Snake Plants: How to Grow and Care for Sansevieria trifasciata


Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) are an easy to grow foliage plant, that will withstand a certain amount of neglect from their plant parents. If you go away on holiday for a month, your snake plant will still be alive and thriving when you return.

This is a perfect plant for beginners but also has a charm that will be appreciated by more experienced growers. Snake plants are grown mainly for their wonderful long pointed leaves. This led to one of the plant’s other common names, the less than flattering ‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue’.

Individual plants look beautiful on their own and can be even eye-catching when grouped together. You can create a dramatic display at home by having three plants in identical planters on a sideboard or media unit.

three snakes plants in pots next to each other

Snake plants have been shown to improve the indoor air quality, giving them the title of one of the best air purifiers. This was in a famous study carried out by NASA where these plants demonstrated their ability to remove harmful toxins from the air such as benzene and formaldehyde.

‘Laurentii’ is the most popular variety of Sansevieria trifasciata, having variegated green leaves with prominent yellow stripes along the edges.

Other varieties are also available including ‘Moonshine’, which has silver green leaves.

Light requirements

Sansevieria will tolerate a variety of lighting conditions but prefer medium-bright, indirect light. If subjected to long periods of direct sunlight their leaves will scorch.

They will also tolerate dimmer conditions, so if you have a bedroom or bathroom which doesn’t receive much light, this plant is still likely to be able to grow, as they are quite adaptable. Just be aware that they will grow slower if there is less light available.

snake plant next to a window

Temperature requirements

Snake plants are ideally suited to the temperatures inside most homes. Their preference is for a range of around 60-75oF (15-24oC).

Watering

it’s better to err on the side of caution and underwater your snake plant rather than overwatering. Although they are quite tolerant of abuse, one thing that Sansevieria will not stand is waterlogged soil.

In spring and summer allow the top one or two inches of soil to dry out completely between watering. You can test this with your finger or buy a water meter if you’re concerned. Water less in winter, approx. once per month.

Soil requirements

Sansevieria prefer well-draining potting mix because they are prone to root rot. A good choice is a general-purpose cactus & succulent potting soil. You could also choose a potting soil mix that has added sand which aids water drainage.

Snake plants like to have their roots quite tight. It’s only necessary to repot them when they have become tightly potbound or about every 3 years.

Special requirements

These plants do not require any specialist care making them ideal for beginners. You can feed them a half strength liquid fertiliser once a month during the growing season in spring and summer.

The only other care that is required is occasional cleaning of their large leaves which do attract dust. This can easily be achieved with a damp cloth.

full size snake plant in wicker planter

Propagating

There are a variety of ways to propagate your snake plant. One of the easiest is to divide the rhizome and root ball. When it’s time to repot your plants, remove the parent plant from its pot and simply pull apart the rootball into 2 parts.  These can then be potted up separately. This method can be carried out at any time of year but is best in the spring.

Another method is to propagate your plants using leaf cuttings. Cut a whole leaf from your parent plant near the base using sharp scissors. Then cut this leaf into three- or four-inch sections. Place these cuttings in moist potting compost approx. 1-inch deep. It’s important that you place the sections in the same direction of growth as on the parent plant. If you place some upside down, they will not grow.

Pests / problems

These hardy plants are less prone to common problems but may suffer from mealybugs, spider mites or root rot.

Toxicity

All parts of the Snake plant are mildly toxic to humans. If ingested, it could cause the throat and tongue to become swollen and have a numbing effect. The effects are more serious with cats and dogs, that may suffer from nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Common Questions

How often should you water a snake plant?

One of the main pieces of advice for snake plant care is don’t over water! During the growing season wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry between waterings. This will probably be around every two to three weeks. In winter you only need to water monthly.

Should you mist a snake plant?

Snake plants are tolerant of a wide variety of humidity conditions. You do not need to mist your plant.

How long do snake plants live for?

They are a very long-lived house plant. Combined with the fact that they’re not particularly expensive, this makes them excellent value for money.

How long can a snake plant go without water?

This depends on what the season is as they will require less water in the winter. However, it’s safe to say that they could go a month without watering. This is worthwhile knowing if you are going away on an extended holiday or business trip.

Does Sansevieria Bloom or Flower?

They are primarily grown for their beautiful leaves, but snake plants can occasionally (and unexpectedly) produce beautiful blooms.

When Is the Best Time to Repot or Transplant?

It’s okay to carry out these procedures at anytime of the year. However, the ideal time would be spring as this is the start of the growing season and gives cuttings and repotted plants the best opportunity to get established.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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