One of the most tolerant and easy-to-grow plants out there, spider plants have earned their way into almost everyone's list of top 10 best beginner plants. I had one inside on the windowsill of my first job ever, and the one given to me last year here in Portugal is outside in a pot, thriving. They are forgiving of both over and under-watering and tolerant of a wide range of light levels. It was originally groundcover in the South African tropical rainforest, where there are no fewer than 65 different species. It's a member of the asparagus family and is part of the same genus as the agave.
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), sometimes known as spider ivy or ribbon plant, is considered one of the most adaptable of plants and the easiest to grow. It will handle a wide range of conditions and suffers from few problems, other than brown tips. The spider plant is so named because of its appearance and puts out long stems with a show of small white flowers, which then turn into ’babies’, plantlets, pups or ‘spiderettes’ (I love that last one) which dangle down from the mother plant like spiders on a web. You can leave the plantlets on the plant, which look particularly good in hanging baskets, but they will drain the energy from the ‘mother’ (like most kids do!).
Sun or no sun?
They like bright, indirect light, so need a little shady or dappled place if outside, as direct sunlight has the potential to scorch the leaves. Spider plants will grow in low light, but they'll grow slowly and may not produce plantlets, and the leaves of the striped variety may lose their variegation.
They don’t require special attention to their moisture levels. Try to water your spider plant about once a week, and letting the soil dry out a little between waterings is a good idea.
How long do spider plants live?
These hardy plants can live for a long time. The typical lifespan of a healthy spider plant is about 20 years, with some saying they have kept theirs alive for over 50 years. These plants can withstand a fair amount of neglect, and thrive with moderate attention. In the nineteenth century, they became a popular houseplant in Victorian England.
The plant is posed as non-toxic, but it can potentially be harmful to cats, who like to chew grass sometimes, and if eaten can lead to an upset stomach and vomiting. Although tough when it comes to pests, they are susceptible to some pest infestations.
Good or bad Feng Shui?
Spider plants are believed to bring luck and good fortune because of their natural, strong, long vines, the vines symbolising stability in life, and as an easy-to-care-for plant with great air purifying properties, they emit strong earth energy, making it a popular choice for 'lucky plant’ hobbyists.
Can I put spider plant in my bedroom?
There has always been some controversy as to whether plants should or shouldn’t live in a bedroom. During the day, plants give off a considerable amount of oxygen while simultaneously reducing the carbon dioxide levels in the air. We know this switches at night — hence the urban legend about not keeping plants in the bedroom — but the additional oxygen carries over through the night-time, helping our bodies. The plants that exchange gases at night further increase oxygen levels.
Just like humans, plants give off carbon dioxide. During respiration, a process that is almost the opposite of photosynthesis, part of the very carbon dioxide they take in for photosynthesis is returned to the atmosphere. It was believed, wrongly, for quite some time that this could cause carbon dioxide poisoning. While most plants release carbon dioxide at night — because photosynthesis halts when there is no sunlight — the amount given off isn’t enough to be harmful.
It’s known that being close to plants and taking care of them helps reduce stress and anxiety, so why not have them in the space where you want to feel peaceful and tranquil?
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.