Sandy’s Garden ... Wabster

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Once upon a time, I knew a plant named Wabster.

That seemingly-improbable statement is the absolute truth. Once upon a time I did know a plant called Wabster. He … she … it … lived in the offices of Central FM when that local radio station was based in part of the former John Player factory in Stirling, in the dim and distant days when Central FM was owned by Johnston Press, the same organisation which owns this illustrious journal, Falkirk Today. And Wabster was given its name … it seems so impersonal to call Wabster ‘it’, but when all is said and done, it was but a plant … by people who understood and practised verbal humour, for ‘wabster’ is the Scots word for a spider; and Wabster was a fine example of Chlorophytum comosum, better known as a spider plant.

We, too, have a spider plant, which decorates our bathroom and which has lived there for many years. For Chlorophytum comosum is a long-lived, undemanding plant, which gets along nicely on its own with little or no attention of any kind. It comes originally from Transvaal in South Africa, a tough environment with widely fluctuating temperatures and long periods of drought, an environment not unlike that found in a typical bathroom … fairly cool for much of the time with occasional leaps in the temperature when baths are being taken and a usually dry atmosphere which become very humid at bathtime!

Chlorophytum comosum was first introduced into the United Kingdom more than 200 years ago and has been a popular houseplant ever since. The most commonly-found variant in garden centres is one of the variegated cultivars with green and white striped leaves, which needs to be kept in a well-lit environment to thrive well, although it doesn’t particularly enjoy too much direct sunshine …another reason why it does well in our bathroom. Some experts advise watering it liberally during its growing season … all summer long … but I have to report that mine doesn’t enjoy that luxury and seems to be very content. Unlike most plants, a mature spider plant actually likes to be pretty much pot-bound, for its very fleshy roots store water and don’t need to be surrounded by a damp growing medium.

The spider plant takes its name from the little plantlets that appear at the ends of the long flowering shoots which spring from the mature plant throughout the spring and summer and which have a passing resemblance to spiders, with a bit of imagination. These plantlets are simplicity itself to grow on to create new plants. If they are too young to have developed roots, cut the plantlets off the parent plant and dangle them in a pot of water so that the base of each plantlet touches the surface. Roots will form in a few weeks … roots which form anyway if the plantlets are allowed to develop on their parent for longer before being cut from the flowering stem. Push these rooted plantlets carefully into a pot, or pots, filled with compost, water them well and put them in a well-lit … but not too sunny …spot. In a matter of weeks you will have nice little plants without any human intervention. Seemple!

As an added bonus, the spider plant combats a number of airborne pollutants in the modern home. It removes benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene from the atmosphere, the last-named being a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.

And, as if all of these good points were not enough, the spider plant is also considered a safe houseplant in homes where there are pets. Furthermore, spider plants are immune from attack by leaf miners, those pests which are prone to afflict houseplants. Spider plants are long-lived, undemanding, attractive all year round … who could ask for more in any houseplant?