Spider plants have long been a favorite of both first-time plant parents and veteran horticulturists, thanks to their attractive variegated foliage, short list of demands, and inexhaustible decorating potential. They’re especially popular in indoor settings, where their low-maintenance nature allows them to adapt easily to a wide range of different temperatures and light levels.
Spider plants are the stoics of the plant kingdom. They can live with very little water, aren’t too picky about their external conditions, and don’t get all dramatic when you’re not meeting all their needs. Once you’ve grown one in or around your home, it’s not unusual for it to remain unchanged as the days, weeks, and months creep by, even if you’re not giving it much attention.
Such impressive staying power begs the question: just how long do spider plants live? The answer may surprise you.
- 1 How Long Do Spider Plants Live?
- 2 How Are They Able to Stay Alive for So Long?
- 3 Maximizing Your Plant’s Lifespan
- 4 Final Thoughts
How Long Do Spider Plants Live?
Ready for this? The typical lifespan of a chlorophytum comosum vittatum or chlorophytum comosum variegatum, the two most common varieties, is around 20 years. That’s an average, not an outlier. It’s almost double the lifespan of a Pothos plant, which also has an unusually long lifespan!
In other words, you could buy a plant, put it in your house, meet someone, fall in love, get married, have kids, raise them to adult age, and send them off to college, and your plant would still be there looking as robust as ever when your offspring returned to visit during their sophomore year.
Crazy, right? It gets crazier: when kept in their preferred surroundings and given the right amount of care, it’s possible for some varieities to hang on for 50 years or more.
These plants live so long that their owners have been known to hand them down as living heirlooms. No wonder they’re so popular with people who struggle to keep plants alive—they’re nigh-unkillable.
How Are They Able to Stay Alive for So Long?
One reason is that they are perennials, and perennials naturally have much longer lives than annuals.
Whereas annuals only grow and bloom for a single season and then disappear forever, perennials return season after season. Most perennials can keep this resurrection act up for anywhere from 3 to 10 years, with some species lingering closer to 12-15.
But there’s another reason that they are practically immortal. Unlike many houseplants, they have a unique design for survival. To uncover the secret to their longevity, you only need to look below the soil.
It all starts at the roots. Spider plants have rhizomes, which are thick, stemlike root structures capable of storing large quantities of water and nutrients. Since these two things are pretty much all most plants need to be successful, rhizome-producing species tend to be incredibly resilient and self-sufficient.
These plants can keep on keeping on—and even flourish—despite long intervals between watering and fertilizing.
If you forget to water a gardenia or Boston fern while you’re away on a two-week vacation, chances are it will be dead (or at least pitifully droopy) by the time you get back. If you miss a watering, no sweat—it will just draw from its natural reserves and be just as copacetic as when you left it.
Maximizing Your Plant’s Lifespan
As remarkably persistent as they are, they aren’t entirely self-sufficient. To reach the multiple-decade mark, and remain healthy and vibrant to the last, they require a minimal amount of tending.
The key to keeping a beloved spider plant alive through the years is to provide it with an environment much like its wild one.
Keep It at a Comfortable Temperature
Spider plants are tropical plants through and through, being native to the sun-drenched, torrid forests and grasslands of southern Africa. That means they’re most content in warm, humid (but not overly wet) conditions.
Ideally, the temperature in your plant’s designated space should stay between 55 and 80℉ (13-27℃) at all times. That said, they will do just fine in temperatures as low as 55℉ (13℃). Just make sure they don’t spend too much time in the lower ranges, as cold is like Kryptonite to these plants. In fact, many in-home plants don’t do well in colder ranges, including Bromeliads.
Bring c. comosum vittatum or c. comosum variegatum inside in late autumn so they don’t fall victim to frigid air and ground temperatures. It may be a good idea to make the transition even earlier and leave it indoors longer if you live in a region with a chilly climate.
Make Sure It Gets Plenty of Indirect Sunlight
Situate your plant someplace where it will receive more or less constant exposure to dappled, filtered, or diffuse light. A north- or south-facing window can make an excellent location, as can floors and shelves in the interior portions of rooms with ample natural lighting.
The best possible hangout for these plants, though, is a bathroom with a window. Using ambient sunlight and the increased humidity from running faucets and showerheads will make it as happy as a proverbial clam.
Take care not to place your spider plant in bright, direct sunlight. Doing so can burn its leaves, resulting in unsightly spotting and discoloration, as well as general weakness. If you intend to plant outdoors, make sure there are trees or taller plants nearby to provide a degree of cover shade.
Water It Whenever the Soil Feels Dry
As mentioned, these plants are rhizomatic, meaning, among other things, that they store water. They can therefore get by with less frequent waterings than many other plants.
If you’re growing a spider plant from a “pup” (a young plant that has budded off of a larger mother plant), start by watering it sparingly, roughly once every 10-12 days. You can keep up with this periodic regimen until the plant is fully grown, at which point you’ll want to increase watering to about once a week (give or take).
Be sure to use a container with drainage holes so the excess water can escape once it’s made its way down through the soil.
Anytime you’re in doubt about whether or not your plant needs water, just stick your finger into the soil a couple of inches. If it’s still moist to the touch, you’re good to go. If it feels dry, go ahead and give it a good drink.
Fertilize It Every Couple of Weeks If Desired
Here’s some good news for those of you who often find yourselves fretting over the finer points of fertilization: it’s not necessary to fertilize these plants. Its rhizomes will allow it to produce and store all the nourishment it needs for weeks or even months at a time.
Like most plants, however, they can benefit from occasional feedings.
Feel free to give your spider plant some fertilizer once every 2-4 weeks during the spring and summer months when it does most of its growing. This will help replenish the nutrient stores in its rhizomes and square it away for a good long while.
Any complete, all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer will do the trick. And remember, fertilizing is best performed after adding fresh water. A good rule of thumb is to dilute approximately one tablespoon of fertilizer in one gallon of water.
A little fertilizer can make a great snack, but avoid over-fertilizing. This can be counterproductive to its growth and reproduction and can even harm if it happens repeatedly. You’ll know you’ve overdone it if brown spots or streaks begin to appear on the leaves and you’re not doing anything else differently.
Remove Age Spots As They Appear
Sometimes, as these plants age, they develop brown spots or disc-like patches of discolored buildup. The discoloration is a normal side-effect of aging and is generally nothing to cause worry.
If you don’t like the look of these imperfections, simply trim them with scissors, being careful not to cut away too much of the healthy foliage. You can ordinarily scrape off the powdery residue that’s characteristic of larger age spots with a butter knife or similar utensil.
Before you get too scissor-happy, it’s wise to rule out a surplus or deficiency of water, sunlight, or fertilizer as the source of the blemishes. Symptoms like these are more often due to improper care than they are age, and if you’re just treating the outward manifestations, it could mean that you’re overlooking the underlying cause.
How long do spider plants live? It’s hard to believe that a humble houseplant could live longer than most pets, but in this case, it’s true—when it comes to endurance, they outlast almost all other plants of their ilk.
A vivacious spider plant could be your ideal botanical companion if you’re the kind of person that has a hard time saying goodbye to the things you love. Depending on the stage of life you’re in when you acquire it, there’s a good chance that you’ll never have to.