One of the toughest houseplants, snake plant can tolerate most indoor conditions. With its stately upright foliage that almost looks artificial, the snake plant—also called mother-in-law’s tongue—adds great architectural form to a room and complements all styles of decor. Like many houseplants, it helps filter indoor air.
There are no stems on the snake plant, just tough, thick, upright leaves. Since there are no branches, its slender profile makes it an ideal floor plant for small spaces. There are also dwarf varieties that form small rosettes of leaves. The most common foliage showcases shades of green with grey/silver horizontal streaks. Some variegated varieties have gold-colored edges.
Snake Plant Care Must-Knows
This plant is extremely drought-tolerant, but its Achilles' heel is too much water. Plant sansevieria in a well-drained pot with a potting mix that doesn't hold a lot of water. Fertilize periodically—even just a dose of slow-release fertilizer will do the job. Be careful not to over-fertilize as too much can cause a snake plant to put on soft, floppy growth.
Ideally, the snake plant likes partial sun. But you can park it in a dark corner and it'll be happy or set it in a sunny southern window and it will be happy there, too. In full shade, the color in some sansevieria can become slightly washed out, and taller types can become leggy and floppy, but generally this isn't much of a concern.
Under the right conditions, a snake plant will bloom. While not overly showy, flowers are borne in large clusters, generally white with a greenish tinge. The small, tubular flowers emit a sweet floral fragrance that can fill a room, especially at night. But don't plan on a snake plant blooming with any regularity; many bloom just once every several years, not following any schedule.
Propagating Snake Plants
It is easy to propagate a snake plant. You can propagate by leaf cuttings—just cut a 3- to 4-inch section of the leaf and stick it in some 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 a periclinal chimera, 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.
More Varieties of Snake Plant
Bird's Nest Snake Plant
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
Sansevieria cylindrica produces round, rigid leaves that can reach several feet in length. Leaves arch outward from a central crown.
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
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.