Chlorophytum comosum is commonly known as the spider plant because of the resemblance its arching leaves bear to the legs of a spider. It is called airplane plant because it bears its young in the air and the dangling babies appear to be flying.
In most plant species, the variegated varieties are rare. Where Chlorophytum comosum is concerned, the opposite is true. The plain green spider plant is much less common and sometimes hard to find.
The curly-leaved 'Bonnie' can also be difficult to locate.
Most common, but no less beautiful are the striped varieties.
C. comosum 'Vittatum' (once classified as C. elatum vittatum) has a wide white stripe down the center of each 1/2-3/4 inch wide green leaf. The grassy leaves of C. comosum 'Variegatum' and 'Mandaianum' feature narrow white stripes at the edges.
There is a great deal of naturally-occurring variability amongst variegated spider plants.
In one of the plants in this picture the stripe is so wide that the leaves are almost pure white.
In Chlorophytum comosum 'Picturatum', the center stripes are yellow.
Chlorophytum comosum bears small white flowers that, on variegated plants, may not be very noticeable. Theses blooms are held on the end of 12-18 inch long, sometimes branching racemes which emerge from the tuft of leaves.
The pretty flowers are soon transformed into baby spider plants which remain attached to the end of the flower stalks.
At first, the stalks stick out from the plant's crown horizontally. As the babies grow, their weight pulls the stems down and adds to the graceful cascading look of this popular houseplant.
A healthy, mature airplane plant can achieve a height and spread of 36x24 inches, including the plantlets.
If you lift one of the offspring and carefully turn it over, you will see tiny roots. These will grow longer as the baby ages.
When the roots are more than an inch long, you can separate the baby from momma and place it into a small pot of soil to grow on its own.
This is the fastest and easiest way to propagate airplane plants. You can also divide the plants when they begin to outgrow their containers.
Baby spider plants can be used in terrariums or even floral arrangements.
Brown leaf tips are caused by watering the plant with tap water or letting the soil dry too much between waterings.
Airplane plants are some of the toughest houseplants you can grow.
My mother, who definitely did not have a green thumb, loved them for this very reason and always kept one growing in our kitchen window.
Caring for spider plants is easy if all you wish to do is keep them alive. They are nearly impossible to kill no matter how badly you neglect them.
If you want your airplane plant to thrive, however, you will need to pay attention to 2 things: light and water.
In order to look their best, these plants need bright light. Indoors, they should be placed either in front of a window or under a skylight.
Every leaf needs to be bathed in light.
I tried, several times,to grow various cultivars on my shady back porch. Each plant began to decline after a few weeks.
They just were not getting enough light.
Finally, I gave up and transplanted them into the ground in my side yard where they have made a nice evergreen groundcover for the past 10 years.
I have never had a single problem with them since they escaped my porch.
My mother watered hers with tap water without incident. The tap water at my house is very hard and caused the leaf edges to turn brown.
Rainwater is the best form of H2O for these plants.
In addition to using soft water, good spider plant care requires that you apply the water evenly.
Water the plants whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Add some liquid plant food to the water 4 times per year. Do not feed newly potted plants until after they have settled in and begun to grow.
This houseplant is hardier than you might think. It can be left out all year in zones 9a-11.
Elevated urns are a wonderful alternative to the hanging baskets that you usually see these plants displayed in.
My next door neighbor uses her airplane plants to adorn her side yard. She displays them in 10-12 inch containers at staggered heights running the length of the house wall.
She has placed pots of colorful annuals in between the airplane plants to add interest to this very pleasant flower border.
Candy bouquets make sweet gifts that everyone will love!