Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Is There a Difference?


Written by Em Casalena

Updated: March 20, 2023

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Spider plants are quite common houseplants. It makes sense why they are so beloved, too. These fancy little plants are quite visually appealing, even without their small, unassuming white flowers. Their foliage takes the form of long, ribbon-like leaves that can be solid green or have a variegated pattern.

So, is this plant the same thing as an airplane plant? Are there any differences between the two, and what do these names actually mean? In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the difference between the spider and airplane plants, and what makes Chlorophytum comosum so unique and useful in an indoor setting.

Comparing Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant

Spider PlantAirplane Plant
ClassificationChlorophytum comosumChlorophytum comosum
Alternative NamesAirplane Plant, Ribbon Plant, Spider IvySpider Plant, Spider Ivy, Ribbon Plant
DescriptionA herbaceous perennial with a grass-like appearance that is commonly kept as a houseplant.A herbaceous perennial with a grass-like appearance that is commonly kept as a houseplant.
UsesOrnamental, air purification, medicinalOrnamental, air purification, medicinal
Growth TipsRequires well-draining soil with even moisture to ensure the roots are not too wet or too dry.Requires bright and indirect sunlight, and also grows more efficiently with nutritious plant food.
Interesting FeaturesThis plant is extremely hardy, though it does not tolerate direct sunlight well.Does well in container planting, especially hanging containers.
A potted spider plant with many leaves suffering from brown tips

The little spiderettes (pictured) that dangle from the leaves of spider plants give this plant its name.


The Key Differences Between Spider Plant and Airplane Plant

Simply put, the spider plant and airplane plant are the same exact plant species. They are simply different names for the same thing. 

Chlorophytum comosum is called the spider plant due to its long, spindly leaves that resemble the legs of a spider. It is also known as the spider plant due to its spiderettes. Spiderettes are miniature spider plants that develop on mother plants after their flowers have gone through their life cycle. These spiderettes will eventually grow roots, root into the nearby ground, and detach from the parent plant. However, while attached to the mother plant, these spiderettes resemble little spiders hanging from a web.

Chlorophytum comosum is also known as the airplane plant. This is due to the fact that its little spiderettes often resemble the twirling propellers of an airplane. It is also possible that the airplane plant has gotten its name from the fact that it is an excellent air purifier.

There are additional names for Chlorophytum comosum as well. It is known as the ribbon plant, though this name was more common during the Victorian era as opposed to modern times. It is also known as the spider ivy, hen and chickens, and common spider.

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Classification

The spider plant or airplane plant is classified as Chlorophytum comosum. It is a member of the Asparagaceae, which includes a number of flowering plants that include snake plants, asparagus, hostas, yucca plants, and more. The Chlorophytum genus includes over 200 species of plants, all of which are evergreen perennial flowering species. Most of the plants in this genus are native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and some parts of Australia. As a member of this genus, the spider plant is closely related to the iphamba, Bichetti grass, and musli.

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Description

One of the most popular and well-known indoor plants is the spider plant, sometimes known as the airplane plant. It is especially well-liked by novices since it is simple to grow and propagate, tolerant of neglect, and able to flourish in almost any environment. It is native to South Africa but can grow indoors and outdoors in USDA hardiness zones nine through 11.

The slender, strap-shaped leaves of this perennial herbaceous plant that forms clumps grow from a central point. The leaves of this plant can either be a deep, pure green or even variegated with white or cream streaks running lengthwise. The leaves of the spider plant don’t appear to be completely flat. Rather, they have a channel or fold along the center. These plants can reach a height of 12 to 15 inches. It can withstand irregular watering because of the rhizomes and large, fleshy roots that have evolved and adapted to retain water. Small white blooms are produced by spider plants, though some spider plants rarely bloom at all.

This plant’s long wiry stems can reach up to two feet long and are sometimes generated, along with a few tiny leaves, in response to winter’s short days and long nights for at least three weeks. At the terminals of the stalks, little white star-shaped blooms are produced. More leaves are formed at the ends of the stems after flowering, creating tiny plantlets or spiderettes. When a flower is pollinated, a fruit with three angled, leathery capsule-like skins and flat black seeds are created.

Two spider plants hanging from two small orange pots in a greenhouse

Spider plants (pictured) are almost universally used as ornamental houseplants.

