How to grow and care for snake plant
Snake plant is a houseplant that has low light requirements and requires minimal attention to survive indoors or out. It is also called mother-in-law's tongue and its botanical name is Dracaena trifasciata (formally known as Sansevieria trifasciata). It is easy to take care of.
Usually, snake plants have stripe coloration from green to gray or silver with yellow edges. It's originally from a few parts of Southern Africa. When grown outdoors, it prefers warmer weather.
We'll discuss everything you need to know about growing and caring for snake plants so they can thrive in your home, office, or any other low-light environment. We'll also discuss how different types of snake plants grow so you'll know what works best for your needs!
Snake plant care
You may be surprised to know that snake plant care is easy. Most people are intimidated by the thought of caring for this type of houseplant because they believe it's too complicated or time-consuming, but the truth is, with minimal attention and care, your snake plant should thrive in your home or office environment.
Let's discuss how different types of these plants grow so you know what will work best for your needs!
The soil snake plants prefer is a well-draining potting mix one preferably made from mostly organic matter.
A common and inexpensive option for snake plant care is to use a well-draining potting soil that's mixed with one part sand. You can also mix in some perlite or pumice into the potting soil blend, which will help ensure good drainage as well as aeration.
Generally, snake plants grow well in succulents and cacti soil. You can also use an African violet soil mixture because it is also well-draining.
No matter what type of soil you use, it's best to only water your snake plant when the soil is dry. It shouldn't take long for the top inch of soil to dry out which makes it easy for you to tell if your snake plant needs watering. If this is not possible, stick your finger about one inch into the potting mix, and if moist, don't water your plant.
These indoor plants don't like to be overwatered and they should only be watered about once a month during the winter months and twice a month during the summer.
Be sure it's draining well throughout the whole pot so that the excess moisture can evaporate from the soil as soon as possible, preventing root rot. Also, try to avoid getting leaves wet during watering.
Dracaena (sansevieria) is a tropical plant that thrives in lower light conditions which is why they're suitable for growing indoors. They will also grow well outside in full to part sun.
If you'd like to keep your snake plant inside, then it's best to place it somewhere that gets 4-6 hours of indirect sunlight each day.
Air Circulation requirement
These plants are resilient to both dry or stale air in our homes and workplaces. They'll also flourish in high humidity areas like bathrooms.
Be sure they're not placed next to heat sources like vents or furnaces that will dry the air too much.
Temperature and Humidity Requirement
Although snake plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures between 50 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the variety. They generally prefer hotter conditions as long as they're well watered and don't dry out too.
If your snake plant is kept in a frost, it may die, as it cannot withstand extreme cold below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for a long period.
Snake plants flourish best at temperatures around 65-95 degrees Fahrenheit. For optimal comfort, set it away from drafts.
During the growing season, use a mild cactus fertilizer or a balanced liquid slow-release (10-10-10) fertilizer diluted to half strength. Avoid fertilizing during the winter months.
Pruning snake plants
The ideal time to prune is during the growing season, which is usually spring or summer. Pruning may be done at any time of year; however, since pruning can stress a plant, it's preferable to perform it when the plant is in its healthiest state.
Remove the tallest leaves at the soil line to regulate the height of your snake plant. Remove any leaves that are damaged as well. Use sterile pruning shears, scissors, or a sharp knife. Leaves removal promotes new leaves development.
If you like to keep your original plant in good shape, it's best to remove the pups and prune their leaves.
Grow and Care for snake plant faster - Video
Different types of snake plants
Here are the top 9 list of snake plants varieties that you can grow in your house. Some of them are extremely rare but most snake plants can be found easily.
- Dracaena trifasciata Laurentii - This is one of the most common snake plants you'll find in stores. The edges of this variegated snake plant are creamy yellow. It has light green with dark green stripe leaves that grows to about 2-4 feet tall. It is one of the tallest snake plant cultivar.
- Dracaena trifasciata Golden Hahnii (Bird’s Nest sansevieria) - This snake plant's broad tapered leaves have green and light green running horizontally striped markings. The leaves grow in clusters before turning leafy funnels as the plants develop. When viewed from above, the 'Golden Hahnii' has a rosette pattern to its form. This dwarf snake plant grows up to 20 cm only and need much light. It is not like other tall leaves plant.
