Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Care for Spider Plants, a Low-Fuss Greenery Favorite

updated Jul 30, 2023
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(Image credit: Rachel Jacks)

When it comes to nicknames, the spider plant (or Chlorophytum comosum) is only really rivaled by the monstera deliciosa. Ribbon plant, St. Bernard’s lily, spider ivy, and hen and chickens are just a few of the monikers the spider plant has gotten over the years. Like pothos, spider plants are known for their ease of care, which makes them great for first-time plant owners and those who usually opt for faux plants.

Spider plants are native to coastal areas of South Africa. As houseplants, they’re great for adding texture and greenery. They’re especially practical additions for small homes because they do well when they’re root-bound. Their love for “cramped” spaces makes them easy to move around and maintain.

Quick Overview

Best Tips for Spider Plant Care

  • Make sure they get plenty of light: Spider plants love lots of indirect light.
  • Give spider plants some humidity: They don’t like dry air, so bathrooms are great spots for these plants.
  • Overwatering is a common problem: Let the soil dry out between waterings.

If you get their watering and lighting right, you’ll have a happy plant that sprouts off many more smaller plants. Learn more about this spectacular variation below and how to care for their variegated tendrils.

What kind of light and climate does a spider plant need?

Spider plants can be grown outside in zones 9 to 11, where they prefer light shade and well-draining soil. But indoors, they really aren’t low-light plants: They thrive in lots of indirect light, between 55 and 80 degrees F.

Spider plants also love humidity, so the perfect spot for them is near a sunny window in a steamy bathroom. But as long as they have access to some sunlight, they’re relatively tolerant to many conditions. If the temperatures are right, a summer vacation outdoors in the shade can help an indoor spider plant put on some growth.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

How often should I water a spider plant?

Spider plants are known to be impossible to kill, and while they don’t need much attention, they’re not invincible. Overwatering spider plants is the most common reason they die, so be sure to note when you last watered your plant to avoid this.

Spider plants should not be watered more often than once per week. Allow the soil to fully dry before watering again. The best way to see if the soil is fully dry is to stick your finger in to feel it.

How should I water a spider plant?

Follow these spider plant watering tips to keep your plant happy.

  • Spider plants are susceptible to root rot if waterlogged, so they need to be planted in a pot with drainage holes. Cover the drainage holes with broken pottery to keep the soil from washing out, and plant in standard potting soil.
  • If your plant has lots of brown tips on its leaves, you can use distilled water to help flush out minerals, salts, and fertilizer.

How do I clean the spider plant’s leaves?

Because spider plants appreciate more humid environments, on top of watering, a light misting around its leaves is always a great idea. When you do this, it’s a great time to check the plant’s leaves for dust, dirt, and bugs.

To keep them clean, use a soft microfiber cloth to dust the leaves — don’t forget to dust the tops and bottoms of each. You can add a little bit of water to your cloth to better help remove debris.

How do I make my spider plant bushier?

If you want your spider plant to grow fuller, there are a few things that you can try.

  • Prune regularly. Cut any yellowed or brown leaves at the base of the spider plant using sharp scissors that have been sanitized with alcohol.
  • Remove baby spider plants. Cut the stem leading to the baby spider plant at the base of the mother plant. Removing these ensures that the mother plant does not divert any additional energy to the plantlets.
  • Add baby spider plants to the main pot. Propagating baby spider plants in soil or water and then adding them to the main pot can help give your spider plant a fuller look.

Why are my spider plant’s leaves turning yellow?

There are a few reasons why you might notice that your spider plant’s leaves are turning yellow. Here are some common causes and solutions.

Yellow leaves might signal too much or too little light. Spider plants like bright indirect light. If they are in low-light conditions, or if they are exposed to direct sunlight, their leaves might yellow.

Try moving your plant to a location that is out of direct sunlight, but that still receives a lot of indirect sunlight.

Yellow leaves might also indicate that the air is too dry. This is especially common in winter, when indoor air holds a lot less humidity. A room humidifier can help restore the air’s moisture to ideal levels.

A spider plant might also have yellow leaves if it is being overwatered. Make sure that the soil is sufficiently dry before watering next.

Pests can be another cause of yellow leaves on spider plants. Keep a close watch on the foliage of your plant for mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, and other houseplant pests that can damage its leaves.

Want more information on diagnosing your plant’s issues? Check out our houseplant troubleshooting guide.

Credit: Yaoinlove/Shutterstock

Should I cut the babies off my spider plant?

Although you can divide an overgrown plant into multiples, you don’t have to wait for the plant to double in size to propagate it. The flowers that form in response to increasing day length will develop into mini spider plants, called “spiderettes,” which are easy to grow into new plants.

  • The best way is to leave the spiderette attached to the mother plant, but place it on a new pot of soil so that the nodules and tiny roots on the bottom of the plantlet are touching the soil. Keep the new soil moist, and cut the stem between the new and old plant after the spiderette has rooted.
  • Spiderettes can also be cut off and rooted. If you see spiderettes on a plant in a business or a friend’s home, asking if you can take a baby plantlet is a great way to increase your home jungle size. 
  • They can be rooted in soil or water. They will root faster in water, but sometimes plants rooted in water have difficulty adapting to soil, especially if they’ve been in water for a long time.

Is a spider plant toxic to dogs and cats?

Luckily, spider plants are a safe option that allows for plants and pets to exist in harmony. According to ASPCA, both cats and dogs do just fine if they accidentally ingest the leaves of the spider plant.