Snake Plant: Complete Guide to Care and Growth

Snake Plant on table

Snake plant is one of the easiest, least fussy houseplants you'll ever grow. Perfect for busy plant parents, those who have low light conditions, or those who often forget to water, snake plant will withstand just about anything, and look good doing it.

Snake Plant

Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly classified as Sansevieria) are characterized by their rigid, sword-shaped leaves that grow anywhere from a few inches tall up to two feet or more depending on variety. They're tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, and can go without watering for weeks at a time.

  • Native to the tropics of west Africa, snake plant definitely prefers warmer conditions; an indoor temperature of around 70 degrees is ideal, but it will tolerate anything above 40 degrees.
  • Snake plant has been shown to remove impurities from the air, including formaldehyde and benzene.
  • Snake plants spread via fleshy underground rhizomes, and they do flower, but do so very rarely when grown indoors.
  • They are not very quick growing, so rarely need to be repotted. At the most, they'll need repotting every two to three years.

Snake Plant Care

As with any house plant, there are five main things to keep in mind in terms of snake plant care: lighting, soil, watering, feeding, and pests or diseases.

Lighting for Snake Plants

The only lighting conditions snake plant doesn't thrive in is full, direct sun. In their native habitat, these are understory plants, so prefer a bit of shade. Snake plant does well in bright or medium indirect light and tolerates low light very well.

Snake Plant

Potting Soil for Snake Plants

Snake plants grow best in loose, coarse potting medium, such as what you'd plant cacti or succulents in. Other soils compact too much and hold on to too much moisture. You can purchase pre-made cacti and succulent mixes, or you can make your own.

To make your own potting mix for snake plants, mix:

  • 1 part potting soil
  • 2 parts coarse sand or perlite
  • 1 part coconut coir

This will create a light, well-draining mix, perfect for snake plants and other succulents.

Watering Snake Plants

Snake plants prefer dry soil over wet. During warmer times of the year when the plant is actively growing, most snake plants only need water every three weeks or so. During the winter, they can go up to eight weeks without water. In general, a good rule of thumb is to poke your finger down into the soil. If the top two inches of soil are dry, it's time to water. Otherwise, wait a few days.

In general, it's better to err on the side of too little water than too much. A waterlogged snake plant is an unhappy snake plant.

Fertilizing Snake Plants

Snake plants, like most succulents, are not very heavy feeders. Feed with a fertilizer made for cacti and succulents according to package directions during the growing season, or feed with a diluted (50%) solution of 10-10-10 balanced houseplant fertilizer monthly, again during the growing season. Fertilizing isn't necessary during the winter.

Snake Plant Varieties

There are several varieties of snake plant, representing several sizes, shapes, and colors:

  • 'Laurentii' has creamy yellow leaf margins and is an attractive variegated variety that grows to two to three feet tall.
  • 'Twist' is a shorter variety, only growing to about 14 inches tall. Its variegated, green-striped leaves grow in a twisting, almost wavy-looking fashion.
  • Cylindrical snake plant has dark green leaves that grow in a way that makes them look like large straws with points at the tips. This variety can grow several feet tall and is also commonly known as African spear plant.
  • 'Golden Hahnii' is one of the smallest snake plant varieties available, growing to around 6 inches tall, with bright yellow leaf borders. It's also known as "bird's nest snake plant."
  • Dracaena ballyi is a dwarf snake plant, growing to about four inches tall, with horizontally striped, dark green leaves.

Snake Plant Propagation

Snake plants are fairly easy to propagate. The two primary methods are by division and by taking leaf cuttings.

Dividing

Dividing snake plants is by far the most straightforward method. As the plant spreads, it will produce new, smaller shoots around the outside of the main plant. Cut this, including the attached section of rhizome, from the main plant and plant it in its own pot, and you have a brand new snake plant.

woman hands planting the snake plant

Propagating From Leaf Cuttings

Leaf cuttings are a bit more work and take time. The main disadvantage, however, is that if you're taking cuttings from variegated varieties, the snake plants that grow from these cuttings will not have the variegation of the mother plant. So that's something to keep in mind.

  1. To take cuttings, simply cut a two-inch or larger section from one of the leaves, and push it about a half-inch deep into succulent mix.
  2. Water, and place under a cloche or a clear plastic bag to maintain humidity. Once you can't easily tug it out of the soil, you'll know it's rooted.
  3. Keep it watered, and eventually you'll see small, new leaves forming at the base of the cutting.

Beautiful and Low Maintenance

Snake plants have a unique, almost architectural look to them that adds a lot of interest and beauty to an indoor garden. And since snake plant practically thrives on neglect, you can enjoy this beauty in your home without having to worry about coddling it. This definitely makes snake plant a worthy addition to your houseplant collection.

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Snake Plant: Complete Guide to Care and Growth