For many years now, the snake plant, or Sansevieria, has been a favorite houseplant for beginners because of its awesome care.
These leaves grow upwards like spears on this African plant. Some say the sharp appearance is how the plant got its other nickname, mother-in-law’s tongue. The popularity of the snake plant rose dramatically in the 1970s, and it continued to grow in the 1980s when the NASA Clean Air Study deemed the snake plant beneficial to air quality.
Sprout Home, a Chicago-based garden center that’s based in Brooklyn, says she loves how the plants visually remind her of the 1970s when they were big.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of snake plants is that they are exceptionally easy to care for. Snake plants, in fact, require as little care as possible — all you need to do is leave them alone.
Snake plants will usually survive on their own even when you notice that they start to dry out or brown a little. It might be a sign that it is stressed by changes in environment, or perhaps it is not getting enough water.
The Sill’s brand marketing director, Erin Marino, says when she’s traveling a lot her skin tends to look really weird and stressful.
Snake plants look like leafy greens, but they have fleshy leaves that hold water, making them succulents. Since it’s from Africa, you need to water it frequently. There’s only about one inch of rain a month in that environment, which is what tells you how much water to give it.
It thrives on neglect, explains Heiebel. “They are the toughest things you can imagine. The only way to kill them is by over-loving them.”
We spoke with experts to find out what the key things are to remember when caring for sansevieria.
You should make sure the snake plant’s base and leaves are healthy before you buy them. Healthy snake plants have pump, fleshy green leaves.
When you see wrinkles on the leaves, this could be a sign that the snake plant has root rot, which means its roots have been damaged by excessive watering. A healthy snake plant has rigid leaves, so if you see mushy leaves or soft stems, you’ll want to check for dry soil in the pot. Another sign of root rot would be a slow-growing plant.
You’ll know your plant is healthy in the spring and summer when it starts to send out light green leaves.
It is unusual for people not to know that snake plants come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, such as Heibel’s favorite cylindric Sansevieria cylindrica. Sansevieria starfish, also known as the Sansevieria, looks like a starfish, but they all require the same care. “Look to find one that takes your fancy visually,” Heibel suggests.
You have found the snake plant that’s right for you now that you need to find a good place for it in your home. Here’s where it gets really easy — they can be put almost anywhere. Snake plants range from a five-inch pot to a 14-inch one, and they can grow up to three or four feet tall. It can therefore be used as either a large floor plant or as a great tabletop plant.
Where snake plants might be best suited would be in places where you need more walking space and want an upright plant that fits into tighter corners, Heibel says.
Though snake plants are typically marketed as low-light plants, Marino says they actually prefer bright, indirect light. Just make sure it stays in a stable temperature — not on top of a heater or directly in front of an A/C unit. Otherwise, it can live pretty much anywhere.
The biggest mistake you can make when caring for your snake plant is to overwater it and cause that pesky, infamous root rot. Since it is a succulent, the Sansevieria needs a lot of water. So it is best to err on the side of under watering. Water your tree about once a month during the fall and winter, and a bit more often during the summer and spring.
Taking your week vacation and not having to worry about watering your plants is a huge benefit for many offices, Heibel says.
If you notice the leaves looking wrinkled or a little dry, don’t panic because you have been watering them lightly. All you have to do is give it a bit more water and it should bounce right back. You can tell what plants need by listening to them.
Sleeping plants or the bedroom plant are sometimes called snake plants because they oxygenate at night. Due to its drought resistance, the snake plant’s pores are closed during the day, preventing evaporation, and open at night to allow oxygen to be released.
People like the idea of keeping this plant in their bedroom because it releases oxygen at night instead of during the day, Marino says. It will help improve air quality and give you a better night’s sleep. The problem, Marino notes, is that snake plants would have to be spread equally across the whole surface area for any meaningful impact. Wouldn’t hurt, though!
You will need to re-pot your snake plant every so often if you want it to grow, but another great benefit to easy snake plant care is that you can do this much less often than once a year. Marino says that you want to steer clear of giving them too big of a pot because that means there’s additional soil to water which will lead to the roots becoming soggy.
You should be careful where you place a snake plant if you own any dogs or cats. It is believed by the experts at Bloomscape that the leaves can irritate pets’ mouths and lead to digestive issues if eaten. It might not be the best idea to place them so low to the ground for your furry friends.
The snake plant can thrive in all sorts of environments and climates, though it hates snow and frost. Keep them inside during the winter if you want them to thrive. If you do not normally keep them outside, make sure to find a special spot for your pot to enjoy indoors during cooler months.
Do your snake plant’s leaves appear yellow? Bloomscape says they may be in distress. On its website, the company says, “this might be due to cold temperatures or overwatering.” It suggests moving the pot to a warmer location, and letting the soil completely dry between waterings.
It’s likely that your snake plant’s size and shape might change due to their different species. The Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Cylindrica’ has leaves that are rounded like bamboo stems, while the Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’ is the shortest variety. Fortunately, there isn’t much variation in the way these species are cared for.
When is the right time to re-pot your snake plant? Not only should you find a great vessel that gives it room, but you should also consider what kind of soil to use. It is best to choose a fast draining and more sanded option. It’s also advisable to pick one that is slightly acidic and alkaline.
As Heibel says, snake plants are “dependable, good-looking, and easy to care for as long as you do not over-love them.” So just keep your snake plant dry, give it a nice dose of sunlight, and just let it be. Your plant will grow healthy and happy.
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