I first came across this South African species ‘The spider plant’ as a boy in the 1970’s smashing into it as I raced up and down the stairs. I was always surprised how they survived all the damage and why my mother had so many of them. She hung them over the stairway where there was little light too. Surprisingly, they have little to no pests. It is a plant that brings back many memories.
Species shown: Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’
A perennial to 50-60cm in height, with fleshy tuberous roots. Leaves: Extremely long, strap shaped blades, no teeth or hairs. Inflorescence: On stem in clusters of 1-6, they are white, 6 petalled with 3 veins on each petal. Cross pollinated by insects to produce seed. Variegation of the leaves does make it more attractive visually. However, this has no benefit to the plant as there is no chlorophyll within the white zones to photosynthesise, this is due to a mutation. The variety shown has white areas of the leaf in the centre, the other common variety which is variegated has the white on the outside Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variagatum’. Propagation is mainly by ramets (identical clones) daughters from the mother plant. produced on the nodes (joints) of the runner (lateral over ground stems). This is a form of asexual propagation.
These small new plantlets ‘spiderettes’, dangling all over the plant is where the name spider plant comes from; as the plant looks like it is covered with the creepy spiders. These small platelets fully formed with small roots can be cut off and potted up in John Innes 2 or similar growing medium. These runners are produced within the summer, if the plant is mature enough; has stored enough energy.
Apart from the lush green foliage, this plant was recognised by NASA over twenty years ago to be apt for the job of removing toxins from our dwellings. Especially, formaldehyde and xylene, which gas off from house hold furnishings, fixtures and fittings. It is basically a living hoover of toxins. We do need to bring more plants and animals back within our living and work quarters. Not surprisingly, it has been shown that when green plants were added to hospital wards people felt better!
Negative ions and their bearing on health: Negative ions in the air are biologically active and affect circadian rhythms (day/night body clock). They act on the parasympathetic nervous system (resting, relaxing part of the autonomic nervous system) relaxing the nerves. Whereas positive ions excite the sympathetic nerves (fight/flight autonomic nervous system). Manmade electromagnetic radiation creates positively charged ions. All pollutants are positively charged like diesel particulates, fungal pathogens (moulds), bacterial pathogens etc. These pollutants attract negative ions which then reduces the amount of negatively charged ions in the air. Plants actually produce negatively charged O2 (oxygen) and absorb the positively charged CO2 (carbon dioxide) and toxic gases. The fact that we have large air handling units, air conditioning units, coupled with electrical devices emitting EMF’s: computers, printers, SMART phones, TV’s, watches and swipe boards, creates more positive ions and perhaps ‘Sick Building Syndrome’. We need to balance things out with more plants!
The Amount of negative ions within different environments: Sea shore, by the sea 50,000 per cm3, countryside near trees 4000> per cm3, near cell phone masts 80-100 per cm3, offices 40-100 per cm3 and air-conditioned rooms 20 per cm3.
In fact, if there are less negative ions, put simply, we breath in less oxygen!
Negative ions have also been shown to influence your serotonin level (a neurotransmitter) keeping it in balance. This may have an influence on your mood and sleep patterns as serotonin is a precursor to melatonin production within the pineal gland.
A study carried out at Reading University in surrey Uk found that school children achieved higher grades in exams, when green foliage was placed within their study area.
The spider plant, not only looks aesthetically pleasing year round, removes chemical toxins including positive ions, gives back negatively charged oxygen and is easy to propagate!
The chances are you have an acquaintance / friend or family member whom may just have a spider plant! Ask them to do you a cutting in the summer!
Don’t over water, just keep moist in summer. During the winter keep indoors and reduce watering only giving a little when dry.
Temperature: Best grown out of cold draft in indirect sunlight between 18-30C
What I love about this species is that it is so simple to propagate and generally live with. Have a go at growing it and let me know how you get on? I would love to hear from you!