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Chlorophytum comosum 'Vittatum' – a variegated cultivar
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Chlorophytum
Ker Gawl.[1]
Type species
Chlorophytum inornatum
  • Hartwegia Nees
  • Hollia Heynh.
  • Schidospermum Griseb. in W.Lechler
  • Asphodelopsis Steud. ex Baker
  • Acrospira Welw. ex Baker
  • Dasystachys Baker 1878, illegitimate homonym, not Oerst. 1859
  • Debesia Kuntze
  • Verdickia De Wild.

Chlorophytum (/ˌklɒrəˈftəm, ˌklɔː-, -r-/,[3][4]), sometimes colloquially referred to as the spider plants, is a genus of almost 200 species of evergreen perennial flowering plants in the century plant subfamily within the asparagus family.[5] The plants are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Australia, and Asia.[2][6][7][8]

Depending on species, most Chlorophytum mature at about 10–60 cm (3"-12") in height, growing out from a central rosette of long, slender leaves of around 15–75 cm (5"-29") in length. The plants tend to have thick, fleshy, tuberous roots, about 0.5-2 cm (0.17"-0.75") thick. The flowers are small and usually white, produced on sparse panicles up to 120 cm (47") long.

In certain species, such as C. comosum (the ubiquitous 'spider plant'), the plants are known to reproduce vegetatively by producing plantlets—baby plants connected by an "umbilical" stem, sprouting from the side of the main mother-plant. On the ground, or in a wild setting, this vegetative growth habit enables vast swathes of the plant to colonize a single area, as the plantlets develop small roots to eventually anchor into the soil and spread the mass further. In a home or garden setting, these plants are often grown in hanging pots, on plant stands, high shelves or other elevated surfaces.

As the plant develops and throws off babies, or "pups", these may be optionally removed and propagated, either in a vessel of water for a time or directly planted into new substrate. Conversely, if the pups are allowed to remain connected to the mother plant and hang naturally, the appearance vaguely mimics spiders hanging by their silken thread—thus giving the plant the common moniker of "spider-plant". The plantlets will develop aerial roots when left attached to the mother plant, as a means of absorbing ambient humidity until they make contact with an organic substrate, or the ground.[3]

Chlorophytum borivilianum is a native of India, where it is grown for use as a medicinal plant.

Species, subspecies, and varieties[edit]

The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognized 191 species as of January 2013:[2]


  1. ^ Ker Gawler, John Bellenden 1807. Botanical Magazine 27: plate 1071 + 2 subsequent text pages description in Latin, commentary in English; full-page color illustration of Chlorophytum inornatum
  2. ^ a b c Search for "Chlorophytum", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2013-01-07
  3. ^ a b Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  4. ^ "Chlorophytum". Unabridged (Online). n.d. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  5. ^ Stevens, P.F. (2001–2012), Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Agavoideae
  6. ^ Flora of China Vol. 24 Page 205 吊兰属 diao lan shu Chlorophytum Ker Gawler, Bot. Mag. 27: t. 1071. 1807.
  7. ^ South African National Biodiversity Institute, Red List of South African Plants, search for Chlorophytum
  8. ^ Atlas of Living Australia, Chlorophytum

External links[edit]