Spider plants are the plants that keep giving! Not only are they fantastic air purifiers and jazz up any plant shelf — they produce tons of babies (spiderettes) that are extremely easy to propagate, if you know what to do!
Now if you don’t have spiderettes just yet and you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for them to emerge, read on for tips and tricks to make spider babies boom!
And if your spider plant is abounding with spiderettes, then giddy-up!
Encouraging Babies to Grow
Here’s your simple spider baby equation:
Crowded roots + happy plant = babies galore!
Let’s break that down a bit. Spider plants are more motivated to produce babies when the root system is running out of space. This sends a signal to mama spider that she ought to branch out, literally.
And what makes a spider plant happy, you ask? Here are a few things you can do to make your chlorophytum comosum completely content.
- Plenty of bright, indirect sunlight
- Use filtered water
- Use a pot with drainage holes. Water directly onto the soil (avoid wetting leaves) and give it a good soak. Let all the excess water run out into a sink. Repeat the water and drain cycle a couple times to give spidey a proper drink.
- Let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Spider plants have tuberous roots that hold onto water, just like succulent leaves do — and this gives them a reservoir to dip into when soil runs dry.
By the way, have you ever seen brown tips on your spider plant leaves? There are a few things that can cause this: unfiltered water (spider plants are particularly sensitive to fluoride in water), too much direct sun (or leaf tips touch windows, which magnify sun), and too much heat. A brown line along the centre of a leaf, however, is a sign of overwatering.
Follow these care steps, and you’ll have spiderettes popping out left, right and center!
Choosing a Spiderette
Find a baby with roots growing already, and pick the largest one with the most roots to propagate. If the roots have not emerged yet, or look a little wimpy, just give the spiderettes a couple more weeks to mature. The picture below compares a spiderette with not enough roots to another with an abundance of roots (you don’t need to wait for the root system to grow that much — somewhere in between those two stages is fine).
When you’ve selected the spiderette(s) to propagate, use a clean, sharp pair of scissors to detach the spiderette from mama spider. Cut at the end of the stem near as close to the spiderette as possible.
Soil vs. Water
You’ll hear people recommend propagating spider babies directly into soil or directly into water, and you may wonder which way is best. We did too! So we polled the gardenstead community for their experience, and also conducted our own head-to-head experiment.
For our little experiment, we took two similar sized spiderettes and planted one in soil, the other in water. Both plants sat at the same windowsill for two weeks. The results are in — both plants took well to their new homes, and neither plant seems to be doing dramatically better than the other. Perhaps the leaves of the spiderette in water have grown more than the leaves of the other plant, but if there is a difference, it’s very slight.
Our community response agrees with our results: whether you propagate into soil or water you’ll have similar results!
So, why choose one over the other? Here’s a list of pros and cons:
- Quick (just grab a cup and water)
- Better for less established roots
- Fun (and reassuring) to watch roots grow
- May be tricky to find a cup that’s a good shape for propagating
- One step and you’re done (but you need to grab soil, etc.)
- Good for more established roots
- Less shock for the roots to go directly into soil
- A little more effort to keep soil at the right moisture level
In the end there’s no right way: you will likely have equal success with both methods, and the choice comes down to what is easiest for you and what materials you have on hand!
Find a cup with a narrow opening so that the roots can sit in water but the leaves will not. If the leaves are left sitting in water, they will become mouldy and rot! Ideally the dish will leave an inch or two of space below below the roots so that the roots have plenty of space to grow into.
Place your spider baby into your chosen cup and add just enough filtered or distilled water to cover the roots (remember that spider plants are sensitive to chemicals in water). Find a spot with lots of bright, indirect light and park your spider baby there.
Once the roots are about 1-2 inches long, your baby is ready to be transplanted into soil. But there’s no rush! Your spiderette will be happy in water for quite a while, so you can pot it into soil at your leisure. Just remember to top up the water periodically!
Thankfully, spider plants are not picky about soil. Regular houseplant potting mix, succulent/cactus mix, or a combo of the two should work well.
Find yourself a small pot with drainage holes. A four inch pot will do! Fill the little pot with moist soil, remove any clumps, then pat it down slightly and leave about half an inch of space at the top.
Take your finger and create a little divot in the centre and stick the spiderette’s roots in, then tuck it in, firming up the soil around it for a bit of stability. Add or remove soil as needed.
Give the soil around your spiderette a splash of water, and place your baby in a location with loads of bright, indirect sun.
Check up on the soil every day and add water as needed to keep the soil moist. Once you see plenty of new growth and the root system seems established, you can start allowing the soil to dry out between waterings!