Caring for spider plants: watering, pruning & common problems

Alina
Alina
Alina
Alina

For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

Spider plants are not very demanding plants. They are perfect for those of us who would like some greenery in the home but cannot dedicate much time to caring for plants.

Spider plant in hanging basket
Hanging baskets are particularly suitable for spider plants [Photo: ellinnur bakarudin/ Shutterstock.com]

There are a few species of spider plants (Chlorophytum), but here we focus on the common spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). No matter how much time or gardening experience you have, these plants are easy enough for everyone. Read on to learn all about caring for spider plants as well as the most common care mistakes and pests.

Are spider plants easy to care for?

Spider plants are among the least demanding and easiest-to-care-for houseplants. Whilst they can cope with being neglected from time to time, giving your spider plants just a little attention will help them live up to their full potential.

Watering spider plants

Spider plants need watering about once or twice a week from spring to late summer. Use rainwater if possible. Spider plants are sensitive to waterlogging, so allow the soil to dry out a little between waterings. It is better to miss a watering than to overwater, as spider plants have storage roots that allow them to cope better with periods of drought. One of the tell-tale signs of your spider plant’s soil being too dry is when the tips of the leaves start turning brown. If it gets to the point where the soil is too dry to absorb water, immerse your spider plant in a container of water until the soil soaks it up. If kept in a cooler spot during the winter months, reduce how much you water your spider plant. Otherwise, continue to water your spider plant regularly.

Person watering spider plants
Spider plants can handle not being watered from time to time [Photo: Kostikova Natalia/ Shutterstock.com]

Fertilising spider plants

Fertilise your spider plant every two to four weeks from March to October. This will help it to grow lush and full. A liquid fertiliser, like our primarily organic Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food, is ideal. Ours is a potassium-rich NK fertiliser and is easy to apply while watering. It is also important to check the composition of soil. Too much nitrogen will cause a spider plant to grow soft and excessively long shoots, making the plant more susceptible to pests and diseases. Our fertiliser also contains living microorganisms (Bacillus sp.), which help with root growth and nutrient absorption and also makes the plant more resistant to pests and diseases.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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(5/5)
  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly
£10.99

Tip: Fertilisers with reduced phosphorus content help to conserve valuable resources. If you notice signs of phosphorus deficiency, it is time for fresh soil. That said, fast-growing spider plants will likely need repotting long before the phosphorus reserves in the soil run out.

Pruning spider plants

For the most part, spider plants do not need pruning. To prevent your spider plant from forming its poisonous seeds, prune away any withered flowers. You can also cut off the offshoots, known as spiderettes or pups, and use them to propagate spider plants. Pluck any completely withered leaves off the plant. If only the tips of the leaves are browning, feel free to cut them off with a clean pair of scissors.

Person pruning brown leaf tips
To make a spider plant more attractive again, remove brown or damaged tips [Photo: Alina Boldina/ Shutterstock.com]

Common spider plant care mistakes

Some of the most common care mistakes include keeping spider plants somewhere too warm and fertilising them in winter. Both of these things cause spider plants to grow long, narrow and delicate leaves. This also makes spider plants more susceptible to pests. Additionally, if a spider plant becomes root bound, it can no longer store as much water, causing the root ball to dry out. For this reason, you need to repot rootbound spider plants. Lastly, avoid fertilising a spider plant with too much nitrogen as this can lead to bacterial root rot.

Brown tips on spider plant leaves

Certain spider plant care mistakes quickly show themselves in the plant’s foliage. Spider plant leaves are sensitive to being in contact with surfaces, and their tips can turn brown in response. Putting your spider plant in a hanging basket or on a flower stand prevents this by allowing the leaves and flowers to hang down undisturbed. Other possible causes for leaf tips turning brown are insufficient humidity and too much sunlight. To remedy these problems, regularly mist your spider plant with soft water or move it elsewhere, respectively. Waterlogging and pest infestations can also lead to leaves turning brown and dying.

Person misting spider plant with water
Misting spider plants with water helps to increase the humidity [Photo: tativophotos/ Shutterstock.com]

Spider plant pests

The common spider plant is a robust plant that is not very susceptible to pests and diseases. However, the following pests may turn up occasionally:

  • Aphids (Aphidoidea) are often a problem during milder winters. Excessive nitrogen and too much water can also make the plant more susceptible to this pest.
  • Mealybugs (Pseudococcidae) like warm rooms with low humidity.
  • Scale insects (Coccoidea) tend to infest houseplants in winter and spring when the plants are weakened by unsuitable conditions.
  • Spider mites (Tetranychidae) spread mainly in warm, dry conditions. Excessive nitrogen fertilisation also encourages infestations.
  • Thrips (Thysanoptera) thrive in places with low humidity.

Are spider plants hardy?

Spider plants are not winter hardy in the UK. They stop growing at temperatures as low as 10°C. Because of this, you should overwinter yours indoors. As temperatures approach 10°C, bring your spider plant inside and place it in a somewhat cooler but bright room. Do not fertilise your spider plant during the winter months and only water it occasionally. From March onwards, place the plant in a warmer location and give it some fertiliser. Spider plants can also stay in the same place all year round. In this case, it is important to avoid fertilising and watering the plants too much, as these mistakes make spider plants more susceptible to pests.

Scale insects on spider plant
Spider plants are rarely attacked by pests such as scale insects [Photo: SmartfonWITHmeALWAYS/ Shutterstock.com]

In our article on how to plant and repot spider plants, we give step-by-step instructions for giving spider plants favourable conditions for strong and healthy growth.

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