If the cold, rain, wind, or all three, keep you indoors this weekend, then it's time to focus on houseplants. The humble spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, is a popular but underrated houseplant. It's easy to look after, difficult to kill, and very simple to propagate. You will soon have dozens of baby spider plants to fill your house or office, or give away to friends. All you need is a happy spider plant, some pots of compost, and some paper clips!
When you can't be persuaded to venture outside, you can still be propagating plants, and this is one of the easiest. Although we take it for granted, the spider plant is a colourful and elegant foliage plant, and incredibly low maintenance. Unless you literally allow it to dry to a crisp, it will keep going with very little attention, even on your warmest and sunniest windowsill.
|Spider plants have lots of plantlets|
It's also been shown to absorb toxins like formaldehyde, styrene, and carbon monoxide, from the atmosphere and metabolize them, effectively acting as a natural air filter. It has also been suggested that they absorb the radiation from TV and computer screens, though I haven't yet come across a report claiming conclusive proof of this.
Why not spread this good news by providing a spider plant for all your friends and relatives to put in their homes and offices? It's easier then you think. They're very prolific, producing lots of cute little plantlets on arching, wiry, cream coloured stems. Give your spider plant a bit of light and a little water occasionally and it should be happy. And it will start producing plantlets that hang all around.
|GREEN FINGERS TIP|
GREEN FINGERS TIP: The easiest and best ones to propagate are the ones that are biggest, and the ones that are already starting to grow roots. Choose these first for a good success rate.
All you have to do is capture these little plantlets in their own pot, and this couldn't be simpler. Take a plantlet, leaving it attached to it's parent, and make a small hole with your finger in a small pot of compost. It doesn't really matter what sort of compost, as spider plants are not very fussy. It doesn't need to be a rich mixture, though a loose mix that drains well is better than a thick heavy compost.
Bring the pot close enough to the parent so that you can push the roots of the plantlet gently into the hole and then press down around it to firm it into place.
To stop it from coming away from the compost in its new pot, use an unwound paper clip to push down over the stem from the parent to hold it in position. Push it into the compost until the baby plantlet is held securely in place.
|Parents and babies stay together for a few weeks|
You can do this with as many of the plantlets as will fit around the parent on its windowsill, mantelpiece or shelf. You need to leave them attached to the parent plant for a few weeks to allow them to put down enough of their own roots to survive independently. The wiry cream stems joining them to the parent are normally flexible enough to allow you to manoeuvre all the plants close enough to each other without breaking those stems.
Don't let them dry out, but you don't need to give them much water, and after 2-3 weeks, the plantlets will have grown enough roots to survive on their own. You can snip them off the stem attaching them to their parents. There may be other plantlets still on that stem, and you could now propagate those in the same way if you want. Otherwise just cut of the stem at the other end, as the parent doesn't need it.
Once you've done this you can move the plantlet to wherever you like. And if you keep your spider plants happy, there's no reason why you can't regularly produce more until all your family and friends have one at home and in the office. I wonder what the record is for the most plantlets taken from one parent spider plant. If you've been successful, do let me know. And if you know whether they really do neutralize radiation from video screens, I would love to hear about it. Just use the comments box below.