Spider plants are one of the most common plants grown in local greenhouses to sell for household use. They are very easy to grow, and readily adapt to the wide variety of growing conditions found in an average home. Spider plants are disease resistant and do not tend to have problems with common houseplant pests like spider mites.
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is also commonly referred to as airplane plant, St. Bernard's lily, spider ivy and ribbon plant. There are many different types of spider plants, but the cultivar most commonly grown in greenhouses for commercial sale is "Vittatum."
Spider plants resemble a huge mound of long grass. Some types have solid green leaves like huge blades of grass, but most have white or yellow stripes, either along the edges of the leaves or down the center. Vittatum has green leaves with a wide white stripe down the center of the leaf.
Spider plants produce flower spikes with small white flowers at the ends. After the flowers die off, tiny new spider plants form at the end of the flower spike. These tiny spider plants are either removed and potted to grow new plants, or left on the parent plant to be sold.
Under optimum growing conditions, spider plants will produce flower spikes and tiny spider plants in the home as well. They can be removed when they develop roots, potted and grown as new plants.
Spider plants are grown in a potting medium mix with good mineral and water retention properties. It does not pack so tightly that it restricts air circulation around the roots of the plant. A common mix is half peat, with the other half made up of pine bark, vermiculite, perlite and Styrofoam beads--but this mix varies. Commercial greenhouses usually have their own favorite recipes. Dolomite or limestone is added when necessary, to give the medium a pH between 6 and 6.5.
Spider plants in the home or office can thrive in a wide range of light exposures. They can do very well in a very bright room, hanging in a window, or in a more dimly lit room. When grown in a greenhouse to be sold commercially, they are generally grown with 1,000 to 2,500 foot candles of light exposure. Spider plants grown in the greenhouse with that amount of light exposure generally adapt well to the light levels found in most common households, which is about 100 foot-candles.
Spider plants do not need as much fertilizer as many other types of plants grown in a greenhouse. The fertilizer used has very low levels of boron and does not contain fluoride. Spider plants are very sensitive to these chemicals. This sensitivity is greater when the plants are exposed to the higher light levels found in a greenhouse. In the home, they can be given a common house plant fertilizer that is fluoride-free with low boron levels.