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Spider Plants (4) new plant owner questions

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

I recently bought 3 spider plants and have been raising one baby my neighbor gave me. The new ones have all been bought this week since I've been caring for the baby so well but I ended up with some questions as result.

I have a fairly large all green spider that had two spiderling/flower stems and appears to be 5 spider plants stuffed into one 6 inch pot. Since the roots were sticking out the bottom I repotted it in an 8 inch pot and prior to repotting the soil seemed to be similar to a seed starting mix. I also notice some leaves are dead, but nothing too worrying.

The second is the type with the white edge and the green center. There are two plants and they were in a 4 inch pot. I transplanted them into a 6 since their pot was broken from roots exiting the bottom.

The third is a Variegated Bonnie, very very curly and has about 17 babies. The tag said 6.6 but only the "rim" was 6.6, it appeared smaller on the bottom. The plant was sticking 1/2" and 1" above the rim of pot and the soil was completely dry. I don't think it received proper watering. Some of the leaves are also turning brown in the center, not just at the tips.
When I removed the drainage to check if the roots were coming out, which they were, the saucer was filled with some dried/crusty stuff. I transplanted it into a 7 inch pot.

So my questions are:
Does anyone know what the crusty stuff might have been?
Since several are in one pot and they are entangled, can I safely divide them and if so would I just simply cut them?

Also a gal at the store gave me some advice:
She said to use filter or distilled water but would using water from my pet fountain be ok?
She suggested I transplant new spider plants with "Nothing but new soil, none of the old", so should I rinse the old soil off the roots?

Added a photo of my newest, will add others if you'd like.

Thumbnail by tikipod
Mount Vernon, OH

It sounds as though maybe the one was dried out or got too much water. The saucer could be dried salts, fertilizer, dirt. If you can use filtered/distilled water would probably be best but you can use regular water, they have a tendency to get salt build up and get brown tips from it.

I guess I wouldn't separate the babies, if the plant looks bad. If it is healthy you could, if they are actually different babies. I use sewing nippers on mine to cut. Then if the soil is really compacted and you can't gently sqeeze the soil loose. Then I would water it then gently sqeeze away the soil. Also rinsing it can do well. I wouldn't worry about getting all the soil off just enough to make it more better. Try not to disturb the roots too much.

Piedmont, SC(Zone 7b)

Sorry tishrh, If the roots are going in a circle then you do need to disturb them, so they will stop going in a circle and spread out.

Mount Vernon, OH

yes, you do, I agree, if it is really pot bound. But if it isn't then i wouldn't.

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

Hi, yes, the crusty stuff could very well be salt/mineral build-up. Not to worry; it sounds like you are doing fine. Spider plants can take a lot of abuse. You are being diligent to get them into a healthy state again. I wouldn't worry about getting every speck of the old dirt off. Just get some or most of it off.

You could divide any tangled mass of spiders into individual plants by gently pulling on the root mass if you'd like to re-pot them individually. Cutting might work if they seem to be hopelessly stuck to each other, but do try to use just your fingers to work the roots apart from each other.

I prefer to put three healthy babies per new pot to give the plant a full look. The water from your pet fountain--I'm not sure what you mean--but anyway, I usually fill a gallon jug with tap water and add about 1/2 teaspoon of granulated Miracle-Gro for watering my houseplants.

If you are interested in trading anything for one of those curly babies! Love 'em! Send me a d-mail. They would probably do fine just clipped, put in a ziploc, and mailed in a thin cardboard box.


Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

Someone on DG told me that Miracle Gro is a no-no for spiders, and so is tap water with flouride and chlorine in it. I'll see if I can find the thread for you.
Here is the post--and it contains a lot more helpful info, too:

This message was edited Jun 23, 2010 11:46 PM

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

I live way out in the country with my own well, so no worries about enhanced water. I'll read up on your link. For what it's worth, I use Miracle-Gro very sparingly. My spiders are gorgeous.

Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

So you dilute it more than they tell you to? I may have to try that, I have tons of that stuff around. Any idea how long it stays good for??

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Well, I guess, the key to Spiderplants is, to neglect them as much, as you can bear. Seriously! I once got one out of a dumpster in mid-winter in Germany. None but a couple of life leaves left. It turned out to be one of the coolest SP's, I ever had.... They thrive on neglect. Being to fussy with them will kill them!

Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

My brother in law watered his nearly to death. I have saved what was left, and it's coming back slowly but surely, lol. He never would listen when we told him he was drowning it...think I'll get him a fern to replace it, lol.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

Oh my, this fell from my watch list. I didn't realize people replied to this!

