Garden Myths Gardening Houseplants

Garden Myth: Male Spider Plants Produce No Babies

Am I a boy or a girl? Source:,, montage:

You’d be surprised at how often I hear the following bit of useless horticultural information: that if a spider plant, also called airplane plant, (Chlorophytum comosum) produces no “babies” (plantlets), it must be a male. And that would seem logical, wouldn’t it, as don’t only female animals produce animal babies?

But that, of course, is nonsense. The sex of a plant has nothing to do with whether it produces offsets (babies). They’re a form of asexual reproduction: no exchange with any other plant is needed, male or female. And it just so happens that the spider plant, like the vast majority of plants, has “perfect” flowers, that is, bisexual ones. Both male and female organs are present and functional. It’s therefore hermaphroditic, both male and female.

The Real Reasons Why Spider Plants Produce No Babies

This spider plant is simply a bit too young to produce babies. It will in a month or so! Source:

If the spider plant produces no babies, therefore, it’s for some other reason. And that’s usually because it’s either too young (it usually needs to be about a year old before it will produce offsets) or it’s not getting the growing conditions it needs.

And that’s none too common.

It just so happens that a spider plant is an extremely easy plant to grow (indoors at least, outdoors, it needs a tropical climate). It will put up with irregular waterings, prolonged drought, little or no fertilizer and barely tolerable temperatures and yet will still produce at least a few babies on its famous hanging stems.

20181106C Ju-Lee,
This light-starved spider plant is just barely alive: it certainly doesn’t have enough energy to reproduce! Source: Ju-Lee,

So when a spider plant produces no babies, it’s almost always for one simple reason: it’s not getting enough light!

Remember that light is the only source of energy for green (photosynthetic) plants. For them, light is as important as food is for humans. Spider plants are incredibly tenacious and will hang on for years under low-light conditions, essentially half-starved all that time, but they will not bloom under those conditions … and for them, blooming is essential for baby-making.

Flower Stems Bear Baby Plants

20181106D Reaperman, Wikimedia Commons.JPG
First the stem produces flowers, then “babies” appear. Source: Reaperman, Wikimedia Commons

You see, under even moderately good light, spider plants will produce arching flower stalks that bear tiny white flowers. None too showy and fairly short-lived, they may go unnoticed. However, even as flower buds appear, the flower stalk continues lengthening, now arching downward under the weight of little plantlets that form on it. These are the “babies” you’ve been expecting. The larger and the more numerous the plantlets, the more the stem droops, giving the plant its well-known trailing habit. But still, it needs to bloom before it will pop out babies … and that requires light.

In the wild (it’s a widely distributed groundcover in Sub-Saharan Africa), the spider plant, of course, grows on the ground and the arching stem soon touches the earth where the babies now root, resulting in more spider plants. Thus, the spider plant spreads more through asexual reproduction (rooted plantlets) than it does through sexual reproduction.

20181106E Florian Wickem, Wikimedia Commons.jpg
Bright light means plenty of babies: it’s as simple as that! Source: Florian Wickem, Wikimedia Commons

In hanging baskets, it just keeps producing more and more hanging flower stems and even the baby plants in free fall begin to produce their own flower stems, causing the plant to cascade downward even further … and that is what makes the spider plant such a popular houseplant.

Light is Right

But for abundant babies, the spider plant needs good light. And for even a modest number of babies, at least moderate light. Under poor light, it will simply produce leaves.

So now that you know, move your “male” spider plants to a brighter spot and soon it will be a mommy!

6 comments on “Garden Myth: Male Spider Plants Produce No Babies

  1. A very good article. Congratulations

  2. I understand this concept of needing light. But I have a spider that’s in light all the time. It is getting huge! Like i wonder where to put it because its so big. But has no babies and never has. My mum bought one at the same time as me, hers is half the size and full of babies? So I’m not really believing the male and female doesn’t matter.

  3. Chris Heilman

    I work at a greenhouse and recently had a customer who has grown spider plants for years, but had one for just about 9 years and still has not produced a baby. she still cant figure out why. I’m still trying to figure it out myself that if she’s grown them for so many years and had huge ones, why this one isn’t. Everything that I’ve researched, gives specific reasons, and I’ve asked her those questions and she’s doing everything by the book

    • My guess is that there is something wrong with it, maybe a virus, as their symptoms are so subtle. Or manybe its a different species of Chorolphytym. Only C. comosum produced “babies.”

  4. Janet Farnworth

    I live in West Africa. My spider plant hasn’t put out babies for two years now. It’s on a North facing verandah but it has direct sun in the morning and it’s bright most of the time. Is there anything else I can give it. I feed it Baby Bio every two weeks in spring and summer.

    • I suspect it’s getting far too much fertilizer. Don’t fertilize it for 4 or 5 months, then only once or twice a year. Too much nitrogen stimulates green growth, but can keep a plant from flowering. And, if you read the article, you’ll understand why that means no babies.

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