snake plant, houseplant, mother in law's tongue

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria

If you are looking for a plant that is super hard to kill plant, then look no further. Sansevieria, aka mother-in-law’s tongue is the perfect starter houseplant. It is virtually indestructible. The Sansevieria is perfect for the forgetful gardener and a great addition to any home or office. This is probably the toughest and most tolerant houseplant you can find, as it is able to survive many unsuitable growing conditions. Snake plant care and propagation is simple.

The Snake Plant is great looking houseplant. In fact, its attractively patterned leaves stand vertically. Additionally, it is perfect for tight spaces. Or, anywhere you want something growing upright.

According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, the Snake Plant is considered an air purifying plant. Removing toxins from the air. In fact, a great houseplant to have in your bedroom. Specifically  because it releases oxygen at night. Filtering indoor air pollution toxins like benzene, xylene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and toluene. 

Snake Plants are mildly toxic if eaten so it is best to keep them away from small children and animals.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii'

Growing up to 3-4 feet tall, this robust plant forms tight clumps of many vertically inclined leaves. Specifically, dark green leaves with lighter gray-green, zig-zag, horizontal bands. In fact, variegated versions have broad, longitudinal, yellow stripes along the margins. 

The Sansevieria is commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake plant. However, its full scientific name is Sansevieria trifasciata Laurentii. A succulent from West Africa, Additionally, its a popular choice for indoor gardens and interior design. In warmer climates it does well in outdoor gardens. In fact, Disneyland has them all over their park located in Anaheim, CA. See more Disneyland plants in our post here.

Why is it called Snake Plant?

Fun fact…it is called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue because of their long, sharp, pointed leaves. And because they live so long. Additionally, it is also called Snake Plant, as their pattern resembles the scales of a snake. These are long-lived, easy-care houseplants.

How to take care of Snake Plants

Sansevieria is one of the easiest plants to grow. In fact Snake Plants will thrive in many growing conditions. Furthermore, follow the tips below for beautiful, healthy Sansevierias. 

I like to place the Snake Plant in an area with plenty of bright light. However, they can survive in any light level. Although Mother-in-law’s Tongue is tolerant of low light, it does best with bright, indirect light. Mild temperatures also help the plant flourish.

Variegated forms need more light and some say they can be more difficult to grow. However, I personally have not had any issues with any Snake Plant variety. There are even cute dwarf varieties like Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Zeylanica’. Commonly called Bird’s Nest Snake Plant or Dwarf Snake Plant. To learn about many different sansevieria varieties check out my post here. If you are specifically looking for Dwarf Snake Plants read my post here.

Keep in mind the pattern on snake plant leaves will tend to be brighter when exposed to more light. But, bright direct light may be too intense for the plant. Specifically, causing leaf sunburn or leaf drooping. 

An ideal spot indoors is approximately 10 feet (3 meters) away from a West or South window. Although a North facing window is acceptable. However, long periods of Northern exposure may cause leaves to droop.

If you did place your Snake Plant in full sun without a gradual acclimation and it is showing signs of sunburn or drooping, move it to a shadier spot. Then, slowly transition it back to the sunnier area over a period of time.

Additionally, I like to turn the pot a quarter turn at each watering for even light exposure. This prevents it from stretching or leaning too much in one direction.

A Snake Plant prefers well-draining soil. Especially because they are prone to root rot. If using standard potting soil I suggest adding pumice or perlite to amend the soil. A terracotta pot is also perfect for Snake Plants. In fact, the walls of the terracotta pots draw the water out of the soil. Therefore, helping the soil dry quicker.

Best soil for Snake Plants?

Sansevieria soil should range from 5.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Snake plants thrive in a well-drained and nutrient-rich potting mix.

When watering your Snake Plant, be careful not to get water on the leaves. This can eventually cause them to rot. I like to water along the sides of the plant. Specifically, try to keep water out of the center of the leaf clump. 

How much water for snake plants?

Add water until water drains from the bottom. Definitely give it a good soak. Also, be sure to empty any water sitting in the drainage tray. We certainly don’t want it sitting in water for prolonged periods of time.

Or, better yet put water in a larger container and allow it to soak for 20 minutes or so. Definitely my favorite way to water. Not to mention that the Snake Plant will absorb the exact amount it needs.

If the leaves are drooping it means something isn’t right. In fact, it is typically from over watering.

How often to water Snake Plant?

Most problems with growing Snake Plants are usually related to watering. Therefore, allow the top two to three inches (5-8 cm) of soil to dry out between watering. Specifically during the growing season. In fact, every 2-3 weeks is typically sufficient. 

I like to use a moisture meter to be sure. It really helped me when I was new to plants.

Also, during the winter months, I only water when leaves begin to look slightly wilted. In fact, once a month is usually sufficient )depending on your humidity). Although, if your snake plant is near a heat vent or sunny window you will need to water it more frequently.

Snake plant with mushy leaves? Leaves will turn yellow, or get soft or mushy at their base typically from overwatering. Excess water in the leaves causes the cellular structure of the leaves to break down. In fact making leaves soft, and sometimes even mushy. If this happens, do not add any more water! Hold off on watering until the soil is completely dry.

Another option is to rub a small amount of vegetable oil on the mushy leaves. Thus the vegetable oil will force water out of the mushy spot and turn it green again if it is not too late.

Keep in mind the natural yellow outline on the edges of the variegated snake plant is totally normal. 