- Dracaena tricolor - This variety (Dracaena marginata tricolor) has a green stripe going down the middle of each variegated pale green to grayish-green colored leaf. They can reach up to 4.5 meters tall and 3 miters wide. It's best suited for bright indirect sunlight conditions (or morning sunlight).
- Dracaena trifasciata Hahnii- Hahnii plants have dark green leaves with horizontal white stripes. The foliage creates a lovely rosette shape. Their growth and reproduction is faster and can grow up to 30 cm tall. They are best suited for bright light conditions.
- Dracaena angolensis (formerly Sansevieria cylindrical or cylindrical snake plant) - This variety has up to 1.2 m long leaves that are grayish green to olive green in color. This cylindrical leaves snake plant has oval, rigid leaves, and around 1 inches thick at the base. The leaves curve out from a central crown. It prefers bright light.
- Dracaena trifasciata 'Twist' - This variety has twisted leaves with yellow variegated edges that are striped horizontally, so giving it its name. The leaves can reach up to 14 inches tall and about 2 inches wide when grown indoors in a pot and is best suited for medium light conditions (can survive low light but the leaves will be smaller).
- Sansevieria Moonshine (sansevieria silver queen, sansevieria moonglow, and moonlight snake plant) - The moonshine sansevieria plant is a distinctive sansevieria with pale, silvery-green, spear-shaped leaves. The dark green margin of the broad, pointed succulent leaves of the moonshine snake plant makes it an attractive plant. Moonshine plant grows up to 2 feet in height.
- Dracaena desertii - This succulent red-tinted leaves grows to be about 12 inches tall and has juicy leaves. It is also called rhino grass.
- Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Bantel's Sensation' - This cultivar reaches up to 3 feet tall (91 cm.) and has white vertical stripes on its narrow leaves, hence the name White snake plant.
Propagating snake plants
It's ideal to propagate during the snake plant growing season, which generally lasts from early spring through late summer.
If your snake plant is at least 4 inches tall, it may be split effortlessly. New branches can also develop from the ground and maybe potted independently if you do not wish to divide the plant itself.
Here are the 4 different ways to propagate snake plants. Check Propagating Succulents for a more in-depth guide.
Propagate using root division
To propagate by root division, you'll need a clean pot, cactus potting mix, and a sharp knife.
- First, pull the whole plant out of its pot, and place it on a flat surface. Gently clean the root ball from the soil.
- Divide the plant into sections so that each section has its root structure attached to it. You can cut it by a knife. It's ok, it won't kill it.
- Transplant these new plant parts in to separate pots with succulent and cactus potting soil.
- Water them thoroughly, and let it grow in a bright indirect sunlight.
Propagation by leaf-cutting
In this method, you'll need a sterilized scissor, pruning shears, or a sharp knife, a clean pot, and well-draining potting mix, OR a clean jar if you prefer to root it in water.
- Cut a long healthy leaf from the parent snake plant with any of the above tool. Let it callous for some time or add some growing hormones.
- Submerge the cut end in a clean jar of water or plant it in a pot with cacti soil.
- Place the new baby snake plant in a partially sunny spot.
- Change the water of the jar every few days (better every week or 2) to prevent bacterial or algae growth. OR if you are growing in soil, mist it twice every day.
- When you see root growth, you can plant your new snake plant in a well-draining and fresh soil and start caring for it.
Snake plants are usually slow-growing plants, so expect to root them after 2 months. When the new growth appears, transplant/repot it to their new homes/containers.
Leaf cuttings are the most common way to propagate succulents. If you own a snake plant, you should expand it by the leaf-cutting propagation method.
Snake plants can be propagated from offshoots too. In this case, you'll need a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the offshoot from the parent plant and replant it in a well-draining pot full of succulent fresh soil.
The offshoot should have its roots intact. It is one of the easiest and quick methods to grow snake plants.
Remember to put in indirect bright light or near a sunny window, and only water when the soil dries.
Propagating snake plants from seeds
Snake plants can be grown from seeds too. But the other techniques (offshoots or leaf-cutting) are considerably easier, faster, and more reliable. Snake plant seeds have a low rate of germination. It might take anything from three to six weeks for a seedling to form.
