How to Grow and Care for Snake Plants Indoors
Updated: 30 Sep, 2023
The snake plant, known as “mother-in-law’s tongue,” is a resilient houseplant that thrives in various indoor environments. Its striking upright foliage not only imparts a sense of architectural elegance to any room but also complements a wide range of decor styles.
Characterized by sturdy, stemless leaves, the snake plant is particularly well-suited for compact spaces, making it an excellent choice as a floor plant. Some compact varieties even form charming rosettes of leaves. The predominant foliage displays a harmonious blend of greens with distinctive silver-gray streaks, while certain variegated types boast edges in creamy whites or golden hues.
Given the right environment, a snake plant may produce blooms. Although not extravagantly ornate, the flowers gather in sizable clusters, typically exhibiting a pale white hue tinged with a hint of green. These petite, tubular blooms exude a pleasantly sweet floral scent that can permeate an entire room. It’s worth noting, however, that snake plants follow no set schedule and only bloom sporadically every few years.
|Snake plant, Viper’s bowstring hemp, Mother-in-law’s tongue
|Evergreen perennial typically grown as a houseplant
|6 inches to 12 feet tall in native habitat depending on variety; typically 2 feet tall when grown as a houseplant
|Sun to part shade
|Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline
|Toxic to cats and dogs
Snake Plant Care
The snake plant is an excellent option for novice gardeners because of its wide-ranging adaptability to various growing conditions. As an ideal choice for container gardening, it brings a vertical dimension and aesthetic appeal to indoor spaces. Thriving in warmer climates and exhibiting a high resistance to drought, it’s crucial to be cautious about overwatering, as the snake plant tends to struggle in colder environments. To ensure its well-being, only water the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. During the winter months, these plants can go up to two months between watering sessions. In the warmer seasons, it’s advisable to water no more frequently than every two weeks to maintain an optimal balance for this resilient houseplant.
Snake plants, scientifically known as Sansevieria, are popular houseplants known for their resilience and low maintenance requirements. Here are some key aspects to consider for effective snake plant care:
Snake plants can thrive in a wide range of light conditions, from low light to bright, indirect sunlight. They are adaptable and can tolerate less-than-ideal lighting conditions, making them suitable for various indoor environments.
One of the most critical aspects of snake plant care is proper watering. These plants are drought-tolerant and prefer to dry out between waterings. It’s important to avoid overwatering, as snake plants are more susceptible to root rot in consistently damp soil. Allow the soil to dry about 1-2 inches deep before watering.
Well-draining soil is essential for snake plants. A cactus or succulent mix works well, or you can amend regular potting soil with perlite or sand to improve drainage.
Temperature and Humidity:
Snake plants are adaptable to various temperature ranges. They prefer temperatures between 70-90°F (21-32°C), making them suitable for most indoor environments. They can tolerate lower temperatures, but it’s best to keep them away from drafts or extreme cold.
Pot and Repotting:
Snake plants prefer slightly snug pots, so they don’t require frequent repotting. When repotting, choose a container that’s only slightly larger than the current one. This helps prevent overwatering and provides stability for the plant.
Snake plants are not heavy feeders and can thrive without frequent fertilization. During the growing season (spring and summer), you can apply a balanced, diluted houseplant fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. In fall and winter, reduce or omit fertilization.
Snake plants don’t require extensive pruning. Remove any yellow or damaged leaves as needed to maintain the plant’s overall health and appearance.
Pests and Diseases:
Snake plants are relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, overwatering can lead to issues like root rot. If you suspect any problems, address them promptly.
Keep snake plants out of reach of pets and small children, as they are considered mildly toxic if ingested.
Snake plants can be propagated through leaf cuttings or by dividing mature plants. Both methods are relatively straightforward and can result in new plants.
How to Grow Snake Plant From Seed
Growing snake plants from seeds can be a rewarding but less common method, as snake plants are typically propagated through leaf cuttings or by dividing mature plants. However, if you have access to snake plant seeds and want to try this method, here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Snake plant seeds
- Well-draining potting mix
- Seed trays or small pots
- Plastic wrap or a humidity dome
- Watering can or spray bottle
- Grow light (optional)
Prepare the Soil:
- Fill seed trays or small pots with a well-draining potting mix. You can use a commercial cactus or succulent mix or create your own by combining regular potting soil with perlite or sand for improved drainage.
