Commonly known as spider plants or as aeroplane plants, the African plant Chlorophytum comosum has long been a popular houseplant. It tolerates a range of light, soil and water conditions and has an very high threshold for neglect, making it a low maintenance option for a indoor container or hanging plant. In warmer climates, it can thrive outdoors as well. The plant's unique growth pattern, with tiny plantlets dangling from its leaves, has drawn attention since the 1700s, when Europeans first imported it from its native habitats in southern and western Africa.
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In order to grow spider plants outdoors, you'll need a sufficiently warm climate, comparable to their native habitats in sub-Saharan Africa. Spider plants grow well in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, which correspond to the very warmest parts of the United States. However, even in these warm climates, the lightest of frosts can damage or kill off the plants' delicate leaves. If you can protect the plants from any frost, they can even grow as evergreens in zones 10 and 11. In areas further north, simply grow the plants in pots or hanging baskets, bringing them indoors during the winter months and returning them to a spot outdoors for the summer.
When given plenty of room to grow outdoors, the spider plant's long and arching leaves will spill outward, measuring anywhere from 6 to 12 inches, with its distinctive small, "spider-like" offsets at the ends of the blades. The leaves range in colour from solid green to green with streaks of white or yellow. The spider plant produces small, white flowers, measuring approximately 3/4 inches in diameter, which bloom year-round. When a flower finishes, it develops into a small, leathery black seed capsule. The most striking feature of the spider plant, its offshoots or plantlets, look like small versions of the main plant, forming at the tips of the gracefully arching branches.
Spider plants' popularity is largely due to their resilience, making them extremely easy to care for. When growing a spider plant outdoors, place it in well-drained soil with moderate acidity. Excessively waterlogged soil is likely to cause root rot. Keep the soil moderately moist, as spider plants are not particularly drought resistant. On the other hand, missing the occasional watering is very unlikely to harm the plant. For variegated varieties, avoid full sun. Also check that the plant's water source doesn't have high fluoride levels, which can cause the leaves to turn brown at the tips.
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