You may be familiar with the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) as a houseplant, usually grown in a hanging container to show off its "offspring" spiders that attach to the parent plant via graceful stems. But a spider plant also makes a good outdoor plant that can grow in the garden year round in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. In colder regions, grow it outdoors during the warmer months, overwintering indoors until the following season.
Growing Outdoors in Warm Areas
If you live within the spider plant's range, you can successfully grow the plant outdoors for the entire year. Spider plant, also called airplane plant, works well planted in the ground, where it can make a slowly spreading groundcover or an attractive edging for a bed. The offspring plantlets root when they touch soil, gradually enlarging the planting. The plant also grows as a container plant outdoors, either hanging to show off its plantlets or in a standing planter.
This plant can sustain some damage at temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and sub-freezing temperatures can kill it if they last for long periods. In colder parts of its range such as USDA zone 9, where occasional winter frost might occur, a garden-grown plant's top might die back but roots usually survive and the plant recovers. If you're expecting a cold snap, protect the plant by covering it with a light cloth that doesn't touch the foliage or, if it's in the ground, some evergreen boughs, removing the covering when warmth returns.
Growing Outdoors in Cold-Winter Regions
If you live in a colder area outside the spider plant's range, you can still grow the plant outdoors in a container, moving it outside in spring when temperatures stay above 45 degrees F and bringing it indoors in fall, when cold weather threatens. Indoors, it does best in an environment that's between 55 and 70 degrees F. Before moving a garden-grown plant indoors, check it for any signs of insects and, as a precaution, spray all parts of the plant until dripping with insecticidal soap, diluted at a rate of 5 tablespoons per gallon of water; this treatment destroys most soft-bodied insects.
Providing the Right Environment
The spider plant is quite adaptable to different light conditions outdoors, but prefers filtered sun such as beneath tall trees with open canopies. It can also take full sun for part of the day, provided it's not full midday sun, but some cultivars with variegated leaves might scorch in too much sun.
When over-wintered indoors, a spider plant grows best in bright light, such as in a sunny, south- or west-facing window. If your interior light is low you can also help the plant do well by growing it under fluorescent lights placed several inches from its foliage; these should provide at least 400 foot-candles of light.
When grown in the ground, a spider plant thrives in any type of garden soil, provided it's well-drained. A potted plant grows well in any commercial potting soil.
During the summer when the plant's growing, keep its soil evenly moist, watering whenever the top of the soil is dry to the touch. If you grow it in a container, only use one with at least one drainage hole and always let the pot drain fully, never keeping it in a water-filled saucer. During winter, indoors or outdoors, water less often, letting soil become dry between waterings.
For best results, fertilize a spider plant every two weeks during spring and summer when it's actively growing. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 formula, diluted at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water, but check your product label for additional instructions. Use the fertilizer solution in place of a regular watering, and withhold fertilizer during the fall and winter, to give the plant a rest.