Chlorophytum comosum

Chlorophytum comosum Ocean in the garden of Robin Diehm in Sydney

The so-called spider plant was actually one of the first plants I was ever aware of - it grew out of a teapot in the kitchen of the share house I lived in as a uni student. I have always had a plant of it ever since then. The species comes from South Africa and has rosettes of plain green leaves but there are forms with yellow-, cream- or white-striped leaves. The flowers are insignificant. The plant sends out rosetted 'pups' on long, thin stems, which take root where they touch the ground. It is easy to propagate the plant by detaching these pups and planting them in the ground or in a pot. Growing it in a hanging basket (as shown above) displays the hanging pups most effectively. It grows very well in dry, shaded areas where other plants struggle. It is regarded as frost tender but where grown under trees, it should survive in most Sydney gardens over winter. It can be grown as an indoor plant. It has no pests or disease problems. Opinions varied as to whether this plant belongs to the Anthericaceae or Liliaceae family but it is currently classified as part of the family Asparagaceae.

Chlorophytum comosum Ocean alongside a shaded path

I grow a cultivar of it known as 'Ocean' (ht 30-40 cm), as a weed-suppressing groundcover along a shaded path beneath a large shrub of Hydrangea aspera Villosa Group. The cultivar 'Ocean' has large, upright foliage with crisp white stripes, which lighten up dark, shaded spots. I have used its many pups to fill in an extremely dry and shaded strip alongside another path, where nothing else would grow. It is not a plant to use in an area where you have special specimens you do not want to be swamped - but in a difficult garden spot it provides a useful solution. I particularly like to see it as a groundcover beneath white-flowered plants, to echo the spider plant's stripes.