spider plant adventures

liligoat(7b GA)December 7, 2013

I love gardening but tend to "experiment" a little too much. It's in the name of learning, at least. I thought it might be helpful to newbs like me if I shared some experiences with spider plants. Don't make my mistakes!
In short, beware of using floor-dry/oil-dri or perlite or letting them get chilled (below 50-ish).

A couple months ago my DH and I bought a seriously gigantic spider plant from a local nursery. We hung it right above the toilet in the master bath. That was the best spot we could find, really! It's odd but that little room has a window that takes up most of one wall (and faces the street). It gets a lot of light and I think the humidity from showers is beneficial. And we think it is hilarious that we're engulfed in spider plant "jungle" when we do business.

Anyways, there were over a hundred pups on this monstrosity. I trimmed about seventy to plant. These were the pups with the longest roots, most growing on the ends of the tendrils (what are those called, branches?). I planted them all in cardboard egg cartons filled with vermiculite. They didn't take too long to get established. As the roots grew they kind of pushed the green tops upwards and looked more like small white carrots. They seemed to really like the vermiculite.

Meanwhile I'd been reading all the gritty mix posts and trying to put some together. My painfully bastardized version contained Napa Floor-Dry (#8822) and rinsed pea pebbles. Tried it for succulents. They didn't die, but are doing much better in their new mix (the old mix plus perlite, a little MG orchid bark, and mini pine bark nuggets).

Well, since I was out of vermiculite and knew that spider plants don't like wet feet, I transplanted them into blends that I hoped would be better than straight MG potting mix.
I knew that floor-dry was very absorbent but since it's chunkier than soil I thought it might improve drainage a little. Just a guess. Probably wrong. Some of the pups I put in straight floor-dry. Most of them went into a blend of floor-dry and potting mix. For small pots I use recycled yogurt cups with holes drilled in them, just so you know.
From the point of transplanting, they all went downhill. The spiderlings in plain floor-dry went first and could not be saved. Don't do that! I also tried rooting geranium cuttings in it. Don't do that, either.

My favorite application for floor-dry so far is to top-dress indoor plants. A major reason I try to go soil-less indoors is because I always have issues with little flies otherwise. Tried floor-dry on top, since it is made out of DE, and it seems to help quite a bit. BUT, if you do that, don't top-water it. I don't know why, but every plant I've tried the stuff with mixed-in or wet on top starts having issues.

Realizing the problem, I tried to save as many as I could. By then I had gotten some perlite since I'd read good results about rooting cuttings in it, mixing for better aeration/drainage, and possible hydroponic use. Made a blend with potting mix and perlite and transplanted the survivors. The next day, I read that perlite and spider plants don't get along. Just my luck. Perlite apparently contains flouride and causes flouridosis in the little guys. Tired of messing with them so I figured I'd wait and see.

Around this time it started to get really cold at night. I couldn't keep the little ones inside because of the cats (lost a few to them, too, especially the ones dangling low off the mother) so I kept them in the garage at night. Didn't think I'd get frost in there, but guess what? Actually, I'm not sure if it was frost or fluoridosis. It looked like cold damage. The leaves got really weak, limp, and dark. I moved them into the corner of a spare closet to see if they had any life left, pretty discouraged.

A week or two later I checked and all of them were black and a bit moldy. About fifteen had some new growth, plus five with the smallest amount of green. I went through all of them and took off the black leaves. Most of them still had white, healthy-looking roots though. For many, I cut off the dead connecting top bit and left the roots in the dirt to see what would happen.

Still waiting. There's hope for the growing ones but I'll probably toss the rest. I think the perlite mix might not be too bad since that's what the living are still in. Better go with something else to be safe, though. Actually, some of the living ones are those that I gave my remaining vermiculite and then topped with soil+perlite as they grew. Vermiculite gets an A+ from me. Potting mix should be fine.

The next project is going to be growing from the spider plant's seeds. The flowers were cute but I was amazed when I noticed little black seeds in the dried pods. Must have swept up a bunch of them before realizing that. If you've never seen them before, they look a bit like black hot pepper seeds. I plan to try to sprout them in some fine peat moss because I still haven't bought more vermiculite. Wish me luck!

- edit to specify Napa Floor-Dry (#8822) used.

This post was edited by liligoat on Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 14:06

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I've grown spider plant well in straight perlite. The studies on Fluoride and perlite indicate that the first watering can cause significant levels (almost 1ppm) but the levels drop quickly after that. The Fluoride levels in tap water are generally higher.

I also have spider plants outside that handle below 30f no problem. Some of those are growing epiphytically with no soil.

spider plants are notorious for not liking strong fertilizer though.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 2:01PM
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liligoat(7b GA)

That's great you had success with perlite! I'll stop worrying about it then.
They might have had trouble with the cold since they were still so small. Not sure what it was otherwise.
Maybe they didn't like the soil at all?
I gave them fertilizer once or twice but very diluted.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 2:13PM
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liligoat(7b GA)

Yep, I'm pretty sure that I only gave them fertilizer when they were in the vermiculite-filled egg cartons.