However, yellowing across the entire leaves is a sign the plant is either being over watered or is getting too much light. Stop watering immediately. Be sure to let the soil completely dry out. As a general rule, always allow the soil to dry out before your next watering.

Underwatered Snake Plant

An underwatered snake plant will have wrinkling leaves. Additionally, leaves may curl with brown tips due to dehydration. In fact, as it dries up your Snake Plant may start to fall over if it is left in dry soil for too long. Furthermore, you may even notice a slow down in growth. 

First, immediately move your Sansevieria to a shaded area. Next, soak your plant in a larger container of water to revive it. Additionally, you can water from the top. However, the most effective way to rehydrate the roots is to soak them.

Specifically, let your Snake Plant pot soak in water for several hours. If needed, add additional water if it has soaked up a good amount. Ideally we want the root ball completely saturated.

Snake Plant Care

I like to keep Sansevieria leaves dust-free and glossy by wiping them with a damp cloth. Some say a cotton ball dipped in milk will also do the trick. However, I have never tried this. Besides, they are naturally glossy enough for me.

Plant spray is not recommended. However, I have definitely heard conflicting opinions. In fact, I have read that leaf sprays prevent CO2 and O2 exchanges, and can suffocate the plant. Therefore, I personally don’t use it. 

Snake Plant Repotting

Sansevierias like to be slightly root bound. Therefore, I’d wait to repot for a year or so. But, keep an eye on it. Because if it they are too root bound, that can also cause the leaves to droop.

Sansevierias are one of the few plants that can be propagated with cuttings taken from cross-sections of their long spear-shaped leaves.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Snake plant propagation

How to propagate Snake Plants

Snake Plant cuttings will produce roots when placed in soil or water. To propagate from leaf cuttings find a healthy leaf.  First, cut sections that are at least 2 inches. Then, allow the cuttings callous over for at least 3-7 days. If not, they are more susceptible to rotting. 

Be sure you keep track of the directional growth of the cutting. Unfortunately, Sansevieria propagation will not happen if the cutting is upside down. 

Keep in mind that when a variegated cutting sends up new growth, the new baby pup will revert to solid green. Unfortunately, the yellow margins are lost. However, you will still have beautiful non-variegated snake plant babies. 

In the video above I rescued a sad snake plant from Lowe’s that was on their clearance rack. In fact, I love rescuing sad plants on sale! Worst case scenario I figured I would at least be able to separate it into multiple plants. Or, get some cuttings from the drooping leaves.

First, I cut off all the drooping leaves and waited for the ends to callous over. Then, I put half in soil and the other half in water.

snake plant care and propagation
Snake Plant with drooping leaves

From my experience with propagating other succulents, I always find cuttings root much faster in water than soil. Furthermore, I really love watching new roots form in water.

Snake Plant Water Propagation

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Sansevieria trifasciata Laurentii Snake Plant Propagating in Water

In fact, the same thing happened with the Snake Plant cuttings. The cuttings in water grew beautiful roots much faster.

Be patient! Snake Plants take much longer to root than most succulents. Meanwhile, just be patient and think of how many new babies you will eventually have.

Snake plant propagation in soil

We also placed several cuttings in soil. Although two shriveled up and died. However, all of the others had at least some new growth. Next, we wait for babies to appear.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Snake Plant Propagating in Soil

Snake plant pups in water

New Snake Plant babies will form at the bottom of the leaf. Indeed they so stinkin’ cute!? That is to say they are definitely worth the wait. So again, be patient because sometimes it can take months for babies to form. 

Snake Plant Care and Propagation
Snake Plant Propagating in water

Once the Snake Plant baby starts producing its own roots, then you can transfer to well-draining soil. Leave the mother leaf on the plant when placing in well-draining soil.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation
Snake Plant propagating from a leaf

Snake Plants grow from rhizomes under the soil. These rhizomes are potato looking root-like organs. Using a sharp knife or shears, the rhizomes can be carefully divided.

Propagating snake plant by division

Be sure the section you are removing has at least one healthy leaf growing from the rhizome. Although, I prefer to have several leaves.

Make a cut between the mother plant and the pup. Next, allow it to dry out for a few days. Then, plant in well-draining soil. Finally, wait to water for several days after planting.

Are your plastic posts bulging a bit? Roots coming out of the drainage holes? These are tell-tale signs that your snake plant needs repotting. Of course Snake Plants prefer to be a bit root bound. However, not overly crowded. 

First, select a pot that is about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wider than its current pot. I would not suggest going much larger. Specifically, because a larger pot will need more soil. Thus, causing the soil to take longer to dry out. Additionally, extra soil can create pockets of moisture that can lead to root rot.

Next, place some well-draining soil in the new pot. Then, before placing the plant in the pot, break up the bottom roots a bit. Finally, place the plant in the pot and add soil as needed. Specifically leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) from the top of the soil to the pot’s rim.

Most Snake Plants can tolerate some full sun conditions. However, I suggest waiting a month or more after repotting. Rather, opt for bright, indirect light. Specifically avoiding super hot summer sun.

Additionally, avoid fertilizing your Snake Plant for at least a month or so after repotting. In fact, this gives the roots time to re-establish themselves in their new home. 

Also, hold off on watering after repotting for a week or so. Then, only water when the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the pot has dried out. Furthermore, remove any excess standing water if the plant sits in a saucer.

View my Snake Plant Soil & Water Propagation update video below!

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