Snake Plant: How To Grow and Take Care Of
The snake plant, scientifically named Sansevieria, is a popular houseplant known for its hardiness and striking aesthetic.
Originating from West Africa, this tropical plant has a distinctive and charming appearance with long, upright leaves, often boasting a variety of patterns and shades.
Published: August 7, 2023.
The plant's unique structure, which resembles that of a snake standing erect, is responsible for its colloquial moniker, the "snake plant."
Apart from its decorative value, the snake plant is also valued for its air-purifying qualities, with NASA's Clean Air Study noting its ability to absorb toxins and release oxygen, contributing to healthier indoor air quality.
In addition to their environmental benefits, snake plants are renowned for their resilience.
They are adaptable to a wide range of conditions and require minimal care, making them an ideal choice for novice gardeners or those with less time on their hands.
Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, understanding the specific needs of the snake plant will ensure you can nurture and appreciate these intriguing specimens in your home or office.
Snake Plant Growing Conditions
Snake plants are known for their adaptability but thrive under specific conditions. They prefer well-draining soil to prevent root rot—a typical issue with overwatering.
A mixture of general-purpose potting soil and sand, perlite, or grit in equal measures often works best. The soil should allow water to drain quickly, thus imitating the arid conditions of the plant's natural habitat.
In terms of light, snake plants can tolerate a range of conditions, from low light to full sun. However, they flourish best in indirect, moderate light. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves to turn yellow and lose their vibrant color. Conversely, too little light can lead to slow growth and less vivid leaf color.
Watering should be approached with care, as snake plants are susceptible to root rot. During the growing season—typically spring and summer—watering can be done when the top inch of the soil is dry. During the colder months, watering should be reduced. Overwatering, especially in winter, can lead to the plant's roots becoming waterlogged and eventually rotting.
Snake plants are not heavy feeders and don't require frequent fertilization. Fertilizing twice a year—once at the beginning of the growing season and once at the end—using a balanced houseplant fertilizer is generally sufficient. Overfertilization can lead to brown tips on the leaves.
When it comes to potting and repotting, snake plants are typically slow growers and can live comfortably in the same pot for years.
However, if the plant becomes root-bound, a repotting might be in order. When doing so, it's crucial to allow the plant to dry out for several days before repotting to avoid damaging the root system.
When and How To Plant Snake Plant
The best time to plant or repot a snake plant is during the spring or early summer, which aligns with their natural growth cycle. It's also easier for the plant to recover from the transplant shock during the warmer months.
When planting, first, choose a pot with ample drainage holes. Prepare a soil mixture as described above—well-draining and gritty—to replicate the plant's natural environment. Place the plant in the pot, ensuring the roots are spread out and not cramped.
Then fill the pot with soil, taking care not to bury the plant too deeply. The top of the root ball should be at or slightly below the soil surface.
After planting, water thoroughly and place the pot in a location with appropriate light. Be mindful to allow the soil to dry out before watering again to prevent root rot.
How To Propagate Snake Plant
Propagating a snake plant is an exciting and rewarding process, and the good news is that it's relatively easy, even for beginners. There are several methods for propagating snake plants, including leaf cuttings, division, and water propagation.
Propagation by Leaf Cuttings
This is one of the most popular methods due to its simplicity and success rate.
- Begin by selecting a healthy leaf from your snake plant. Cut it off at the base using a clean, sharp knife or pair of scissors.
- Cut the leaf into sections, each about 2-3 inches long. Be sure to remember the orientation of the leaf - the end that was closest to the root should be planted in the soil.
- Allow the cuttings to dry for a few days to form a callus on the cut ends. This prevents rot when the cuttings are planted.
- Plant the cuttings in a pot with well-draining soil. Ensure that the end that was closest to the root is planted in the soil. Water lightly until the soil is just moist, and place in indirect light.
- Wait patiently. In a few weeks, the cuttings will develop roots, and after a few months, new growth should begin to appear.
Propagation by Division
The division is another effective method, particularly for mature snake plants that are becoming overcrowded.
- Gently remove the entire plant from its pot.
- Carefully divide the plant into smaller sections, making sure each section has at least one healthy leaf and a portion of the root system.
- Replant each division in its own pot filled with well-draining soil. Water lightly and place in indirect light.
- After a few weeks, each division should start to establish itself as a separate plant.
Propagation by Water Propagation
This method allows you to watch the roots grow, which can be a fun and rewarding experience.
- Begin as you would with leaf cuttings by selecting a healthy leaf, cutting it off at the base, and dividing it into sections.
- Instead of letting them callous over, immediately submerge the cut end of each leaf section in a container of water. Again, be sure to remember which end was closest to the root, as this is the end that should be submerged.
- Change the water weekly or when it appears cloudy. Within a few weeks, you should see roots begin to develop.
- Once the roots have grown a few inches, you can transplant the cuttings into pots with well-draining soil.
Remember that while snake plants are hardy, they are also slow growers, so propagation can take some time. Patience is key, and with proper care, you'll have new snake plants to enjoy or share with friends.
