Snake Plant: Growing + Care Guide

Durable, low maintenance, striking appearance, and excellent decor are some things to love about these plants. Snake plant or Sansevieria is an indoor staple plant that makes a perfect choice for homeowners looking for houseplants with hassle-free care tips.

The succulent ranks among the most tolerant plants that withstand harsh conditions and neglect.

With that said, is it a good choice for your home? Why should you add it to your array of houseplants? This article explores all you need to know about snake plants, from their appearance to the different species, blooming stage, propagation, and benefits.

What’s more? We answered some questions that most gardeners and homeowners ask. Let’s dive in!

What is a Snake Plant?

Native to tropical Africa and Southern Asia, the snake plant is a flowering plant belonging to the Asparagaceae family. It’s not surprising that snake plants are predominant in Africa since they thrive best in warm temperatures and indirect sunlight.

Snake plant, also known as Saint George’s sword, mother-in-law’s tongue, or viper’s bowstring hemp.

These plants were formerly members of the Sansevieria genus until the early 2000s, when a study revealed that the plants resembled the Dracaena species. Today, the snake plant is called the Dracaena species, but some people still refer to it as Sansevieria.

Types

snake plant in old metallic pot

Several varieties and cultivars of snake plants exist today. Here’s a brief description of some of them.

Dracaena trifasciata (Mother-in-law’s tongue)

Commonly grown in gardens, Dracaena trifasciata derives its name from its long, thin leaves. The plant species is sturdy, grows upright with dark green leaves, and stands tall at 6 inches. Its leaves form clusters that resemble a bird’s nest.

Dracaena twist

As its name implies, this species has twisted leaves with green and yellow edges. The Dracaena twist has other names: Gold Twist and Twisted Sister Snake plant, and it stands tall at 1-2 feet, complementing modern interiors.

Dracaena Laurentiis

The perennial succulent has leaves with striped green leaf centers and bright yellow margins, which grow upright from the stem’s base. Laurentiis is best propagated by division and not leaf cuttings.

Dracaena angolensi

This variegated plant has thick, cylindrical, and firm leaves that can withstand drought or harsh sunlight. The flower stalk can reach up to 3 feet, enclosed by numerous flower buds.

Other species include Dracaena moonshine, Dracaena basal sensation, Dracaena pearsonii, Dracaena hahnii, etc.

Benefits

Purifies Air

According to NASA Clean Air Study, plants with more leaf surface area are good purifiers; snake plants aren’t left out. They help remove toxic substances such as benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air.

These air pollutants in household items like cleaning supplies and furniture polish are cancer-causing agents.

Effective Against Allergies

Plants with oxygen-producing and air purifying qualities help decrease the onset of allergies. Snake plants rank among these plants; they eliminate toxic pollutants and chemicals that can worsen allergies or make you ill.

Low Maintenance

With their ability to thrive under indirect sunlight, little water, and little care, snake plants are easy to maintain. It doesn’t require much to survive in any condition. Even if you neglect the plant for weeks, it will still be standing tall.

Adds to Home Aesthetics

Besides being low maintenance, snake plants are attractive with unique features that add beauty to your home. While snake plants with tall-shaped leaves complement corners, those with cylindrical leaves suit the office desk and dark areas in the home. In addition, snake plant species with dark green leaves and vertical stripes will complement a farmhouse or bohemian home.

Produce Oxygen at Night

Unlike other green plants that produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis in the daytime, snake plants continuously release oxygen at night to support sleep. Little wonder it makes a good choice for bedrooms.

Relieves Stress and Induces Sleep

A significant benefit of the snake plant is that it helps relieve stress and create a relaxing atmosphere for sleep. In addition, it improves the ambiance of the home.

How to Propagate

Snake plants rank among the easiest plants to grow. With a pair of pruners or a sharp knife, potting soil, and water, your plant will sprout in no time.

There are four ways to propagate Snake plants: in water, from a rhizome, in soil, and by division. Let’s consider how to grow this plant using these four methods:

Propagating Cuttings in Water

snake plant cutting in water

Cut off a healthy leaf close to the plant’s base with a sharp knife or scissors and place the cut end of the leaf in a clean jar of water in a warm room with access to indirect sunlight. Ensure you change the water every week.

You should see roots forming at the base of leaf cuttings after 3 or 5 weeks. 

Some tiny buds will begin growing from the roots too. You can decide to transplant the cuttings in a potting mix or allow them to keep growing in water.