- Fill up a pot with cacti soil and spread the seeds on top of it. Water them to keep the seed moist and place in a sunny spot.
- You can wrap a clear plastic over it.
- It will take time for the seed to germinate, so be patient.
- After a few weeks, new growth will appear, wait for them to grow a little more before transplanting.
- Once they grow up to 3-4 inches, separate them with a clean sharp knife or pruning shears and pick out the best one and replant it in a well-draining pot full of succulent soil.
Be careful, never let your snake plant baby or even mature snake plant outdoor when temps dip below 50 F.
Pests and Diseases
Snakes plants are prone to a variety of insects, including scale infestations, gnats, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies. If you maintain your plant healthy, you can avoid these insect infestations. OR use a mild spray of an organic neem oil insecticide soap.
The most likely culprits are mealybugs and spider mites. Both attacks can be treated by regularly misting the leaves of the plant or taking a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or a drop of dish soap and wiping it on the affected area. Make sure to clean both sides of the leaves.
Mealybugs reproduce in a cottony substance around their body, so you can easily wipe them off with a swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Spider mites are barely visible to the human eye and live on the undersides of your plant's leaves. You'll have to use a magnifying glass or better yet, a small hand lens to spot them. You may also shake your plant and see if tiny dust particles fall from the leaves. Treat these with insecticidal soap or neem oil solution.
Snake plants are easy to grow, reproduce, and keep for years, regardless of your experience or a green thumb. The most common snake plant health concerns include overwatering. Plant diseases such as fungal infections and root rot are caused by over-watering.
Here are some other diseases that you may face while growing a snake plant.
Curling Leaves Problem
Curling leaves are usually caused by cold or dry air. Snake plants are tropical plants, so the temperature should be warm. They're highly sensitive to temperature changes. Keep them away from drafty areas and heating vents.
The other thing that causes curling leaves, is Thrips pest infestation. These are tiny black bugs that you can inspect with a magnifying glass. Remove severely curled leaves and, using neem oil or vegetable soap, treat the plant to keep pests away. New leaves will surely grow.
Brown Tips, Red Spots, Yellow or Brown Leaves
Healthy snake plant leaves are green with a yellow-streaked pattern. Yellow or brown leaves are generally caused by underwatering. So keep the soil moist, give it a good drink to rehydrate it, and let it dry between watering sessions to fix these issues.
Brown tips can be caused by cold drafts or direct sunlight that burns the leaves. Snake plants need bright but indirect sunlight every day. Keep them at least 1 foot away from the window.
Red spots on leaves can also be caused by over-watering or too little light so adjust your conditions accordingly.
Dead Leaves, Drooping and Falling Leaves
Snakes plants are resilient and easy-to-grow houseplants that rarely wilt, die, or need repotting. However,
- If your plant looks unhealthy, check whether it's getting enough water and sunlight.
- If the leaves are turning brown around the edges or falling off of their own accord at any time during the year, it can mean that there is something wrong with your soil.
Healthy snake plant leaves shoot up and stand erect, but overwatering, insufficient light, or poor potting media might cause the leaves to droop or fall.
Soil should be moist, but not wet. If you have the right conditions and the leaves are still turning brown, it may be due to poor drainage in your pot or because your substrate is too alkaline for your plant's liking.
Slow growth Problem
Snake plants grow best in warm areas and moist soil. If you keep them in a colder room or dry pot, you might experience slow growth.
Snake plants can reach heights of up to 4 feet when grown in optimum conditions, but you may occasionally discover species that grow to much larger sizes.
The plant requires a relative humidity of approximately 40 percent to thrive, which means it can tolerate a lot of variation in light and temperature.
Snake plants don't grow significantly while growing indoors. The container's size limits the plant's root spread and the development of additional leaves. Cutting off the plant's leaf tips restricts how high the leaves can develop. So at least provide it a bigger container where its roots can grow easily.
Mushy roots Problem
Healthy snake plants have rough white rhizomes that are readily apparent after digging a few inches beneath the soil. Assume you think your plant has a fungal infection. It's critical to check the roots.
Mushy, brown, or flaky roots are signs of root rot in snake plants if they're common. Check the roots for texture and outward appearance.
