Spider plant babies

joanneljJanuary 25, 2011

I am planning an activity with a Girl Scout troop. We are planning on harvesting babies from a spider plant, re-potting them, and giving them to teachers to keep in the classroom (to help clear the air so students can think better.)

Every thing I see online says to put them in water, or put them in dirt and leave them attached to the big plant, until roots develop.

Since this is a one day workshop, both of those approaches will be challenging. Is there a way we can plant them in dirt, but not keep them attached to the big plant? Or will they just die?

Also, what is the basic care of a spider plant? The girls will be making cards with instructions to include with the plants.

Thanks for your help!


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Joan, when spider shoots are rooted in water, they're detached from the mom plant.
Roots grow super-fast in water.

Care. Medium to bright light.
Water. Water when soil feels crumbly dry.
Pots. Plastic with drainage holes.
Soil. Well-draining. Packaged soils, like Miracle Gro.
Fertilizer. Once a month with an All Purpose Fertilizer..no need to fertilize during winter months.

It's best using water that has been sitting out 24 hours or more. Water can be kept in old milk containers, etc.

Old water should be discarded, clean water added every day to every other day. Rooting takes 4-9 days. Repot in 4-5" pots after roots are approximately 4" long.
After potting is complete, water. 'preferably with room temp water.'
Set potted babies in medium light. Rewater when soil feels dry/crumbly.
Don't forget saucers. :) Toni

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 4:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Spider plant 'plantlets' are among the easiest plants to root because they come with pre-formed root primordia or adventitious roots. They take hold very readily in moist and light soils that are kept damp, but not wet. Rooting them in water is probably not the best way to approach the project because it creates an unnecessary step and can actually cause lost potential when the water-0rooting method is compared to rooting in a well-aerated media.

Here is something I wrote a while ago that offers the technical information that explains what I said:

Though roots form readily and often seemingly more quickly on many plants propagated in water, the roots produced are quite different from those produced in a soil-like or highly aerated medium (perlite - screened Turface - calcined DE - seed starting mix, e.g.). Physiologically, you will find these roots to be much more brittle than normal roots due to a much higher percentage of aerenchyma (a tissue with a greater percentage of intercellular air spaces than normal parenchyma).

Aerenchyma tissue is filled with airy compartments. It usually forms in already rooted plants as a result of highly selective cell death and dissolution in the root cortex in response to hypoxic conditions in the rhizosphere (root zone). There are 2 types of aerenchymous tissue. One type is formed by cell differentiation and subsequent collapse, and the other type is formed by cell separation without collapse ( as in water-rooted plants). In both cases, the long continuous air spaces allow diffusion of oxygen (and probably ethylene) from shoots to roots that would normally be unavailable to plants with roots growing in hypoxic media. In fresh cuttings placed in water, aerenchymous tissue forms due to the same hypoxic conditions w/o cell death & dissolution.

Note too, that under hypoxic (airless - low O2 levels) conditions, ethylene is necessary for aerenchyma to form. This parallels the fact that low oxygen concentrations, as found in water rooting, generally stimulate trees (I'm a tree guy) and other plants to produce ethylene. For a long while it was believed that high levels of ethylene stimulate adventitious root formation, but lots of recent research proves the reverse to be true. Under hypoxic conditions, like submergence in water, ethylene actually slows down adventitious root formation and elongation.

If you wish to eventually plant your rooted cuttings in soil, it is probably best not to root them in water because of the frequent difficulty in transplanting them to soil. The brittle "water-formed" roots often break during transplant & those that don't break are very poor at water absorption and often die. The effect is equivalent to beginning the cutting process over again with a cutting in which vitality has likely been reduced.

If you do a side by side comparison of cuttings rooted in water & cuttings rooted in soil, the cuttings in soil will always (for an extremely high percentage of plants) have a leg up in development on those moved from water to a soil medium for the reasons outlined above.

General care:

A) Most important is to use a soil that drains very freely. This allows you to water copiously, flushing the accumulating salts from the soil each time you water.

B) Fertilize frequently when the plant is growing well, but at low doses - perhaps 1/4 the recommended strength. This, in combination with the favorable watering habit described above, will keep soluble salts levels low, and keep levels from rising due to the accumulative effect we always see when we are forced to water in sips when plants are in water-retentive soils.