I posted another topic in the indoor plants forum, recently with an optimist response which has turned out wrong :/

I'm noticing many light colored, not brown, teeny tiny moving mite-like thingies on the soil. I'm not sure what these are but I suspect spider mites, erm mainly because I don't know what else they could be.

Here I was worrying about gnats, turns out I have more to worry about. Oi.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Spider mites live on the underside of the leaves, not in the soil. So I'm not sure what you have, but it's most likely not spider mites.

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

If you aren't sure and want to get rid of the critters, get some Neem and follow the instructions. That should take care of almost any pest and is non-toxic and bio-degradable. I use it on all my plants. Even African Violets don't seem to mind it too much.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

Quote from bsimpson1972 :
If you aren't sure and want to get rid of the critters, get some Neem and follow the instructions. That should take care of almost any pest and is non-toxic and bio-degradable. I use it on all my plants. Even African Violets don't seem to mind it too much.

I've heard about Neem and I know 4 stores sell it here. I'll pick some up when I pick up when we go tomorrow. It's probably good to have a bottle anyways.

My dad said my mom had some troubles with spider mites here before and used some dish soap, I guess with water.

Toronto, Canada

A good solution is Insecticidal soap. Get a nursery-grade type. Mix the suggested solution up in a spray bottle, and completely douse the plant with it. Rinse this off with clean water (do this in a sink or bathtub) and spray the foliage with the soapy water again. To kill the insect(s) and eggs beneath the soil, use a thin stick or knife to aerate the soil, then submerge the entire pot in a 1/2 strength solution of the insecticidal soap and water. This has cured every infestation I've ever had on a house plant. purge the instecticidal soap from the pot by submerging in clean, clear water. this is usually enough.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

The Neem oil worked really well and I haven't seem them since. I also found that switching to terracotta helped, although I'm not sure why.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

The walls of unglazed terra cotta pots are gas permeable, which means they not only allow water vapor to pass through the walls, but other gasses we don't want in soils as well, methane, CO2, and sulfurous compounds among them. Also, if you're using a bagged soil that is water-retentive, the extra permeability of the walls allows the soil to dry faster, which means that a more favorable ratio of air:water returns to the soil faster after watering. Soggy soils at the bottom of containers kills roots, so anything you can do to prevent that from happening is a good thing. The extra watering also forces the gasses I referred to out of the soil every time you water.

Tips copy/pasted from something I wrote for another thread:

A) Most important is to use a soil that drains very freely. This allows you to water copiously, flushing the accumulating salts from the soil each time you water.

B) Fertilize frequently when the plant is growing well, but at low doses - perhaps 1/4 the recommended strength. This, in combination with the favorable watering habit described above, will keep soluble salts levels low, and keep levels from rising due to the accumulative effect we always see when we are forced to water in sips when plants are in water-retentive soils.

C) When watering, using rainwater, snow melt, water from your dehumidifiers, or distilled water, also eliminates the issue of soluble salts in your tap water and will go a long way toward eliminating or minimizing leaf burn.

D) If you make your own soils and use perlite, be sure the perlite is rinsed thoroughly, which removes most of the fluorides associated with it's use.

E) Allowing irrigation water to rest overnight doesn't do anything in the way of helping reduce the amount of fluoride (the compounds are not volatile), and it only helps with chlorine in certain few cases, depending on what method of chlorination was used to treat your tap water.


(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

Tapla I use your 5:1:1 mix, the one with the bark, perlite and peat for all my spider plants. They love it and the combination of it and a terracotta pot prevents over watering.

I also noticed that they don't like having plastic saucers underneath so I only put them under when I go to water (because they are in macrame hangers.) After the water has drained I remove the saucer and they dry out at the bottom better.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Strong work!!! ;o)

Tip - if you water over a saucer, make sure the effluent (the water that is flushed from the soil) can never get back into the soil. Dissolved solids in water quickly reach a state od istonicity, which is a fancy word for the level of salts in the saucer quickl;y equalizing with the salts in the container. Set the container up on a block so the drain holes are always above the collected effluent.

With spiders being particularly sensitive to high fertility (salt) levels, it should help keep your foliage as nice as it can be.

