How to Grow and Care for Snake Plant

This low-light tolerate plant is an excellent first choice for beginners.

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One of the toughest houseplants, snake plants can tolerate most indoor conditions. With its stately upright foliage, the snake plant—also called mother-in-law's tongue—adds architectural form to a room and complements all styles of decor.

There are no stems on the snake plant, just tough, thick, upright leaves, which make it an ideal floor plant for small spaces. Some dwarf varieties form small rosettes of leaves. The most common foliage showcases shades of green with silver-gray horizontal streaks. Some variegated varieties have cream or gold edges.

Under the right conditions, a snake plant will bloom. While not overly showy, the flowers are borne in large clusters, usually white with a greenish tinge. The small, tubular flowers emit a sweet floral fragrance that can fill a room, but the snake plant blooms only once every several years, not following any schedule.

Snake plants are toxic to dogs and cats, so keep them away from household pets. They are also toxic to young children.

Snake Plant Overview

Genus Name Sansevieria
Common Name Snake Plant
Plant Type Houseplant
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 6 to 36 inches
Foliage Color Gray/Silver
Special Features Low Maintenance
Propagation Division, Leaf Cuttings, Seed

How and When to Plant Snake Plant

Hard-to-kill snake plant is the ideal choice for the home or office. The top-heavy plant requires a heavy container with a drainage tray. Fill the container with good quality, well-draining potting soil, place the plant in the container, press the soil slightly around the plant and water lightly. The best time of year to plant snake plants is in the spring.

Snake plant is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9–11. In other areas of the country where it grows as a houseplant, you can move the snake plant's container outside for the summer and back indoors before the cold weather arrives.

Although it will live and grow in low light, it tolerates all light levels and grows faster in bright light.

Snake Plant Care Tips

Light

Ideally, snake plant likes to be in bright but indirect sunlight. However, you can park it in a dark corner, and it'll be fine. In less light, the color in some Sansevieria varieties can become washed out, and taller types can become leggy and floppy, but this isn't usually a problem.

Soil and Water

When the soil is dry, water the snake plant with room temperature water. Wait a few minutes and then discard any water that drains through to the tray under the container. This plant is extremely drought-tolerant, but its Achilles' heel is too much water. Snake plant needs a well-drained potting mix that doesn't hold a lot of water.

Fertilizer

Snake plant doesn't require much fertilizer. An application of plant food for houseplants a couple of times a year is sufficient.

Potting and Repotting

After you pot your snake plant using well-draining potting soil, it won't need to be repotted for several years. The plant is slow-growing and doesn't mind being crowded as long as it isn't root-bound. If the plant is placed in bright light, it may need to be repotted in three to five years. If it lives in low light, it may not need to be repotted for 10 years.

Pests and Problems

Snake plants are relatively pest-free but can become infested with mealybugs, aphids, or spider mites. If this happens, separate the infested plant from other plants to prevent the spread of the pests and spray with insecticidal soap.

A bigger problem for snake plants is root rot. These plants cannot tolerate overwatering. Prevent root rot by watering only when you see the soil is dry, and never let the plant stand in water. If root rot occurs, repot the plant using new potting medium and breaking away as much of the old medium as possible.

How to Propagate Snake Plant

It is easy to propagate a snake plant with leaf cuttings: cut a 3- to 4-inch section of the leaf and stick it in moist potting soil. Keep this evenly moist but not wet, and in several weeks to a month, small plantlets will begin to grow from the base of the cutting. These can be separated into individual plants or left as a clump.

Most varieties of snake plant with variegated leaves are actually chimeras, a plant mutation that causes the variegated foliage. Chimeras can't be propagated via leaf cuttings as with normal snake plants because the new plants will lose their coloring, turning into all-green versions. The only way to propagate variegated chimeras is by division.

Types of Snake Plant

Bird's Nest Snake Plant

Bird's Nest Snake Plant Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii'
Dean Schoeppner

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii' grows to only 6 inches tall, forming clusters of leaves that form a cup, similar to a bird's nest.

Cylinder Snake Plant

Cylinder Snake Plant Sansevieria cylindrica on end table
Blaine Moats

Sansevieria cylindrica produces round, rigid leaves that can reach several feet in length. Leaves arch outward from a central crown.

'Laurentii' Sansevieria

Laurentii' Sansevieria Sansevieria trifasciata
Scott Little

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii' is a popular variety with creamy yellow leaf margins. It does not come true from leaf cuttings; it reverts to the green form. So divide the plant to make new ones just like the mother plant.

Variegated Snake Plant

Variegated Snake Plant Sansevieria trifasciata
Jason Donnelly

Sansevieria trifasciata is grown for its dramatic upright form with leaves 2 to 4 inches wide and several feet long. It is one of the best plants for low-light areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does a snake plant live?

    Most snake plants live up to 10 years, although some have been known to live as long as 25 years with proper care.

  • Is the snake plant a cactus?

    No, but it is related to several succulents, including aloe and agave plants.

  • What are other names for snake plant?

    In addition to mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plant is known as viper’s bowstring, devil’s tongue, snake tongue, and jinn’s tongue.

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Sources
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  1. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/snake-plant

  2. https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/care/centers/poison-control-center/poisonous-plants/mother-in-laws-tongue-snake-plant

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