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I have some spider plants that I grew from babies from a parent plant.

They were mostly doing "OK" until a few months ago when the new plants simultaneously lost all their leaves suddenly - the leaves became very thin at the bases and then dried out and fell off. I blamed this on very dark indoor conditions caused by keeping blinds closed during hot summer weather. Since then, they have been on indoor windowsills (some east-facing, some west) in a north European climate.

The plants are watered a bit, but not a lot (no standing water in the bottoms of the pots). The soil is mostly potting compost and a handful of perlite.

Since "the great die-back", they have just kind of coasted along, not growing any substantial amount and what there is looks pretty sad and stunted.

For example, here is the first one that I propagated (it was much bigger and bushier at the start of the year and had even made its own babies). It's a sad remnant of what it used to be:

enter image description here enter image description here

The mother plant (in a different part of the house) is much larger and still going strong and throwing off babies left, right and centre, so I don't feel like the size of the pots or the water should be an issue? The roots seems dense, but don't look otherwise unwell.

Should I just bin these and start with some fresh babies? What went wrong this time and how to stop it happening again?

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To me, you have a healthy, rootbound plant. I'm in the northern US, and at this time of year my spider plants stop growing and begin looking a bit like yours. I attribute this to poor light levels (they're in a basement window that is made of glass blocks, not glass, so light transmission is very poor, especially after it snows a lot). They always come back strong in the spring after I put them outside. I'd probably put the pictured plant back into its pot without any fertilizer at all through the winter (yes, it'll be rootbound, but you don't want to force any growth until spring), then in March or April repot it and fertilize it through July or so.

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  • OK, I guess I thought they'd have done more growing since August, but they can have a nice quiet winter inside and maybe a fresh start next year.
    – diwhyyyyy
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 21:32
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    For fertilizer, I use a timed-release fertilizer (Osmocote), applied when it goes outside in May. Every three-four years, I split the mother plant into four or five pieces, give away or discard all but one of those, and repot that one into a larger-than-normal pot with fertilizer. It responds REALLY quickly and looks great a month later. :)
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 23:55
  • Do you use the tablets or just spread some around on the soil?
    – diwhyyyyy
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 21:31
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    Osmocote is pelleted, so I just spread some pellets around on top of the soil. I do this only in spring, to get the plant through the growing season, because I want the growth to slow down over the fall and winter.
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 12:23

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