Sow the Seeds:
- Gently press the snake plant seeds into the soil, ensuring they are in good contact with the soil surface. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep.
- Water the soil thoroughly, ensuring it is evenly moist but not waterlogged. You can use a spray bottle to mist the soil if you’re concerned about overwatering.
Create a Mini Greenhouse:
- Cover the seed trays or pots with plastic wrap or a humidity dome to create a mini greenhouse effect. This helps maintain high humidity levels, which can promote germination.
Provide Light and Warmth:
- Place the seed trays or pots in a warm location with indirect sunlight. A consistent temperature of around 70-75°F (21-24°C) is ideal for germination.
- Germination may take several weeks, so be patient. Keep an eye on the soil moisture levels and remove the cover periodically to allow for air circulation.
- Once the seedlings have grown large enough to handle, carefully transplant them into individual pots with well-draining soil.
Provide Care for Young Plants:
- Place the young snake plants in a location with bright, indirect light. Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
- As the plants grow, gradually acclimate them to their final indoor location to avoid shock from sudden changes in light or temperature.
Keep in mind that growing snake plants from seeds can be a more time-consuming and challenging process compared to propagation from leaf cuttings or division. It’s also important to note that snake plants grown from seeds may not necessarily exhibit the exact characteristics of the parent plant, as they may have some variations in appearance.
Types of Snake Plant
There are several popular types and varieties of snake plants, each with its own unique leaf patterns, colors, and growth habits. Here are some common types of snake plants:
This is the most common type of snake plant, often referred to as the “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.” It has tall, upright leaves with dark green coloration and distinctive light green or silvery horizontal bands.
Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Laurentii’:
This variety is characterized by its striking golden-yellow margins along the edges of the leaves. It adds a bright pop of color to the typical green and silver patterning.
Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Hahnii’:
Also known as the Bird’s Nest Snake Plant, it has shorter, more compact leaves that form a rosette shape. The leaves are typically dark green with lighter green patterning.
Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’:
This cultivar features narrow leaves with distinct white vertical striping. It’s a more visually striking variety, providing a modern and elegant look.
Unlike the flat leaves of S. trifasciata, this type has cylindrical, upright leaves. They are often referred to as “African Spear” or “Cylindrical Snake Plant.” The leaves are typically gray-green with dark green striping.
This type is often called the “Samurai Snake Plant” due to its unique blade-like leaves. It has a more architectural and sculptural appearance compared to other snake plants.
Commonly known as the “Whale Fin” or “Shark Fin” snake plant, it stands out with its wide, paddle-shaped leaves. The leaves have a mottled green pattern resembling the skin of a whale.
This variety is known for its striking silvery-blue leaves. It adds a touch of cool, contemporary elegance to any indoor setting.
Sansevieria Kirkii ‘Silver Blue’:
This cultivar has long, sword-like leaves with a stunning silver-blue hue. It’s a less common variety but highly sought after for its unique coloration.
Also known as the “Dwarf Sansevieria,” this miniature variety has compact, densely packed leaves. It’s a charming choice for small spaces or decorative arrangements.
These are just a few examples of the diverse array of snake plants available to enthusiasts. Each type offers its own aesthetic appeal, making snake plants a versatile choice for a wide range of indoor settings.
Potting and Repotting Snake Plant
Potting and repotting snake plants are essential tasks to ensure their healthy growth and longevity. Here’s a guide on how to properly pot and repot your snake plant:
Potting Snake Plant:
Choose the Right Container:
Select a pot with drainage holes to prevent overwatering. The size of the pot should accommodate the size of the plant and leave some room for growth.
Use Well-Draining Soil:
Snake plants prefer well-draining soil to prevent waterlogged roots. A cactus or succulent mix works well, or you can create a mix of regular potting soil with perlite or coarse sand.
Prepare the Pot:
Add a layer of small pebbles or broken pottery at the bottom for additional drainage. Fill the pot with the chosen soil mixture, leaving enough space to accommodate the root ball.
