The Ultimate Guide to Snake Plants: Care, Growth, Benefits And More

By: Matt Slaymaker
November 24, 2023
Snake Plant Care Guide
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In the realm of indoor greenery, few plants rival the enduring allure of the snake plant. Also known as Sansevieria or Mother-in-law’s Tongue, this hardy succulent has become a favorite for its remarkable resilience and striking appearance. Beyond its aesthetic charm, delving into snake plant care reveals a low-maintenance companion that thrives on neglect, making it an ideal choice for novice and seasoned plant enthusiasts.   

Originating from West Africa, snake plants boast a rich cultural history. Revered for their adaptability and symbolic significance, these plants have earned a cherished place in various cultures, signifying resilience, strength, and positive energy traits.

Join us as we explore the fascinating world of snake plants, delving into their origin and unraveling the cultural tapestry that makes them not just houseplants but enduring symbols of natural beauty and vitality.

What is a Snake Plant?

Dracaena Vs  Sansevieria Vs Snake Plant

The terms "Dracaena," "Sansevieria," and "Snake Plant" refer to different aspects or classifications of similar plants, which can lead to some confusion. Here's a breakdown of the differences:

  1. Dracaena: This is a genus of plants that was historically distinct from Sansevieria. Dracaena species are known for their woody stems and lush, elongated leaves. They are popular as indoor plants due to their ability to adapt to low-light conditions and their air-purifying qualities.

  2. Sansevieria: Sansevieria was once a separate genus known for its distinctive, hardy, and often variegated succulent leaves. These plants are highly valued for their ability to thrive in low-light conditions, their minimal water requirements, and their air-purifying capabilities. Sansevierias are often referred to as Snake Plants due to their long, upright leaves with snake-like patterns.

  3. Snake Plant: This is a common name primarily used for species within the Sansevieria genus, particularly Sansevieria trifasciata. The name "Snake Plant" comes from the shape and the sharp, wavy patterns on the leaves that resemble the skin of a snake.

Recently, the Sansevieria genus has been reclassified under the Dracaena genus based on genetic studies. This means that what was once known as Sansevieria (including the popular Snake Plants) is now considered a part of the Dracaena genus. However, many people, including plant enthusiasts and horticulturists, still commonly use the name Sansevieria to refer to these plants due to its long-standing use and distinct characteristics that differ from the traditional Dracaena species.

Choosing Your Snake Plant

Selecting the perfect snake plant to grace your living space is an exciting venture. In this section, we guide you through the process, offering insights into various snake plant varieties and their unique characteristics, ensuring you make an informed choice that complements your style and care preferences.

Snake Plant Varieties: An Overview

Snake Plant Varieties

There are around 70 different species of snake plant, all native to tropical and subtropical regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are evergreen and can grow anywhere from 8 inches to 12 feet. 

Popular species and cultivars to look out for include:

  • Variegated Laurentii snake plantThe Variegated Laurentii Snake Plant, a variant of the Sansevieria trifasciata, is a compact, low-maintenance indoor plant known for its striking yellow-edged green leaves. This variety stands out for its decorative appeal and air-purifying qualities, making it a popular choice for home and office spaces.
  • Zeylanica snake plant: Also known as the bowstring hemp, Zeylanica snake plant is known for its hardiness and resistance to pests and diseases. It is recognized for its lengthy, sword-shaped leaves that can grow up to three feet in height.  
  • La Rubia snake plant: This is a super easy beginner plant characterized by its clumping, compact shape, and striking leaves marked with vivid yellows and striking dark greens. 
  • Robusta snake plant: The robusta snake plant is native to West Africa but has become popular worldwide. The leaves are long and upright, with a green-yellow striped pattern. 
  • Futura Superba snake plant: The Futura Superba snake plant has wide, sword-shaped leaves that grow in the shape of a rosette and dark green color with yellow edges.

What to Look for When Buying a Snake Plant

When shopping for your snake plant, look for a healthy specimen that appears well-cared for and shows signs of new growth. 

A healthy snake plant will be dense, sturdy, and vibrant. It should have smooth, rigid leaves. Pass up a snake plant that has yellowing or curling leaves. Also, avoid plants with rough spots, lackluster coloring, or droopy leaves. 

Which Type of Snake Plant Is Best?

The best type of snake plant depends on your specific preferences and care capabilities.

Popular varieties include the robust Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-law's Tongue), the compact and uniquely patterned Sansevieria cylindrica (Cylindrical Snake Plant), and the dwarf Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii' (Bird's Nest Snake Plant).

Each variety has its charm and care requirements, so choosing the best one involves considering factors like size, shape, and maintenance level that align with your indoor gardening goals.