It sounds like you have everything under control! Best luck. ;o)


Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

Does it do any good to use the drops made for removing chlorine, chloramines and ammonia from aquarium water?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I don't know, but generally speaking chlorine and fluorides are not present id drinking water in high enough levels to cause problems for most plants if a favorable o/a level of fertility is maintained. It's similar to blaming low humidity in winter for spoiled foliage. Low humidity is a contributor, just as the presence of some chlorine & fluoride are contributors, but in most cases the actual cause is a EC/TDS (overall level of solutes/salts) in the soil solution that is the actual cause.

This is a MUCH larger problem than most growers realize/recognize. We see so much evidence of it in the winter because plant growth usually slows markedly, and to compensate for the accompanying reduction in the plant's demand for water, we water in small sips to reduce the probability of root rot. This type of watering habit ensures that soluble salts in tap water will continue to accumulate in the soil (you're not flushing them out), even if you are not fertilizing.

Conventional wisdom in houseplant books tells you to stop fertilizing in the winter, but that advice is offered to protect you from yourself. The authors consider that 99% of the growers are growing in a soil that will not allow them to water properly without risking root rot. For years, I have been growing bonsai and houseplants (many of you have seen the hundreds of pictures I've posted at Dave's) that are full and have no evidence of spoiled foliage - not even on any of the plants in the background of the shots. I do this by fertilizing frequently at low doses, making sure I flush the soil of accumulating salts every time I water. In winter, I fertilize EVERY time I water, at very low doses. This is only possible with soils that drain freely enough to allow you to water copiously without the worry that you're creating a favorable environment for root rot. This way of growing ensures that the level of EC/TDS NEVER gets too high, it ensures that nutrients are always available in the soil at a favorable ratio to each other (which prevents antagonistic deficiencies - ask if you don't understand what these are), and it halts the tendency for soil solution pH to creep upward.

FWIW - it's also very helpful to test the pH of your water using a reliable test method (not a cheap pH meter that can't be calibrated). You can add enough vinegar or citric acid to a given volume of water to bring the pH down to about 5.0-5.5. Take note of how much acid it took to lower the pH to your target, and mix that amount into your irrigation water every time you water. This neutralizes the alkalinity of tap water and prevents pH related deficiencies by keeping the pH of your soil solution at a favorable level.

If you decide to do this (I do it in the winter only), make a note that your pH after acidifying should be lower than your target. The reason is the dissolved CO2 in your tap water moves the water toward being a little more acid. As the CO2 is lost to the air, pH naturally climbs. Sorry if this is too complicated for the beginner's forum, but if you're plants aren't growing as well as you'd like, it's better to depend on knowledge than future good luck. I'd be happy to explain if there are questions.


Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

Al, can you provide a link to the thread with your soil recipe here, please? I don't remember where I saw it. Thanks!

Oh, nevermind, I found it--I had tagged it!
I do have a question, though. For hanging plants, is there a best recipe so that the container doesn't weigh too much? I am not familiar with Turface, but it sounds weighty, and so does crushed granite.

This message was edited Feb 9, 2011 2:37 PM

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

You could use the 5:1:1 mix, which weighs less than peat mixes when fully saturated.

Read about it here:

I actually prefer the gritty mix for houseplants, but when it's fully saturated it does weigh about 25% more than a saturated peat-based soil. MUCH healthier for plants than peat-based soils though. You'll really like the 5:1:1 mix, too. You need to water a little more often, but from the plant's perspective, that's a good thing. It's good to remember that grower convenience and best plant health are often at odds with each other. ;o)

Tip: Spider plants are sensitive to fluoride. It's good to thoroughly rinse any perlite you might use in soils for for spiders. I really helps to flush out a lot of the fluorine compounds, and you don't want the dust in your soils anyway.


Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

Thanks! But what about the fluoride in our water supply? I'm pretty sure we still have that, but I will check.

Santa Rosa, CA

Just wanted to say that's a good-looking spider plant. This is what mine looks like. A starter from eBay. It's actually outside. I seem to do better with plants outside, even when they're supposed to be houseplants. As long as they have some cover above them.

I like someone's post about neglecting a spider plant. I told my mom (who lives in frigid climates) that I recently bought a spider plant because it's one of the ones I remember hanging in the house from when I was a child. She told me that one year, when we lived in northeast Oregon, the house froze (we used woodstove heating) and she lost everything except the spider plants. She still has one of the survivors. This is like 20 years ago.

I don't know what to do about plants that need to be hosed, but for the ones who I can water with watering pots, I always keep the pots filled with water and supposedly the chlorine dissipates in a couple hours. So when water day comes, there's not chlorine in them. I don't know about all the other stuff in city water.