Position the Plant:
Gently remove the snake plant from its current pot and loosen any tightly bound roots. Place it in the center of the new pot, ensuring the top of the root ball is about an inch below the rim.
Backfill with Soil:
Carefully fill the gaps around the root ball with the prepared soil mixture. Press the soil lightly to secure the plant in place.
Water the plant lightly after potting to settle the soil. Allow excess water to drain out through the bottom holes.
Repotting Snake Plant:
Check for Signs of Overgrowth:
It’s time to repot if the snake plant has outgrown its current container, with roots becoming tightly bound or emerging from the drainage holes.
Choose a Larger Pot:
Select a new pot that is one or two inches larger in diameter than the current one. Ensure it has drainage holes.
Gently Remove the Plant:
Carefully turn the pot on its side and tap the bottom to loosen the plant. Gently slide the snake plant out, being cautious not to damage the roots.
Inspect and Trim Roots:
Check for any damaged or rotting roots and trim them with clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. This encourages healthy growth.
Follow Potting Instructions:
Follow the steps outlined in the “Potting Snake Plant” section above to repot the plant in its new container.
Allow Adjustment Time:
After repotting, give the snake plant a few days to adjust to its new environment before resuming regular care routines.
Snake plants are generally resilient, but they can still face some common pest issues. Here are the most typical pests that may affect snake plants:
Spider Mites (Tetranychidae):
These tiny arachnids can infest snake plants, particularly in dry conditions. They feed on plant juices, causing leaves to appear stippled, discolored, and eventually wither. Regularly misting the plant and keeping humidity levels up can help deter spider mites.
Mealybugs are small, cottony pests that cluster in leaf axils and along stems. They feed on plant sap, causing wilting and yellowing. In severe infestations, they can weaken the plant. Wiping them off with a cloth soaked in soapy water or applying insecticidal soap can help control them.
Scale Insects (Coccoidea):
These insects attach themselves to the leaves and stems, appearing as small, round or oval bumps. They feed on plant sap, causing yellowing and stunted growth. Control measures include scraping them off with a soft brush or using insecticidal soap.
Fungus Gnats (Sciaridae):
These small, dark-colored flies are attracted to moist soil and can lay their eggs in it. The larvae feed on plant roots, potentially causing damage. Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings and using yellow sticky traps can help manage fungus gnats.
Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped insects that can cluster on new growth and undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap, causing distorted growth and sooty mold. Insecticidal soap or a strong stream of water can be used to remove them.
Thrips are slender, winged insects that feed on plant juices, causing stippling and distorted growth. They may also spread diseases. Insecticidal soap or neem oil can be used to control thrips.
Whiteflies are small, moth-like insects that cluster on the undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap, causing yellowing and reduced vigor. Insecticidal soap or neem oil can help manage whiteflies.
How to Get Snake Plant to Bloom
Indoor snake plants typically do not flower throughout the year. However, under optimal outdoor growing conditions, they may occasionally yield dainty, creamy-white, tubular blooms. These night-blooming flowers exude a fragrance reminiscent of lilies and possess a similar visual allure. Providing some exposure to sunlight and allowing the plant’s roots to become slightly bound can promote the emergence of a flower stalk. It’s important to select a cultivar known for its flowering capabilities, as not all snake plants possess this trait.
Common Problems With Snake Plant
Snake plants are renowned for their low maintenance and can thrive for many years with proper care. However, most issues arise from excessive watering, which can lead to fungal infections and root rot.
Foul Odor from Soil
If you detect a foul smell emanating from the soil, it’s a sign of potential root rot. Take the plant out of its pot and examine the roots to assess its condition. Trim away any brown, mushy roots and leaves, then repot the healthy part of the rhizome.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
Normally, snake plant leaves boast vibrant green hues with cream, yellow, or white edges. If you notice yellowing or browning, it indicates problems like overwatering, pest infestations, or root rot. Avoid these issues by adhering to a watering routine and only moistening the soil when it’s dry.
Curling leaves can result from thrip infestations, a common pest. Prune severely affected leaves and utilize neem oil to deter these tiny nuisances.
