a well lit area to continue growing.

Propagating

When your spider plant has re-established itself, it will begin to grow again, and start to flower.

The flowers of the spider plant appear on the ends of long yellowish shoots. These shoots later develop further to produce baby spider plants like the one you received from Susan.

Passing on your wisdom

All this and the cycle repeats itself over again. Soon you will be the one gifting someone else a new baby spider plant. By the time your spider plant is growing its own babies, you might have added a few plants, adding to your own desk garden.

Comment below to tell me about your first plant experience.