Smelly potting soil, root rot
If you smell an unpleasant odor coming from your plant roots or potting media, it may be caused by root rot. Scoop some of the soil near the base of the plant (taking care not to harm the plant's roots) and hold it to your nose for a quick diagnosis.
A pungent potting medium is detrimental.
Potting/Repotting snake plants
Dracaena is a slow grower that rarely requires repotting, but if given enough light, they can develop quickly and need to be repotted or divided into separate snake plants.
For repotting a snake plant, choose a strong-walled container since strong roots may easily shatter weak ones.
These succulents should be repotted in the spring. In every case, use fresh potting soil or a cactus potting mix or mix your garden soil with cacti soil when repotting. Also, use a pot with drainage holes so the excess water can drain easily.
Planting snake plants are easy, you can refer to planting succulents for an in-depth guide, or follow the below steps to plant snake plant.
- Fill a container/pot up to 3/4 of its height with a succulent potting mix. (leave some space at the top).
- Place your snake plant in the middle of the pot, and spread its root horizontally.
- Add more soil to cover the roots of your snake plant.
- Add some top dressing for decoration. Then start caring for your snake plant.
How to make a snake plant to bloom
The blooms of snake plants are creamy-white, tubular shapes that resemble lilies. It blossoms yearly when its water, sun, and humidity requirements are optimal.
However, when cultivated indoors all year, they seldom bloom.
The progression of the seasons—namely, the arrival of spring—rouses the plant out of dormancy and stimulates growth.
It has beautiful blooms that are fragrant and blossom at night like other dracaena species. There's no need to remove these flowers; they'll wilt on their own after some time.
Snakes plants act as an air purifier, producing oxygen at night and removing carbon dioxide during the day.
A snake plant is an easy-care houseplant that brings life to any room. It's also an excellent choice for improving air quality in your home or office. They make them feel alive with their ever-changing colors and textures, while also removing toxins from the air around them. Within no time, you can be enjoying these benefits while admiring its beautiful foliage.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you'll have the ultimate knowledge of snake plant care. Please feel free to ask for anything in the comments below if there is something unclear.
If you like this article please share it with your friends too.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are snake plants easy to care for?
Yes, they are very easy to care for.
How often do I water my snake plant?
Water your snake plant once the soil is completely dry to help prevent rot. They only need watering about every 2 weeks during hot months and less frequently in cooler weather. During winter, it’s best to put them on a “dry” winter schedule, where they get watered only once a month.
How to overwinter a snake plant?
Provide shelter for your plants by moving them indoors or under an overhang that's sheltered from the elements. Remove any stems that have died or dried leaves that are falling off plant stems. Cut back to healthy foliage and give it very little water, if any.
If you live in a climate where you can leave your plants outside during winter, move them to an area that receives partial sunlight and shelter them from the wind. Continue to protect until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).
Where should I place my snake plant?
Snake plants do best in bright, indirect light. So place it where it gets enough sunlight.
Snakes plants are toxic to pets - especially cats, so it is best to be careful where you keep your plant if you have pets that like to chew on things!
How fast does a snake plant grow?
The snake plant is a slow grower in general, but if you put it outside during the summer, it may grow faster.
How long does a snake plant live?
Snake plants can live as long as 20 years but on average they live from 5-10 years.
What's the difference between Nassauvia Serpens and Dracaena trifasciata?
Although Nassauvia Serpens and Dracaena trifasciata are both known as snake plants, they are not the same. The Falkland Islands native perennial shrub Nassauvia Serpens is a member of the aster family. They bear no resemblance to each other.
Are snake plants toxic to pets?
Yes, snake plants are toxic to pets-especially cats. So it is best to be careful where you keep your plant if you have pets that like to chew on things! Check it at ASPCA.
Are snake plants poisonous?
Yes, they are poisonous if ingested. This plant does have a sap that can irritate the eyes and skin of some people, so it is best to handle it with care! Check it at ASPCA.
How much light does a snake plant need?
Snake plants do well in bright, indirect light. However, they will tolerate low-light areas too. If you are propagating a snake plant and using some artificial light source in an indoor environment, place them under direct light.
What kind of fertilizer should I give to the snake plant?
During the growing season (spring to autumn), fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer once every two weeks; do not use high nitrogen formulas during this period. OR add some warm compost to the soil in early autumn.