Leaves Falling Over or Drooping
In good health, snake plant leaves grow upright and firm. However, excessive watering, inadequate light, or unsuitable potting mix can cause them to droop or flop over. Relocate the plant to a spot with more light, reduce watering frequency, and replace the soil with a mix that offers improved drainage.
By addressing these common issues promptly, you can ensure your snake plant enjoys a long and healthy life.
Benefits of Snake Plant
The snake plant (Sansevieria) is a popular houseplant that offers a multitude of benefits, making it a valuable addition to any indoor environment. Here are some of the key advantages of having a snake plant:
Air Purification: Snake plants are known for their exceptional ability to purify indoor air by removing toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, nitrogen oxides, and benzene. This can lead to a healthier and cleaner indoor atmosphere.
Low Maintenance: They are incredibly easy to care for and can thrive in a variety of conditions. Snake plants are drought-tolerant and can go for extended periods without water. They are also resilient to neglect, making them an ideal choice for busy individuals or beginners in plant care.
Improved Indoor Humidity: Unlike most plants, snake plants are unique in that they perform photosynthesis at night, releasing oxygen and helping to regulate humidity levels. This can be especially beneficial in bedrooms and other areas where you spend a significant amount of time.
Adaptability: Snake plants are versatile and can thrive in different lighting conditions, from low to bright indirect light. They can adapt to various environments, making them suitable for different areas of your home or office.
Aesthetic Appeal: With their striking, upright foliage, snake plants add a touch of elegance and architectural interest to any space. They come in a variety of cultivars with different leaf patterns and colors, allowing for diverse decorative possibilities.
Longevity: When properly cared for, snake plants can live for many years, making them a lasting and cost-effective addition to your indoor garden.
Health Benefits: Some studies suggest that having indoor plants like snake plants can have positive effects on mental well-being, reducing stress and increasing overall happiness.
Non-Toxic: Unlike some other houseplants, snake plants are non-toxic to humans and pets. This makes them a safe choice for households with children or animals.
Natural Décor Element: Snake plants effortlessly complement various interior design styles, from modern and minimalist to bohemian and traditional. They can be used as standalone statement pieces or as part of a larger indoor garden arrangement.
What are the ideal conditions for growing a snake plant?
Snake plants thrive in a variety of indoor conditions. They prefer indirect light but can tolerate low light levels. They are also adaptable to different temperatures, ranging from 70-90°F (21-32°C).
How often should I water my snake plant?
Snake plants are succulents and are drought-tolerant. They prefer to dry out between waterings. Water them sparingly, approximately every 2-4 weeks, allowing excess water to drain away.
What type of soil is best for snake plants?
A well-draining potting mix is crucial for snake plants. A cactus or succulent soil mix is suitable, or you can create your own by combining regular potting soil with perlite or coarse sand.
Do snake plants require fertilization?
Snake plants are not heavy feeders. Fertilize them sparingly, usually during the growing season (spring and summer), using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength.
How should I repot my snake plant?
Repotting is typically necessary every 2-3 years or when the plant outgrows its container. Choose a pot that is slightly larger in diameter and has good drainage. Gently loosen the roots and place the plant in the new container with fresh potting mix.
Can I propagate my snake plant?
Yes, snake plants can be propagated through leaf cuttings or division. Leaf cuttings should be left to callus over before planting, and division can be done during repotting.
What pests or diseases should I be aware of?
Snake plants are generally hardy, but they can be susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites. Regularly inspect the leaves and treat any infestations promptly with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Are snake plants safe for pets and children?
No, snake plants are toxic to dogs, cats, and young children if ingested. Keep them out of reach or consider choosing non-toxic plants if you have pets or small children in your home.
Growing and caring for a snake plant can be a rewarding experience for any indoor gardener. Their adaptability to various conditions, low maintenance requirements, and striking appearance make them a popular choice for both beginners and experienced plant enthusiasts.
By providing the right balance of light, water, and well-draining soil, you can ensure your snake plant thrives in its environment. Remember to water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings, and choose a suitable potting mix to promote healthy growth.
Repotting and propagation offer opportunities to refresh and expand your snake plant collection. With proper techniques and care, you can watch your plants flourish and potentially even bloom, adding a unique touch to your indoor green space.