Spider plant: origin, types & toxicity


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 some of the least demanding houseplants. Practically indestructible, these plants are ideal for beginners or for those of us who simply prefer easy-care plants.

Spider plants with many offshoots
Spider plants are popular, easy-care houseplants with lush foliage [Photo: Rose Makin/ Shutterstock.com]

Common spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are decorative houseplants that look great in hanging baskets. Find out all there is to know about spider plants and discover some of the most beautiful varieties of this popular houseplant.

Spider plant flowers, origin & properties

Chlorophytum comosum is the most common spider plant species to be kept as a houseplant. While there are other spider plant species as well, they are harder to come by and more difficult to care for. Keep reading to find out how these varieties differ from each other.

Spider plants, also known as spider ivy, hen and chickens or ribbon plants, are members of the asparagus family known as Asparagaceae. They originate from southern Africa, where they are usually found in the undergrowth in mountainous regions and regions with rivers and bushes. Spider plants are clump-forming plants with white, fleshy roots that grow up to 60cm tall and even work well as groundcovers. Their leaves are long and narrow, growing up to 45cm long, and grow in dense bundles. Depending on the variety, the foliage is either fully green or has white or yellow stripes. At the end of the long stems where spider plants flower, you will also eventually notice offshoots, known as pups or spiderettes. These make propagating spider plants easy. Find out how to plant spider plants correctly in our separate article.

Spider plants in the wild
In its natural habitat, spider plants take on a different form [Photo: Jandro March/ Shutterstock.com]

Spider plant flowers

Spider plants can flower almost all year round when kept somewhere that gets enough light on a daily basis. The hermaphrodite flowers are white, star-shaped and form clusters of one to six on an inflorescence. The inflorescences grow up to 1m long, and produce the previously mentioned spiderettes that weigh the stem down in a strong arch. This ensures that the spider plant babies can reach the ground and take root. If you want lots of these spiderettes, be sure to care for your spider plant correctly. Typically, most of the flowers of indoor spider plants do not fully develop. But when they do, the plant then also develops the rarely seen capsule fruits that contain three black seeds each.

Spider plant baby with flowers
New plants can easily be grown from the offshoots [Photo: Tia Thompson/ Shutterstock.com]

Are spider plants air-purifying?

Spider plants actively improve the quality of the air indoors by filtering it and, like other plants, releasing oxygen back into the environment through photosynthesis. They absorb harmful substances such as formaldehyde, xylenes and toluene from the air and bind fine dust in the waxy coating of their outermost cell layers. Spider plants’ ability to purify the air has been proven in various studies. However, many plants are needed for the effects to be significant. Having one or two spider plants in a room is not enough to reap their air-purifying benefits. Unfortunately, this also applies to other air-purifying plants.

Spider plant lookalikes

At first glance, mondo grass (Ophiopogon jaburan) bears a strong resemblance to spider plants, especially the variegated variety. However, mondo grass leaves are narrower, giving the plant an airier appearance.

Person holding a spider plant
Spider plants are known for their air-purifying effect [Photo: Mykola Kolomiets/ Shutterstock.com]

Beautiful spider plant species and varieties

Here are some more spider plant species and their different varieties.

Common spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Chlorophytum comosum is the most commonly known spider plant species, and the variegated varieties are commonplace in shops. Here are some popular varieties:

  • ˈBonnieˈ: this spider plant variety is also known as the curly spider plant. Its leaves have a broad white stripe down the middle and are noticeably curly.
  • ˈVariegatumˈ: this variety’s leaves have white edges, and it is arguably the best-selling spider plant variety.
  • ˈMilky Wayˈ: this variety has grass-like thin leaves with white edges.
  • ˈVittatumˈ: this variety dons a broad white stripe down the middle of its leaves.
  • ˈLemonˈ: this is one of the few varieties left that still has pure green leaves.
Curly spider plant near window
The curly leaves of the ˈBonnieˈ variety make the growth appear more compact [Photo: ArtCreationsDesignPhoto/ Shutterstock.com]

Green orange spider plant (Chlorophytum orchidastrum)

Green orange spider plants have broad green leaves atop bright orange stems. These plants grow 30 to 40cm tall and wide. Chlorophytum orchidastrum flowers are short-lived and rarely seen on houseplants. Some other common names are Sierra Leone lilies and fire flash.

Chlorophytum orchidastrum with browning leaves
Green orange spider plant leaves do not tolerate direct sunlight

Hawaiian spider plant (Chlorophytum viridescens)

This spider plant species is similar to Chlorophytum comosum. Its narrow, elongated leaves start off variegated, but as they age, they lose their variegation and turn completely green. Hawaiian spider plant flowers and offshoots are identical to those of the common spider plant.

Tip: The spider plant variety Chlorophytum laxum also looks like Chlorophytum comosum, but it is much rarer.

Are spider plants poisonous?

Spider plants are not toxic to humans, cats or dogs. So, if you have curious toddlers or pets, there is no need to worry about keeping spider plants in your home! Nevertheless, as these plants are not meant for consumption, it is best to discourage humans and pets from eating them.

While spider plants are safe for those of us with furry friends, not all plants are pet-friendly. For suggestions on which ones are safe to keep in your home, check out our article on pet-friendly plants for the home and garden.

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