Propagation in water is the easiest method to grow Sansevieria plants, but it can be a long-term process if the plant doesn’t receive enough indirect light.

Propagating by Rhizome Cuttings

A rhizome is a stem that grows underground, connecting the mother plant to new buds. It also looks like garlic cloves. Cut off the rhizome from the plant’s base using a clean knife.

Allow the rhizome to dry for a few days before planting, so the cut area hardens to support water intake. Plant the rhizome in a pot or vase, keep it moist for a few weeks and watch closely for the growth of new snake plants.

Propagating Cuttings in Soil

Use a clean knife or pruner to snip off a healthy leaf from the plant’s base and allow it to dry and heal for some days to prevent rot.

Place the cutting in a moist potting mix with access to indirect sunlight and ensure the soil is well aerated to support the plant’s growth. 

After a month or two, new plants will start sprouting. During this period, try lifting the cutting from the soil to check if it’s deeply rooted.

The cutting is rooted and undergoing growth if you have difficulty lifting it. However, if the cutting pops out of the soil, you’ll need to replant it under the right conditions.

Propagating Cuttings by Division

This is the fastest way to propagate and grow snake plants. It involves breaking plants into sections and is suitable for multiplying large snake plants.

Take the plant from the pot, lay it on a surface, and clean off dirt. It would be best if you did this on a surface or outside. 

Use a clean, sharp knife, scissors, or pruners to cut the plants around the midsection. Ensure the roots, pups, and crowns are intact while cutting.

Plant each division in well-drained soil and water small. To prevent overwatering, allow the soil to dry before watering again.

Fun Fact: Snake plants flower; while it is rare, it does happen. Check out this article on why they flower and how to get yours to bloom.

Light Requirements

For best results, snake plants enjoy indirect but bright light. Some direct sunlight is okay but stick to indirect. The plants will also tolerate shade but will be slow to grow.

Next to an east-facing window providing a little direct sun, indirect natural light the rest of the day is ideal.

Why is my Snake Plant Drooping?

Generally, snake plants are tall and have slender, upright leaves, but when they become sloppy and limpy, there’s something wrong.

Your snake plant may droop due to overwatering, lack of heat, poor lighting, inadequate soil drainage, etc. Once your snake plant becomes droopy, you’ll need to take measurable steps to save it. Let’s consider the common causes of droopy snake plants.

Overwatering

As earlier stated, snake plants do not require too much water since they thrive best in dry, well-drained soil. Overwatering your plant can lead to root rot and droopy leaves.

To restore your plant to its former state, you’ll need to allow the soil to dry out before watering again. 

You might have to increase the amount of time between waterings. Ensure your pot has drainage holes so excess water can drain out easily. In the winter, snake plants do not need much watering, so water sparingly.

Poor Drainage

If you strictly follow a watering schedule and drooping persists, you might need to check the soil. Poor drainage can cause water to accumulate, leading to wet soil.

You should also choose the right potting mix and container because it could cause poor drainage. Choose a cacti potting mix or soil containing organic compost for planting.

Cold Temperature

Snake plants can survive under an optimum temperature of 50F or lower but can’t cope under cold temperatures. Freezing temperatures can make your plant droopy and too soft, resulting in death in severe cases when pruned or cut.

Root Bound

A snake plant that is root bound without trimming root or occasional repotting may likely droop. Typically, repotting should be done every three or five years. If, for any reason, you can’t repot, prioritize root trimming and ensure the roots only occupy half to three-quarters of the pot. 

How can you tell when it’s time to repot or trim roots? Clean off soil from the sides of the plant and check if the root is thick. You’ll need to move the plant to a bigger pot if the root seems thick.

Pests

If your snake plant is experiencing any of the above, it’s more likely to be prone to pest attacks. For example, fungus gnats attack overwatered plants and poorly aerated soil, whereas spider mites and mealybugs will leave small brown spots or faded dots on leaves before drooping.

You may need to repot snake plants attacked by pests in new soil, remove rotten roots and follow care tips.

Final Words

Snake plants are low-maintenance, requiring little water and indirect light to survive. It’s not surprising that the lovely plant is a favorite for many gardeners.

As a houseplant, snake plants dispel toxic chemicals from the air, help fight allergies, induce sleep and beautify the home. 

The Dracaena species tick all the right boxes in terms of durability and maintenance. You should add this to your array of houseplants. Happy gardening!

References

  • aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu – PDF
  • Chapman – PDF