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Snake Plant Benefits:

  • Easy to care for and low maintenance
  • Produce oxygen at night, making them perfect for bedrooms
  • Help filter out toxins from the air, making them ideal for homes with pets or smokers
  • Mental health booster
  • Effective against allergies
  • Feng shui properties
  • Help relieve minor physical ailments

How to Care And Grow Your Snake Plant

How to Care And Grow Your Snake Plant

Embarking on the journey of growing and caring for your snake plant promises vibrant greenery and a fulfilling and low-maintenance experience.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced plant enthusiast, discover the key practices that will keep your snake plant flourishing and adding a touch of enduring beauty to your indoor space. 

Let’s delve into the essential snake plant care and growing tips that will guide you through the steps to ensure your resilient succulent thrives with health and vitality.

Snake Plant: Planting Tips

Most varieties of snake plants will have similar low-maintenance growth requirements. However, there are some things you can do to ensure you cultivate a thriving and resilient indoor snake plant garden.  

What Kind of Soil Do Snake Plants Need?

 Snake plants don’t appreciate having soggy roots. A loose, free-draining soil works best. If you’re buying pre-mixed soil, choose a blend for cacti and succulents.

If mixing your soil, add ingredients like perlite, peat moss, or sand, as these all improve drainage. Most importantly, the soil blend helps the plant’s roots absorb water easily without creating an overly moist environment. 

The soil pH levels are not that important. They will grow well in soils ranging from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.

Step-by-Step Planting Guide

When it comes time to plant your new snake plant, the following steps will ensure it is happy in its new home.

  • Step 1: Use a sturdy terracotta pot with a drainage hole. Don’t pack the soil too tight because the ideal environment is one where water drains freely after watering your snake plant.
  • Step 2: Place an inch or so of soil at the base of the new pot before introducing your snake plant. Plant it around the same depth as in its original pot. 
  • Step 3: Snake plants grow slowly, so don’t choose too big a container because it could lead to moisture problems further down the line.
  • Step 4: Fill gaps with extra soil after introducing your snake plant. Ideally, the plant should be stable, but the soil should not be packed too densely.

Snake Plant: Light and Water Requirements

In this section of our snake plant care guide, we offer insights into the optimal balance of sunlight and hydration that will keep your green companions thriving.

How Much Light Do Snake Plants Need?

Snake plants are renowned for their low-light tolerance. However, Sansevierias grow best in moderate to bright, indirect light. Get the growing conditions perfect, and your snake plant could even produce flowers. Your snake plant will prefer a spot that receives ample filtered sunlight throughout the day.

Watering Schedule for Optimal Snake Plant Health

Watering Schedule for Optimal Snake Plant Health
Source: Quepinch

 

Snake plants don’t require lots of water and do best when you let them dry out in between waterings. 

Key takeaways include not overwatering your snake plant. This common mistake can lead to root rot. You only need to water your plant when the top 1-2 inches of soil feel dry. During the growing season, this might be every 2-3 weeks.

The water should be at room temperature to avoid shocking the plant. Snake plants are sensitive to chemicals often found in tap water, so use rainwater, dechlorinated tap water, or distilled water. 

When you water your snake plant, avoid getting the leaves wet. Only water the base of the plant.

Temperature and Humidity Tolerance of Snake Plants

Snake plants can withstand temperatures between 60-90ºF but prefer temperatures between 65-85ºF. You should avoid large swings in temperature and hot and cold drafts. 

Snake plants thrive in low/moderate humidity, between 30% and 50%. A snake plant won’t tolerate frost and prolonged exposure to less than 50°F. Such low temperatures can kill the plant.

  If your snake plant is exposed to improper temperatures, it will show the following signs:

  • Wrinkled leaves
  • Split or cracked leaves
  • Blackened foliage
  • Dry or brown leaf tips and edges
  • Sunscald 

If you notice any of these signs, you should change the location of your plant. If it’s outside, bring it indoors; if it’s getting too much sunlight, find somewhere shadier for it to live.

Fertilizing Your Snake Plant

Snake plants don’t generally require much fertilizer, which makes them truly low maintenance. However, if you want, you can use a fertilizer if you follow some simple rules.

Which Fertilizer Is Best for Snake Plants?

The best fertilizer to use is an all-purpose houseplant food or worm compost.

When Should You Fertilize Snake Plants?

Twice a year is enough, and you should avoid fertilizing in the late fall or winter. This is when the plants are dormant and slow their growth.

Pruning Your Snake Plant

Pruning Your Snake Plant
Source: Succulent Alley

This is another common maintenance job not generally necessary with a snake plant. However, if you want to keep the size of your snake plant in check, pruning is the best way to do it.

Should You Prune a Snake Plant?

Pruning a snake plant is vital to keep it from getting too large or in the same container throughout its life. Pruning it periodically will stop it from getting rootbound. Damaged leaves should be removed as necessary. 

