Few houseplants are more iconic than Chlorophytum comosum (kloh-roh-FY-tum kom-OH-sum), better known as the spider plant.
This plant is known for its white flowers, arched foliage, and almost spider-like appearance, lazily hanging over the edges of its container. This makes them one of the favorite indoor plants to grow.
Most commonly seen spilling out of hanging baskets or off of shelves, the spider plant is known for its offshoots, lovingly referred to as spiderlings.
But today, we’re going to look at something you may or may not have considered for your spider plants: growing them in water.
Is this possible? And if so, how do you do it without causing rot?
Can You Grow Spider Plants in Water?
Surprisingly enough, spider plants are one of the many houseplants that can be propagated in water and even survive for some time in this environment.
However, there are some important rules and additional care to keep in mind when attempting to grow this plant in such an alien medium.
Why You Might Want to Grow Spider Plants in Water
It might sound crazy at first, but once you’ve grown a plant in water, it can become almost addictive.
One reason is the fact that you can watch its roots grow, which can be both fun and educational.
Another popular reason is the way light can play off the water, especially if you have some colored glass beads in the bottom.
Chlorophytum comosum is surprisingly tolerant of water propagation and will easily adapt to life in water if done properly.
The Potential Problems with Water Cultivation
Obviously, if a spider plant can suffer root rot when overwatered, there’s room for concern when growing it in nothing but water, right?
Surprisingly enough, if the roots AND ONLY THE ROOTS are submerged, the plant will grow just fine without a risk of developing rot.
However, if the foliage or stem becomes submerged, rot can easily set in.
Another big issue is that water lacks nutrition. Your plant will need to have some form of nutrition for it to survive.
Liquid-soluble fertilizers can help, but you must be careful to keep the roots from being burned by a buildup of mineral salts.
Ideally, a hydroponic solution can be used to grow a spider plant indefinitely in water, but this can be expensive and require a lot more than a simple vase or glass if you want good results.
Propagating Spider Plants in Water
The good news is that propagating a spider plant in water is both fun and easy.
You will need a clear jar, glass, vase, distilled water, and a parent plant.
Try to avoid using tap water, as chlorophytum won’t have any way to filter out the chlorine and other chemicals, which can damage your plant.
If you must use tap water, allow it to sit for 12 to 24 hours and preferably run it through a filter to make it as safe as possible.
Step 1: Check Your Plant
Before propagating, you’ll want to check the spider plant for any signs of infestation or disease, including brown leaf tips or light lesions on the leaf tips.
These problems can seriously reduce the viability of your new plants and should be dealt with before propagation.
You will also want to wait until the spider plant has produced several pups, AKA spiderlings. They’re also called spiderettes, runners, plantlets, spider plant babies, or offshoots.
These offshoots are identical offspring of the mother plant. And it’s what you’ll be using to grow new spider plants.
Step 2: Preparing the Spiderling
The spider plant babies will be connected to the mother plant by a stem.
Before starting, it’s the perfect time to get your pair of scissors, pruners, flower snippers, clippers, or any cutting utensils and wipe the blade clean with alcohol.
Using sharp, sterile shears or scissors, cut this stem about 1” inch from the baby plantlets attached to the mother plant.
This will be used to grow the roots.
You can use a little root hormone if you wish, but it’s unnecessary.
Step 3: Placing the Plantlet
Take your container, which can be a cup, vas, or jar, and fill it with room temperature water.
You don’t need a tall container, as 1 to 2” inches of water is plenty, but you can use taller containers if you wish.
You may also want to choose a clear container or a glass of water to watch the root growth from the spider plant babies and keep an eye out for any potential problems.
One popular trick is to attach a piece of plastic wrap to the top of the jar using a rubber band.
By poking home in the middle of the plastic to insert the spider plantlet’s stem, it’s easier to ensure the leaves don’t come into contact with the water.
Now add your plantlet so the clipped stem is in the water, but the leaves are all safely above the water level.
Stick your plantlet’s jar in a spot where it can get some mild morning, bright, indirect light, or evening sun but will be protected from the harsher midday sunlight.
Step 4: Maintaining the Plantlet
It will take a few weeks for the water roots to begin growing. You should change the water every 5 to 7 days during this time.
Always change the water immediately if you notice it is becoming cloudy or discolored, as this likely means something unwanted is growing in it.
When the water roots are approximately 2” inches long, you can transplant the spider plant into the soil.
Step 5: Growing the Plant in Water Longer
If you choose to continue growing your spider babies in water beyond this point, you will need to begin feeding them.
You can use any water-soluble fertilizer diluted to ¼ strength, just as you would for a spider plant growing in soil.
However, investing in some hydroponics supplies is safer if you intend to keep the spider plant in its jar indefinitely.
Spider Plants In Aquaponics
Since we’re discussing a spider plant in water, let’s also touch upon something you might not have even thought of.
Spider plants are one of several houseplants that can actually thrive via aquaponics.
Aquaponics is the practice of raising both fish and plants in an aquarium. Proper care of your plant will be somewhat different than normal.
Once again, you will need to make sure that only the roots are submerged, and the rest of the plant must be kept clear of the water to avoid rot.
A tray is often employed to ensure the plant doesn’t sink, but hanging frames will also work.
Unlike a regular fish tank, an aquarium will have other live plants (some of which are already aquatic in nature), which is important for maintaining the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the aquarium.
You should only use freshwater fish in the aquarium. While it’s not the easiest, growing spider plants in an aquarium can be quite rewarding and provide an excellent growing environment.
For example, it’s easier to maintain warm temperatures because the water is heated.
The fish food and even fish poop serve as natural fertilizers, so you won’t need to use nearly as much liquid fertilizer (make sure the fertilizer is safe for aquarium use).
A good lighting and aeration system can be far more reliable than attempting to find a spot with just the right amount of bright light, preferably indirect sunlight, to benefit your C. comosum without harming the leaves.
You also won’t have to worry about humidity, as evaporation will provide it naturally.
However, one important note is that you don’t want to directly propagate your Chlorophytum comosum from offsets in the aquarium.
Instead, you should root your baby spider plants in a mason jar or glass, then transplant them to the aquarium once their roots have reached 2” inches in length.
This will give them a better chance of adapting to this unusual but visually attractive setting.