The Chlorophytum comosum is one of the easiest houseplants to take care of. Although its scientific name may sound like a disease you can badly acquire, the specific epithet comosum which literally means having “abundant hair” is derived from its turf-like leaves.
If you are still having a hard time remembering the long scientific name, you can simply call it spider plant or airplane plant. Yes, you read it right — spiders!
The common name is used to refer to the spidey-looking offsets of the plant called “pups.” These pups are miniature versions of the mother plant and they hang around to meet the ground. You can also cut them if you wish to propagate your spiders.
Spider plants do not offer only elegance to your homes but also purify the surrounding air. Similar to peace lilies, they can absorb air pollutants such as formaldehyde and xylene. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also considered this plant to be among the top air purifiers in their Clean Air Study in 1989 (*).
Where can you find spider plants in the wild?
A genus of almost 200 species, they are natives of tropical and subtropical regions primarily in Africa, Asia, and Australia. They reach a height of 1 foot, width of 2 feet, and the trailing stems extend up to 3 feet in length.
They prefer being exposed to bright indirect light. Direct sun can burn the leaves while a full shade can lose the color of the foliages. They are hardy plants and can grow anywhere as long as the temperature is kept at ideal ranges of 16 degrees Celsius and up. Humidity levels must be also maintained at 45% and higher, otherwise, the foliage can turn brown and paper-like.
Many ornamental growers plant them in baskets to show off a curtain of funky itsy bitsy pups.
Roles of potting soil in maintaining plant health
Soil is one of the most important things to know when it comes to learning how to take care of spider plants.
Potting soil is the term used to refer to the growing substrate of plants grown in a container or pot. In a natural environment, it is similar to the roles the ground plays. Such functions include the following:
The soil provides anchorage for the roots of the plants. The roots need a physical structure where they can hold tightly to maintain an upright position. If the grip is strong enough, it can even prevent uprooting caused by strong winds and rain.
Every plant needs a lot of essential nutrients to support its growth and development. The soil is similar to a factory where they can get all these nutrients.
The soil acts as a reserve tank of water. When it rains, a volume of water is stored below the ground surface. Plants drink this water through their roots and use it to fuel their everyday activities.
Leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen to the atmosphere in a process called photosynthesis. Below the ground roots do the opposite. Roots absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide via respiration. The process allows the plant to consume energy for growth and development. The soil provides the space where the gas exchange happens.
Potting soil may or may not contain regular soil. Soil that is collected from the ground is heavy and easily compacted when used alone for container-grown plants. A potting soil that does not contain any soil is called a potting mix.
What makes a good potting soil?
Good potting soil must be able to mimic the characteristics of the soil where a particular plant is growing naturally. The idea is that not all plants will require the same kind of potting soil. Succulents and cacti that are accustomed to arid regions require a fast-draining substrate; whereas, ferns that grow on the understory of forests will love consistently moist soil.
It must also be free from pests that can cause diseases in plants, does not contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals, does not have excessive salts and nutrients, does not have a foul smell, and has a well-balanced pH level. The weight must neither be too heavy to lift and suffocate the roots nor too light that it is easily trampled.
How to make the best spider plant soil
Spider plants thrive well in a mix that is nutrient-rich, fast-draining yet able to hold substantial amounts of water. These are characteristics of a general indoor plant mix sold in different commercial stores and garden centers. Such potting soil is a blend of various organic and inorganic materials primarily those that are listed in the table below.
|Coco coir||Increases water absorption of the potting soil; holds nutrients that can be absorbed by the plant’s roots; alternative use for garden soil; does not contain harmful pests; becomes organic matter over time; provides support and anchorage to the roots; does not contain weed seeds||60%|
|Perlite||Prevents compaction of the potting soil; improves air circulation in the rhizosphere; holds water in-between spaces that can be released once needed by the roots||20%|
|Vermiculite||Prevents sinking of the potting mix; loosens the soil; improves aeration of the roots; stores more water than perlite that can be used by the roots; holds nutrients||20%|
You can also add other materials to improve your potting mix:
- Peat moss
- Fine barks
- Coarse sand
- Wetting agent
- Slow-release fertilizers
Take note that there is no right or wrong potting soil recipe as long as it makes your spider plants vibrant and healthy. Feel free to experiment and be creative as you enjoy the process. Your plants will not blame you if you think you have made a mistake. This is all part of gardening!
When is the best time to repot spider plants?
The best time to do repotting of your spider plants is during spring and early summer. They have an active growth phase during this period which will allow them to settle faster in their new container.
They are also fast-growing indoor plants and a healthy one may require repotting once a year or every two years. But if you notice some signs that your plant may need immediate repotting already, now can be the right time. These signs include:
- Roots that have outgrown their containers
- Plants showing off symptoms of soil-borne diseases
- Potting soil has become too compacted
- Potting soil that is easily waterlogged and does not drain well
- Potting soil has a foul odor
How to repot spider plants?
- Give your spider plants a thorough drink of water a day or two prior to repotting. This will ease pulling out of the plant from the container.
- Choose a container that is a little larger than the root ball. Pots that are too big retain more water that can drown the roots. Make sure it has drainage holes where excess water can escape to.
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot. You can gently wiggle it to loosen the soil.
- Once the root ball is finally out of the pot, you can remove dead roots using clean sharp scissors or shears.
- Spider plants have tubers with a tangled root mass. You can divide and plant it in separate containers.
- Fill up ⅓ of the pot with fresh potting soil.
- Place the plant into the center of the pot.
- Fill the empty spaces with the potting soil up to the rim.
- Water the plant thoroughly. If the soil sinks, add more of the soil mix.
- Lastly, place your newly potted plant in a place with bright indirect light. Do not add fertilizers yet until you see new roots growing.