How to Prune a Snake Plant

Before you start pruning, make sure that it’s in good health. If your plant looks unhealthy, give it time to recover before you prune it, which will avoid overstressing the plant. 

You can prune a snake plant at any time of the year. However, it will recover quicker if you do it during the active growth phase in spring or early summer. 

You should only prune your plant with sharp, sterile pruners. Remove the leaves at the soil level, selecting older leaves for removal rather than newer ones. 

Think about your pruning goals and keep these in mind. For example, do you want to improve the plant’s appearance, maintain its size, remove large leaves, or simply discard damaged leaves or those not growing in the right direction?

Related: How to Care for your Variegated Snake Plant

How to Propagate a Snake Plant

Elevate your indoor gardening skills in this next section as we delve into the fascinating world of propagating snake plants. From leaf cuttings to offsets, discover the step-by-step guide to multiplying the green beauty of your resilient succulents.  

Snake Plant Propagation From Leaf Cuttings

Snake plants are easy to propagate, either by division or leaf cuttings. Here is the process step-by-step:

  • Identify a leaf: It should be thick and healthy with no signs of disease. 
  • Remove the leaf: Using pruning shears or a sharp knife, remove the entire leaf at the base of the plant, as close to the soil as possible. 
  • Split the leaf: Cut the leaf into 4-inch sections, marking the top of the cutting on each to indicate the direction of the root growth. 
  • Plant the cuttings: Bury them into the soil until they stand up independently. 
  • Water the cuttings: Water the cuttings thoroughly to moisten the soil and encourage root growth. 

You can also propagate a whole leaf in water. The process is the same as above, but rather than planting the cutting, you rest it inside a vase filled with water and place it in a bright place. As soon as roots start to show, you can transplant it.

How to Propagate a Snake Plant by Division

If your snake plant has outgrown its pot, this is a good thing to do because it gives the plant some extra space. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Remove the entire plant: Loosen the roots and remove some soil around the base when free. 
  • Identify where to divide it: Rinse the crown with water to better understand where to divide it. 
  • Split up the roots: Use a clean and sharp knife to cut the crown into sections. A clean cut heals quickly. 
  • Repot the plants: Repot the divisions into a container with succulent potting mix.

Common Snake Plant Problems and How to Fix Them

Common Snake Plant Problems and How to Fix Them
 

It’s time to look at common issues that might arise in caring for your snake plant and provide practical solutions to keep your green companion thriving. From yellowing leaves to pest concerns, equip yourself with the knowledge to troubleshoot and address common problems, ensuring a resilient and healthy life for your snake plant. 

  • Brown and mushy roots: Possibly caused by overwatering or fungal infection, you can fix it by trimming the affected roots and transplanting the snake plant into a new container.
  • Curling and folding leaves: This is a sign of a stressed plant. Determine what has stressed your plant before taking corrective action. 
  • Yellowing leaves: These can be caused by overwatering, harsh sun exposure, low light, or pest issues. 
  • Falling leaves: Overwatering is typically the reason, so you must allow the soil to dry before watering it again.
  • Soft, mushy leaves: A common cause is overwatering, and it can be fixed by repotting the plant in a well-draining medium after trimming the damaged roots and leaves.

Snake Plants FAQs

Q: What are the most common types of snake plants?

A:  Some of the more common types of snake plants include the Snake Plant Compacta or the Dwarf Snake Plant, the Golden Snake Plant (Sansevieria laurentii superba), the Golden Birds Nest (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii), Father-in-Law Tongue (Sansevieria aubrytiana), or the Mother in Law Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata). 

Q: How often should I water my snake plant?

A: You should water your snake plant when the soil has completely dried. Check this by sticking your finger 1-2 inches into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water your plants. 

Q: Can snake plants survive in low light?

A: Snake plants can survive in low light conditions. However, while they can survive, they may not thrive as well as in brighter conditions. 

Q: When is the best time to repot a snake plant?

A: The best time to repot a snake plant is late winter or early spring. This is outside the growing season, and the plant is not in active growth mode.  

Q: Are snake plants toxic to pets?

A: Yes, snake plants are considered toxic to most pets, including cats and dogs. They produce a mildly toxic substance called saponins. This substance can cause hypersalivation, gastrointestinal distress, and dilated pupils.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mastering the art of snake plant care involves understanding its resilience and unique needs. 

Remember to maintain a delicate balance of light and water, protect against extreme temperatures, and troubleshoot common issues properly. 

Consider pairing your snake plant with complementary companions like pothos or ZZ plants for an aesthetically pleasing indoor garden. 

Explore creative display ideas, such as stylish pots or hanging arrangements, to showcase the enduring beauty of these versatile succulents. With these insights, you’re on your way to cultivating a thriving and visually captivating green haven.