Splitting spider plants and repotting them into new growths can be very rewarding! Thankfully, the Chlorophytum comosum, as it’s known in Latin, is one of the easiest of indoor greens to split and propagate. However, it does still pay to learn how to split and repot a spider plant before you get too keen!
In short, propagating spider plants is easily done through one of two ways. You can either remove and root ‘spiderettes’ which grow as miniature spider plants on tendrils, or split the leaves and root systems of plants you’ve already grown. The choice is yours!
Let’s take a look at how to get started – but first, a quick introduction to this fascinating plant.
What is a spider plant?
Spider plants are beautiful, spiky greens that have leaves that can grow as tall as three feet. They come in a variety of shades of green – and mature plants, especially if they are pot-bound, develop long, protruding stems bearing tiny white flowers.
From these, your aforementioned ‘spiderettes’ may grow. These mini spider plants look great either still attached to the mother plant, or snipped off and rooted. These attractive plants have fleshy roots, with tubers forming in some cases.
Splitting spider plants – The basics
If your spider plant is sending out stems on which spiderettes are formed, you may consider splitting the plant to grow entirely new specimens! As spider plants cascade in a chandelier-like fashion, you will see long stems and/or small, white flowers. Before starting to split and repot spider plants, keep in mind the two potential routes for success:
- You can cut the stem and place it in water…
- Or, you can perform surgery on the roots!
Cutting spiderettes and potting them up is simple. The spiderettes guide you into putting the correct end in the growing medium! However, you may wish to split up the plant so that it takes up less room.
So, let’s look at the more complex way to downsize the parent plant – splitting up the plant’s formation of leaves and roots to increase your collection.
What to look for
Before removing your plant from its pot, look carefully at your spider from a few feet away. If it’s nicely balanced, the next steps will be easy. If the plant is leaning more in one direction, you’ll need to check for any damage to the root system.
What’s more, is the growing medium wet or dry? Check that the plant does not have ‘root rot’ – this may be simply caused by increased temperatures and/or overwatering. Don’t worry – I’ll take you through what you need to know!
What you’ll need
Before splitting a spider plant, it pays to prepare with all the tools and accessories you’ll need to get started.
- Choose the work surface you will work on, and perhaps cover it with old newspapers or magazines.
- Grab a pair of scissors and/or a gardening knife (your preference).
- Choose a growth medium (such as compost), and have some ready.
- Have several new containers nearby, and your compost or growing medium already applied to the base(s). Remember, spider plants love well-draining containers, so placing a little gravel or some stones at the bottom of pots is a good idea.
- Have a jug of dechlorinated water to hand. To dechlorinate your water, simply leave it out in an uncovered container overnight.
Choosing the right pot or container
Ok – so, you have most of the above – but what about that all-important new pot or container? What’s going to work best for your new spider split-offs?
You may be able to recycle a pot or use an unusual container – this is a great-looking plant, so it’ll demand a striking new home, too!
For a window box in summer, or an indoor window sill ,a trough will be ideal to display your spider amongst other plants. Keep in mind, too, that they prefer good quality, loamy soil in well-draining containers.
A useful tip is to clean your container and pop in the compost prior to removing the plant for splitting. Spider plants do best in growing mediums with a ph level of 6.0 to 6.5, or even 7.0. Be sure to test this with a litmus strip (you’ll find them online!).
Examining your spider plant
Before touching the plant, take a careful look at its condition and shape. Does it seem weighted in one particular direction? If so, perhaps it has not been turned for even light and/or water.
Is the plant in good condition, with strong leaves in a healthy color? If the plant has leaves tinged with brown, it may have been over or underwater! Carefully touch the soil or medium – if it is very dry, the plant is likely to be dehydrated and a little limp.
Now, lift out the spider plant from its current container and examine the roots. Lay the plant on its side on a newspaper to check for any signs of root rot. Spider plants are known to tolerate dry conditions for a few days – to cope, they will need to be healthy and therefore able to store water in their bulbous tubers.
Like roots, when healthy, tubers are white or cream and look robust and firm. If there is root rot or damaged roots, take your knife and cut away the offending matter. Clean your knife to avoid spreading disease.
For the purpose of splitting and repotting your spider plant, it’s good to remove any potential rotting or dead leaves. Even If they don’t smell, some leaves can still look unhealthy. They may be wilting, papery or crispy dry.
If the plant has been excessively watered or exposed to too much humidity, sometimes, small leaves can’t cope – they wilt and may not recover. You should remove them gently – it’s likely they will easily slip away from the main core into your hand.
Spider plant root surgery – grab your tools!
It’s time to start digging into the roots before repotting your new spiders. Having removed your parent plant and laid it on the paper, gently tap excess growing medium. This will expose the roots – check their health as you have the leaves. Remove any decay, check for pests and/or eggs of pests, and rinse them off.
The base of the plant may have newer stubs sprouting fresh young leaves, beneath newer sections of roots. These shoots may still be too young to have developed their own tubers, though some roots will look more substantial than others! These small clumps are potential candidates for splitting!
Use your fingers as far as possible (wearing gloves if you wish) and gently prise away the most connected tissue without tearing either section. Once you see a clear path to make an incision, use your knife to make a clean cut and pop the cutting into one of the pots you have set aside. You can do this as many times as you wish.
Once the surgery is completed and you set young shoots in their new pots, give them a small drink of dechlorinated water.
Warning! Do not put tender new cuttings in direct sunlight, but ensure they have plenty of light for the first couple of weeks. As they regain strength and start to grow, you can place them in a brighter position and begin treating them as more mature specimens.
Ready to start splitting spider plants?
Spider plants are indoor beauties that just keep on giving. They’re some of my personal favorites – and with a little bit of green-fingered magic, you can keep them propagating for months, maybe even years to come. Give it a try!