A member of the lily family, the spider plant Chlorophytum comosum is a popular and easy to care for houseplant, forgiving of most frost-free conditions. Its unusual method of vegetative reproduction makes it an attractive plant for hanging baskets. An evergreen perennial native to South Africa, it also grows well outside as groundcover, edging or in borders and is a good choice for a beginner. The spider plant is one of 19 plants tested by NASA and found to be effective in fighting indoor pollution.
The spider plant grows as a grass-like clump of long, narrow, variegated leaves approximately 8 to 16 inches long. The most common variety grown indoors, "Vittatum," has a dark green, recurving leaf with a white stripe down the centre. Long, arching wiry stalks up to 5 foot in length carry small white flowers which develop into small plantlets or "baby spiders."
The plantlets root easily outdoors wherever they touch the ground. Indoors they can be planted in their own pots while still attached to the main plant and detached once rooted. Lightly pin each plantlet in place on top of the soil with a hairpin or opened paper clip. Alternatively detach them from the parent and root them in water, planting them in individual pots once the roots are approximately 3 inches long.
Remove the main plant from its pot and separate the root mass to make new plants, to be potted individually. If the plant is growing outside, use a knife to slice into the soil and remove the new plant without the disturbing the original. Spider plants produce most plantlets when they are slightly pot bound, so don't use too big a pot.
Spider plants tolerate most conditions except frost. They do best in bright light and when the soil is kept moist in summer and allowed to dry out between waterings in winter. Brown leaf tips may be a sign that the soil has become over dry or that hard water has made the soil salty. Water with rainwater if possible.