Types Of Snake Plants
Snake plants, or Sansevieria, are a diverse genus of plants with a variety of different species and cultivars. Each has its own unique look and care requirements, but all share the hardiness and air-purifying properties that make snake plants so beloved. Here are some of the most common types:
- Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii' (Golden Snake Plant): Perhaps the most well-known variety, the Laurentii is distinguished by its tall, green, sword-like leaves edged in a band of gold. Its striking look and easy care make it a favorite among houseplant enthusiasts.
- Sansevieria trifasciata 'Zeylanica' (Zeylanica Snake Plant): The Zeylanica variety has a more wild and natural look, with deep green leaves marked by a pattern of light green bands. It's similar to the Laurentii but lacks the golden edge.
- Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii' (Bird's Nest Snake Plant): Unlike its taller cousins, the Hahnii variety grows low to the ground in a rosette shape, giving it the appearance of a bird's nest. Its leaves are shorter and broader, with a dark green color and light green bands.
- Sansevieria cylindrica (Cylindrical Snake Plant): This variety has round, stiff leaves that can grow several feet in length. The leaves often arch outward, giving the plant a distinctive, sculptural look.
- Sansevieria trifasciata 'Twist' (Twisted Sister Snake Plant): The Twisted Sister variety gets its name from the way its leaves curve and twist in a unique spiral pattern. It has yellow variegated edges, similar to the Laurentii.
- Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonshine' (Moonshine Snake Plant): The Moonshine variety stands out with its wide, silvery-green leaves. It's a compact plant, usually not growing more than a foot tall.
- Sansevieria ehrenbergii 'Samurai Dwarf' (Samurai Dwarf Snake Plant): This species has short, thick, upward-curving leaves with a sharp point, giving it the appearance of a samurai's sword. It's a compact variety, making it perfect for small spaces.
Each of these snake plant varieties can add a unique touch to your indoor garden. Regardless of the variety you choose, all snake plants are easy to care for and hardy, making them excellent choices for both beginner and experienced plant lovers.
Is Snake Plant Toxic To Dogs And Cats?
Yes, the snake plant, or Sansevieria, is considered toxic to both dogs and cats. The plant contains saponins, which are natural chemicals produced by the plant to protect it against insects, fungi, and microbes.
If ingested by pets, saponins can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in rare cases, it can lead to a drop in heart rate and lethargy.
It's important to note that different animals might react differently, and symptoms can vary based on the size of the animal and the amount of plant material ingested. If your pet chews or eats part of a snake plant, it's recommended to contact your local veterinarian.
If you're a pet owner looking to add indoor plants to your living space, there are many non-toxic alternatives to consider, such as spider plants, areca palms, or Boston ferns.
Always make sure to research any plant for potential toxicity before bringing it into a home with pets.
How Long Does A Snake Plant Live?
Snake plants are known for their durability and longevity. When provided with the appropriate care, a snake plant can live for many years, even several decades - on average 10-15 years, and with good care, up to, or even more than 25 years.
Their long lifespan is largely due to their hardiness and adaptability. Snake plants are able to survive in a variety of conditions and can tolerate periods of neglect that would be fatal to other plants. Even with minimal care, these plants can continue to thrive.
However, to maximize your snake plant's lifespan, it's best to provide it with optimal care. This includes proper watering, suitable light conditions, regular feeding during the growing season, and repotting when necessary.
Additionally, it's important to monitor for signs of pests or diseases, as these can affect the plant's health and longevity.
With a bit of attention and care, your snake plant has the potential to provide you with many years of beauty and enjoyment.
Snake Plant Pests, Diseases, and Other Growing Problems
While snake plants are hardy and relatively pest-resistant, they can still fall prey to certain pests, diseases, and other issues if not appropriately cared for. Common pests include mealybugs and spider mites, which can be controlled by wiping the leaves with a mild soap solution or using a suitable insecticide.
Overwatering or poor drainage can lead to root rot, a common issue for snake plants. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, a mushy stem, and a foul odor. If caught early, root rot can be treated by repotting the plant in fresh, well-draining soil and reducing watering frequency.
Underwatering, while less common, can also lead to problems such as wrinkled, droopy leaves. In such cases, increasing the watering frequency—while still ensuring the soil dries out between waterings—can help the plant recover.
Environmental stressors such as extreme temperatures, low light, or drafty conditions can cause slow growth or discoloration. Ensuring the plant is in an appropriate location with suitable conditions can mitigate these issues.
Few Final Words
The snake plant, with its distinctive appearance and air-purifying qualities, is a fantastic addition to any home or office.
Despite its tropical origins, this resilient plant is well adapted to indoor environments and can flourish with minimal care.
By providing appropriate soil, light, and water conditions and being mindful of potential pests and diseases, you can enjoy the striking aesthetics and environmental benefits of this plant year-round.
Whether you're an experienced gardener or a newcomer to indoor plants, the snake plant offers a low-maintenance and attractive option for greening your indoor spaces.