The other reason I think it was mostly a cold-related demise is because the roots looked alright while the leaves were very much dead. If it was a substrate problem, wouldn't there be a symptom in the roots? In the floor-dry, the roots turned black. Then again, I don't really know what I'm doing so I could be wrong again.

It's also possible that the floor-dry wouldn't be so bad if I had thoroughly rinsed it first. I tried sifting out the dust but there was a lot of particulate in the run-off after watering. If it really is similar to bits of fired clay then I don't know what the problem would be. A little alkaline, too absorbent and compacted maybe.

nil13, how do you grow spider plants epiphytically? I thought it might be possible since the babies on the mother grow roots. Do they actually thrive?

Completely unrelated: My DH is sick and he's making some super funny noises in his sleep. Not snoring exactly. Every once in a while he sounds a bit like he's pretending to be a ghost-cow. I thought it was funny anyways.. poor guy.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 2:59PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I just tie them to things with the roots packed in sphagnum moss. I have a bunch on a hardware cloth tower filled with gritty mix and wrapped in spagnum.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 4:12PM
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liligoat(7b GA)

Really neat idea. I'm so going to try that!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 6:22PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Your DH probably has sleep apnea and should talk to a doctor about it. It can cause heart problems and be serious business. There are fairly simple solutions.

As for your spider plants, I wouldn't blame the floor-dry. I am growing a very happy spider plant in gritty mix made with 1/3 NAPA 8822 and it's been growing very well in that mix for two years. Your problems probably have to do with using it all alone. Not to mention not enough light and too cold temps.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 7:03PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Spider plants are very easy to grow. I have had them in ordinary potting soil for years, in hanging baskets. I don't think they are picky. But for the sake of weight i would use something like 511

This post was edited by seysonn on Tue, Dec 10, 13 at 2:07

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Your spider plant tower sounds cool, how about a picture?


    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 7:38AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Spider plant has fat, tuberous roots that store moisture, so a fast-drying mix is critical so the roots don't rot.

I'm picturing the egg carton with the lid cut off & placed under for a drip tray?

Vermiculite is not good in a pot though may not be giving much trouble in an egg carton or yogurt cup because those are such small amounts. This stuff holds way too much moisture to be part of a potting mix and its' structure collapses, making it the exact opposite of what roots would like.

I don't know what this floor-dry stuff is, but does it maintain its' shape/chunkiness when it gets wet, or clump/pack up? Whatever is in your pots, avoiding packing it in there should help. If there are tiny air pockets throughout, that's excellent. Pebbles can't help with that, but could help keep clumping materials from clumping so much.

Don't worry about overwatering, your concern should be underdrying. If there are no tiny particles in a pot, it will dry soooo much faster. People who lose plants because they forget to water would have a hard time with this, but if you're the more common 'overwatering' type, this can mean the difference between plants that stay alive vs. those that die.

I might recommend an alternative source of water other than tap water, such as rain, melted snow, condensate from dehumidifier or A/C, distilled. It makes a huge difference if tap water is making one visibly ill (which it usually does over time.)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 4:00PM
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liligoat(7b GA)

Thanks all for your wisdom. =)
It has been a wild adventure but I feel so bad that all those little spiderlings died in the process. More to come, eventually.
The survivors are doing well in a mix of perlite, potting soil, and bark chips. There's a little floor-dry in there, too, but emphasis on the little. They'd be doing even better if my cats didn't keep breaking into their grow space.

I do have a few looking very happy in plain perlite, so yes, that works. One of the cats gnawed off a couple babies without much for roots that I could see. To see what would happen I put them on a plate tucked under some moist moss from the yard (frog moss maybe) and they grew roots! They're healthy and look neat with the moss, too.

Back when this began, I had so many that keeping them outdoors was the best option. It was warm then, at first. The egg cartons were the recycled paper kind. I set them so that the base of one sat in the lid of another. I watered them enough to moisten the whole thing and then waited for it to dry before watering again, about every other day. As the roots grew they pushed the crowns up rather than growing much into the paper. Transplanted the tallest ones first. They did great until nights got cooler, and the floor-dry, and then the frost... Towards the end of the egg-carton stage, the cartons got spotty with a little mold. Expected mold earlier than it happened, though.

While floor-dry seems alright as a mix-in, I think you're right about it not letting the roots breathe. The feel of it seemed gravelly enough but it stayed too damp and probably compacted more than I thought.

Purpleinopp - Whenever my grandmother gives me a tour of her garden she shows off the bucket she uses to collect condensation from her wall-mounted AC unit. The water definitely makes a difference.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 1:47AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

I've seen spider babies do the same thing - push themselves up. Cool. It sounds like things went well, for a first time. Thanks for the update. I left the stupid Poinsettia outside last night, it's probably toast. Mistakes of all kinds are unavoidable in gardening, all learning experiences, though none can help with memory, that I've tried yet. The moss thing you did sounds really cool, using what's available to your advantage. Good luck with the survivors!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 8:36AM
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