C) When watering, using rainwater, snow melt, water from your dehumidifiers, or distilled water, also eliminates the issue of soluble salts in your tap water and will go a long way toward eliminating or minimizing leaf burn.

D) If you make your own soils and use perlite, be sure the perlite is rinsed thoroughly, which removes most of the fluorides associated with it's use.

E) Allowing irrigation water to rest overnight doesn't do anything in the way of helping reduce the amount of fluoride (the compounds are not volatile), and it only helps with chlorine in certain few cases, depending on what method of chlorination was used to treat your tap water.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 10:01PM
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I've had no problems separating babies from mom and setting them on soil. As long as I kept the soil and root "beginnings"
damp, the plants have all rooted just fine.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 2:37AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:53AM
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I concur with Al... I'd eliminate the "root in water" idea and go directly to potting them up in soil/medium.

I've detached many spider plant offsets and placed them directly in pots of soil, with excellent results. Just make certain to choose babies that have the best looking roots, and choose an appropriate medium.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 11:19AM
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IMO, Spider Plants are so hardy they'd root in pebbles.
Since you have more than one baby/shoot, root a couple in soil, and a couple in water. See which way works for you.

It's always a good idea to try different ways.

Years ago, I rooted African Violets in soil, couldn't fathom these beautys producing roots in water.
For years it was done successfully, but for some reason, I couldn't get an AV leaf, in soil, to root again.

A woman I met on GW told me she always rooted in water, with instructions..her mother's creation.
I gave it a try and what do you know, roots formed. Ironically, she started rooting AV leaves in soil, and mine were rooted in water.
So, since you have more than one baby offshoot, experiment both ways. Toni

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 4:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I have no problem with people wanting to experiment, but from a purely pragmatic perspective, it would seem logical that if SPs ARE so hardy they would root in pebbles, which they will, it makes little sense to go through the extra step/effort of rooting in water, and then transferring them to soil.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 6:03PM
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I don't consider placing a cutting in a cute, decorative, ceramic, plastic or even Dixie Cup in water extra effort. Especially since Spider's root so easily and much quicker in h2o.
Shoots rooted in water do not need plastic for added humidity, and can be set anywhere in the house, as long as there's a little light, including a plain, old light bulb. Heck, I've rooted shoots in shade.

Experimenting is fun, a great way to learn, and definately not a waste of time or extra work. Toni

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 3:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As I also mentioned, plants rooted in soil can usually be counted on to be far ahead of plants rooted in water by the time those (water-rooted) plants are finally established in soil. By all means, experiment until your heart's content, root every plant you wish, in water, but there are bits and pieces of science that apply that aren't going to change, simply because they're ignored or another method is chosen.

I try to offer information so people can make an informed decision, what they do with that information is up to them. Yes, this plant does root easily in water, but it's an extra step that is unnecessary (it has preformed roots), and leaves you with a plant lagging behind its counterpart rooted in a solid medium.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 6:27PM
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JoAnne...I think it'd be a good idea for the girls, 'Girl Scout's' to watch roots form in water.
If you decide to root in water, use clear glass/plastic.

On the other hand, if you root in soil, if possible, use a transparent pot, although watching roots grow would be more difficult.

I suggest trying both methods. Either way they should root. Keep us posted on progress..Toni

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 5:11PM
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If you leave the babies on the mother plant they will grow their roots and the only thing you would have to do is pull them off and put them straight in the soil..you're done

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 7:45AM
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Do you need to remove the babies from the mother plant? Does it harm the mother plant to leave them attached?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 4:55PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I think plantmasterm is trying to clarify that the babies need to have visible root formations. I don't think anybody made that basic point above. For either method, I would agree.

Tina, no, and no... unless they are in the ground and you trip over the "umbilical cord." They make it as outdoor perennials here. Where are you?

Also wanted to say if you have enough babies, why not give each teacher one of each - water and soil. And I loved hopeful/Toni's clear pot idea.

Al, loved your scientific-yet-understandable info above. Thanks for taking the time to share it!! What happens to the water roots when the plants are put in soil? Do they die off and new roots are formed, or do those water roots change/adapt? Is there a small amount of time that would be beneficial in water to soften or swell the roots first?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 12:45PM
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