Some of the hardest houseplants around are snake plants, Sansevieria trifasciata. Other names for snake plants include sansevieria and mother-in-law’s tongue. Snake plants usually have slender, upright leaves with variegated patterns approximately three or four feet tall.
Sansevieria cylindrica (African spear plant) is also a related species with round leaves rather than flat ones and pointed tips. You may have seen this variety braided at your local florist or plant nursery.
Since snake plants are so easy to grow, you’ll see them everywhere—restaurants, lobbies, waiting rooms—and they’re not always cared for properly. They provide a lush, jungle-like ambience to any room when in good condition, and have the ability to improve air quality in any space—even earning the nickname “bedroom plant” for the oxygen they give off during the night.
Snake plants prefer bright indirect light, but can sometimes grow under low light or in the direct sun. The amount of water your snake plant needs depends on how much light it is exposed to when choosing its place. Plants will require more frequent waterings in areas with more light, while those in darker areas will require less watering.
Repotted during any season, snake plants can last three to four years without repotting in a larger container with fresh soil. Fertilize your snake plant every two to three months.
Best Growing Conditions for Snake Plants
Even drought-like conditions can be tolerated by snake plants, which can tolerate most light levels. The plants do not grow well in cold temperatures, however, so keep them in a space that is at least 55 degrees.
They need very little water throughout the year, so allow them to dry between waterings during spring and summer. You should water leaves less in winter in order to prevent them from becoming shriveled. A snake plant in a terracotta pot with a porous material is safe from root rot. When watering it, make sure it is thoroughly moistened.
You should pot your snake plant in a free-draining potting mix. You ought to go for one designed for cacti, succulents, and palms.
The soilless potting mix available at local nurseries can also be used in all types of cactus. Mix equal parts sand, peat moss, and vermiculite into the mix to make your own.
Snake Plant Varieties
The Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ is most likely to spring to mind when it comes to snake plants with a signature yellow edge. In addition to its round-leaved cousin, Sansevieria cylindrica, there are also dwarf, solid-colored, and other varieties of this popular houseplant.
In West Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata is one of the most common, all-green variety of plants.
A smaller snake plant, on the other hand, is a Sansevieria gracilis that reaches a height of less than 18 inches. Meanwhile, Sanseveria canaliculate reaches heights of up to three meters. In addition to these, you can also find various plants with small vibrant-green leaves, such as Sansevieria fischeri or Sansevieria masoniana.
How to Propagate Snake Plants
The snake plant can be propagated two ways: through rhizome division or via leaf cuttings. In the spring or summer, you might divide up your plant, but a resistant plant like this can be easily repotted all year round.
How to Propagate Snake Plants by Rhizome Division
Step 1: Removing the snake plant from the pot and gently brushing the soil away with your hands will do the trick.
Step 2: Separate the rhizomes using a sharp, clean gardening blade.
Step 3: Put the rhizomes into a new container with fresh soil. A larger container is best for your plant to grow in.
How to Propagate Snake Plants by Leaf Cuttings
Some varieties of snake plant will lose their distinctive foliage markings when cut, but most can be reproduced this way without any problems. If your plant has yellow edges rather than an all-green look, it’s best to propagate by division to keep its unique look.
Step 1:Section a three-inch section of leaf off your plant at a slight angle. Be sure to keep the sections upright until they are ready to be stained.
Step 2: Fill a small pot with sand.
Step 3: Insert sections of leaves, cut end down, into the sand vertically so half an inch to one inch of the leaf will be beneath the soil.
Step 4: Water the soil frequently enough so that it remains slightly moist. You should see new shoots emerge in four to eight weeks.
Common Growing Problems
Though these easy-care plants thrive under most conditions, you should know when extra care is required. Those with brown leaf edges may be forced to spend too much time in a cool, drafty space. Shrunk leaves indicate that your snake plant needs more water. If you see them, move your snake plant to a warmer area of your house. Take care to thoroughly soak the plant, and avoid letting it go without watering for too long.
When the roots below the surface rot due to too much soil moisture, you will see the symptoms of overwatering—drooping, yellowing, or mushy leaves. You can’t see root rot because it takes place below the soil, so it’s best to water your plants only as necessary. If you see signs of root rot, remove your plant from the pot and start fresh with a fresh soilless mix. Repot the healthy rhizomes into the fresh mixture, taking care to cut out any brown to mushy roots or leaves. If the rhizomes are not salvageable, you may discard them. Save some healthy leaves and use them to propagate new snake plants.
Is Snake Plant Toxic?
Keep snake plants far away from your four-legged friends since they are toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion of snake plant leaves can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
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