©IZZ HAZEL/Shutterstock.com

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Uses

The spider plant or airplane plant is mainly used as a decorative, ornamental houseplant. Even when left unattended for days, greatly underwatered, or overwatered, it may survive and readily adapt to many climatic circumstances. It is also comparatively safe for kids and dogs, making it a popular choice for households with both. Although it isn’t deadly, it can occasionally induce stomach pain if consumed in big amounts owing to the presence of chemical components that are thought to be similar to opium.

Nevertheless, this plant is considered edible and often used in food. Fresh spider plant leaves, stems, pods, and blossoms can be cooked in milk or water or fried in a skillet with oil. The milk’s inclusion lessens the harshness of the leaves. You may also add its raw greens to salads.

Spider plants also have some interesting medicinal properties. The leaves of the spider plant contain anti-inflammatory characteristics, and early research indicates that it could be helpful in the creation of arthritis medication. Insecticidal qualities are also known to exist in spider plants.

Spider plants are also famously popular for indoor air purification. In homes or businesses, formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and carbon monoxide may all be removed from the air by using spider plants, according to some studies. NASA famously conducted an experiment that tested the air purification properties of plants with the spider plant coming out on top.

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Origin

The spider plant is native to the western and southern regions of Africa. The plant explorer Carl Peter Thunberg is most likely responsible for introducing the spider plant to Europe around the end of the 1700s. During his travels in South Africa in 1772 and 1773, Linnaeus pupil Thunberg gathered spider plant seeds and dried plant specimens for his botanical studies. Ships returning from China frequently anchored at Capetown, South Africa, and passengers frequently brought plants back as mementos. The spider plant, which is today loved as a houseplant all throughout the world, was probably one of these plants.

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: How to Grow

The spider plant is relatively simple to cultivate indoors year-round in medium to bright indirect light. Despite being able to handle warmer circumstances, it thrives in settings of average humidity and room temperatures. 

Use a soilless medium or all-purpose potting soil. When slightly pot-bound, these plants thrive and produce plantlets. They require periodic repotting since they grow quickly when well taken care of, and the roots can easily get crowded. The spider plant does nicely in hang pots; its cascading leaves look lovely.

Between waterings, let the soil somewhat dry out. It’s normally adequate to fertilize every three to four months, or you may feed more regularly by using a fertilizer solution that is just half as strong. Be mindful that plants that receive a lot of fertilizer might not produce as many plantlets and that too much fertilizer could cause tip browning.

Other than scale insects and mealybugs, spider plants seldom suffer from pest issues. Tip burn of the leaves is a frequent issue with several potential causes. Brown leaf tips can be caused by low humidity, overly dry soil, salt buildup, or pollutants in the air or water, notably fluoride or chlorine in tap water. Avoiding tip browning by using distilled or rainwater is a good idea. Root rot can be caused by overwatering or planting in inadequately draining soil.

In tropical and warm climates, this plant may also be cultivated outside as an annual. After the last frost, it should be bedded out because it thrives in most well-drained soils. They require intense light when growing outside, but too much sun might cause sunburn. They create a beautiful ground cover in partially shaded garden spaces in warmer regions.

A potted spider plant with many leaves suffering from brown tips

The spiderettes (pictured) of spider plants can be used for propagation.


Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Propagation

Propagating these plants is quite easy. By placing the spiderettes that grow after the blooms in their own pots, spider plants are incredibly easy to propagate. When the plantlet has rooted in a pot filled with soil-free potting medium while still linked to the mother plant, cut the stem that connects the plantlet to the mother plant. The plantlet can be kept in touch with the soil until it forms roots. Alternately, choose a plantlet that has already begun to form roots, remove it, and then pot it. Furthermore, larger plants can be split down the middle and grown into separate plants. They can also be produced from seeds, although the seedlings won’t always have the parent plant’s same leaf color.

Spider Plant vs. Airplane Plant: Special Features

Because of its unique and beautiful arching foliage and branches that grow upwards from the plant and carry young spiderettes on them, the spider plant is generally planted in hanging baskets. It blossoms just as gorgeously in conventional pots that are placed on mantles, windowsills, and tabletops.

Certain plants grow nicely along with the spider plant. Ferns, dracaena, and ZZ plants are a few great selections.

In conclusion, there is no difference between spider and airplane plants. These names refer to the same plant classified as Chlorophytum comosum. This fun little plant could make an excellent addition to your home, as they are quite low maintenance and require little in the way of ongoing maintenance. With just a little bit of care, you could have a large spider plant or airplane plant that will boost the aesthetics of your home for years to come!

Do you want to learn even more about the incredible and resilient spider plant? Take a look at our complete guide to spider plants here!

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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