For my smaller house plants, I collect the unfinished bottled water my son leaves around and use them for when the plants need to be watered.

Anyway, I think your plant is beautiful. That was what I had in mind when I got this one. I'm going to remove the saucer like you did.

Thumbnail by Diana66
East Brunswick, NJ

I used to keep several of these in great condition years ago till they got a case of scales, then it was...never again. *shudders* I still miss keeping them though.

Spider plants grow vigorously and get pot bound very easily if healthy. If what you see is white crusty stuff that is probably plant food washed down through the soil that collected at the bottom. It is just as well you are changing out/cleaning the pot because those minerals aren't good to let accumulate.

If the plant is stressed and struggling, removing the babies can help, because the plant is exerting its energy to supply them with food. If you want to save the babies you can either cut them loose if they already have root stubs growing, place them in a little water and they will soon have enough roots to plant after a couple of weeks. You can also place other pots next to your spider plant, tamp the babies down on them without separating from the mother yet, and then separate once the babies take root. This is actually the best way to do it that poses the least risk of losing the babies, it is how these plants spread in nature.

Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

I'm glad you posted that, as I've noticed that if I cut them off and plant them next to ''Mom'', they die, but if I leave the "umbilical cord" attached, they live. Interesting!
Another thing I noticed is that last year, when I hung all my houseplants outside during warm weather, the bugs ate up the green spider plants, but not the striped ones! I guess the green ones taste better? lol

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

Here are some of my spiders; I particularly like collecting the variegated and reverse-variegated kind. Variegated has the white stripe in the middle, and reverse has the white stripe along the edges. I need to look up their botanical names.

I have untreated, out-in-the-boondocks well water but do not know the components. It seems to do well for my plants. They get room-temperature well water with a smidgen of granulated Miracle-Gro (extremely diluted-almost clear) each time I water them. They are potted in orchid soil (available at Walmart) in plastic pots with large drainage holes at the bottom.

When I water them, the water flushes right through and out the bottom again. They do not sit on a saucer. (I would rather ruin my window ledges than ruin the plants, I guess.)

Thumbnail by timmijo
Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

They look so healthy!

Santa Rosa, CA

My spider plant pretty much looks the same as when I posted above, shortly after I bought it off eBay. Probably because I left it out in the torrential rains the whole month of March.

I was in a nursery down in Southern Cal and saw BETTER LOOKING spider plants for cheaper. They had all the little spiders under them. They're a dime a dozen down there.

When I first came on this site, I posted about my overwatered rubber tree... someone told me to throw it out, not worth the trouble, too common... I didn't have to water that thing for a few months after I bought it, that's how drenched it was. But I kept it alive, now it's sprouting leaves all over the place. So happy.

I'll keep trying with this dumb ol' spider plant. Not a big deal if I lose it. It doesn't have my heart like the rubber tree did, but I'd be proud if it flourished (which it's not)

western sydney nsw, Australia

I find it interesting how you all grow your spider plants inside I live in Australia and have spider plants growing in pots and in the ground I take no special care with them tap water some times saved rain water I find as long as there is plenty of space for the roots they are happy with lots of babies hanging .
Mine are all out side here is photo taken to day of baskets hanging in tree I repotted last week so not a lot of new babies yet.--------elaine.

Thumbnail by sammut
Melbourne, KY(Zone 6a)

How wonderful! You have a built-in plant hanger with that tree, lol!

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

Hey there, sammut! Nice photo!

I grow my spider plants inside because nighttimes can still get very cold here in Delaware, USA in the spring.
When summer is well underway, I suppose I could acclimate my spiders to the outdoors. I just have to find the right combination of filtered sun and protection in the yard.

I wish I had a deck or even a wall outdoors. I DO have trees from which I could hang my plants.

Sometimes I get lazy about it though; if I move my houseplants outside, there's an added chore involved. I would have to keep the plants pest-free since the plants will have to come back inside sometime in the fall. Or at least de-bug them when it's time for them to live inside again.

I'm new at bringing houseplants outside; this will be my second season doing it. Still learning!

western sydney nsw, Australia

I have only been gardening a couple of years so only have easy plants to look after I have only in the last couple of weeks cut back the tree in the corner t when I covered the bad fence there it was a green out of control corner first time I have hung baskets there .
Why not when a baby spider plant grows a little leave it out and see how it goes out side winter is just starting over here with early frosts they seem to cope well I dont get snow .---elaine.

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