Last Updated on September 10, 2022 by Griselda M.
Growing your spider plant too big – is a problem we all have! These plants take over – they start small, and then suddenly you have a designer web of these things crawling down the side of your potplants, and getting huge. I have learned to manage them. They need a firm hand and then they are quite manageable as plants. You will also find yourself giving a lot away as gifts!
What is a Spider Plant?
Just so we make sure we are all on the same page, I am referring to the Spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum. These plants have large tuberous roots. It puts out many flowers on long inflorescences and these have a little plantlet on the end that will grow and take root where it falls. In nature, these plants will often climb down cliff faces using this method of producing dangling hanging plants.
The plants can get quite crowded, and my general experience is that the more crowded they get, the smaller plants get. If you overwater or overfeed them with fertilizer they tend to get quite big and the leaves get long. I will often take one of these dangling plants and cut it off and put it in a different planter or pot. In this way, you can end up with this plant everywhere. It takes over.
How To Grow Spider Plants
I walk in many natural forests that grow near where I live and this plant is actually indigenous to these forests. My observation on the natural growth pattern is that this is generally a shade-loving plant that grows as an understory below trees, or dangles down semi-shaded cliffs. It seems to generally grow in leaf litter and poor forest floor soil.
In this regard, I use the same conditions to grow the plant at my house. It is an understory ground cover that can tolerate low light conditions, poor soils, and periods of dryness similar to what it is exposed to in its natural environment. The plant needs compost-rich, reasonably well-drained soil. If I were to buy soil for this it would probably be something like this.
I see many people on the internet grow this plant on its own – I personally believe the plant thrives better when planted below a bigger plant, such as my indoor curry leaf plant, or my fiddle fig.
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So What Makes A Spider Plant Too Big?
The above conditions are perfect to grow a normal-sized spider plant. However, to grow a spider plant too big, you will provide it with an overwhelming amount of nutrients.
If you provide excess Nitrogen to a spider plant, it will grow very big and the leaves get long and lanky. This is a plant that, in its natural habitat, grows on relatively nutrient-poor forest floors. These soils tend to be quite leached and drained of nutrients. This means that if you provide the plant with excess nutrients, it gets huge.
I ran a cursory scan of the internet and there are thousands of pages on “how to fertilize” spider plants. My general observation is that if you just give the plants a little top dressing of some compost each year that is all they really need. If you really want to fertilize them then use some sort of slow-release organic fertilizer such as this. If you add fertilizer, the plants get much bigger, and the clumps can get very crowded.
Water once a week if your soil is well draining. If the leaves start to look a bit wilted, check the soil with your finger and if it is moist, you have overwatered – let the plant dry out. If the soil is dry, then you can water it again.
The plants have succulent water storage tubers, and can actually survive quite long periods of no water. This is their adaptation to the ecosystem they come from where there is a long dry season and a long wet season.
Spider plants are not particularly susceptible to pests. I once had a small outbreak of some sort of scale on my one spider plant and I just moved it to a spot where it got a bit more light and the plant healed itself. My general advice is if the plant looks a bit sick and has any insect pests on it at all it is probably not healthy, and needs more light.
If you live in an area where the photoperiod drops below about 8-9 hours of indirect light, maybe consider a bit of supplemental lighting to help the plant build up its strength.
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Repotting and healthy roots
Spider plants export themselves from the pot when they get really strong! You will see the runners and shoots creeping over the edge of the pot. When these get too long I just snip them off and replant them elsewhere.
The plant actually becomes a bit of a nuisance with time and takes over. I have given bags of this plant to friends and family over the years.
If you feel the urge, you can dig your spider plant up and repot it every two to three years. You can spread the clumps out a bit, and the plant will rapidly expand and fill in the gaps again. It reminds me a bit of the Borg from Startrek – it assimilates your entire garden and takes over.
If you bought your spider plant or were gifted it, it may be in poor soil. Sometimes poorly formulated potting soils degrade over time into clay or similar unpleasant substrates. If the soil is not light and fluffy – ie you can stick a finger into it with little difficulty – repot the plant into a decent potting soil (preferably cactus soil).
Final Remarks – How To Grow Spider Plant Too Big
Spider plants are quite a self regulating sort of plant. When a plant gets big it starts investing energy in babies that sprout around it and dangle over the edge of the pot. These babies compete with it, and soon you have a clump of space and nutrient limited spider plants that are small and cute. If you want them to be big, give them more space, nutrients and water.
How do I make my spider plant smaller?
Less nutrients, less light, less water and let them get crowded.
Should I cut the runners off my spider plant?
I sometimes do this and plant them under other potted plants. Other times I just let them dangle until the break off (normally something to do with the dog). When this happens you can replant the broken plant shoot, or throw it away, or gift it to someone. The important thing when gifting spider plants is to give them to somebody with a good sense of humor. These plants take over, and some people do not find this funny.
How do you split an overgrown spider plant?
I just pull them out of the pot gently and snip the roots to separate plant clumps and replant them. You do not need to be gentle or polite with these plants in any way. They are nearly impossible to kill.
How big should a spider plant be?
I tend to try and keep the leaves under a foot long with the cultivars I grow. If the leaves get longer than that, they look a bit silly. Ideally, leaves should be about hand length and then it makes a nice undercover to taller plants.
Caroline is a gardener who loves to get down to the nitty–gritty of gardening. She proudly proclaims herself as a ‘dirt worshipper‘ and can often be found deep in the garden, covered in soil and singing to her plants. As a self–proclaimed ‘plant whisperer‘, Caroline believes that plants need love and attention just like any other living thing, and she loves to give them both. When she‘s not tending to her garden, you can often find her researching the latest gardening trends, or teaching others how to make their gardens thrive