snake plant, houseplant, mother in law's tongue

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria

Snake Plant Care and Propagation

If you are looking for a super hard to kill plant, then look no further. The 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.

Watch the Snake Plant Care & Propagation video below or keep reading!

The Snake Plant is great looking houseplant, with attractively patterned leaves that stand vertically. It is also perfect for tight spaces, or where you want something upright.

According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, the Snake Plant is considered an air purifying plant as it removes toxins from the air. Great houseplant to have in your bedroom as it releases oxygen at night. It filters 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.

This tall robust plant grows up to 3 to 4 feet tall with a tight clump of many vertically inclined dark green leaves with lighter gray-green, zig-zag, horizontal bands. Variegated versions have broad, longitudinal, yellow stripes along the margins. 

The Sanvevieria, commonly know as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake plant, while its full scientific name is Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii. It is a succulent from West Africa and a popular choice for indoor gardens, interior design and does well in outdoor gardens in warmer climates. Disneyland has them all over the park located in Anaheim, CA. See more Disneyland plants in our post here.

It is called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue because of their long, sharp, pointed leaves and because they live so long.  Also called Snake Plant as their pattern resembles the scales of a snake. These are long-lived, easy-care houseplants.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Snake Plant | Sansevieria

Light for Snake Plants


I like to place the Snake Plant in an area with plenty of bright light and in mild temperatures to help the plant flourish. Although Mother-in-law’s Tongue is tolerant of low light, it does best with bright indirect light. Variegated forms need more light and can be more difficult to grow, but I personally have not had any issues with either variety.  There are even cute dwarf varieties like Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Zeylanica’, most commonly called Bird’s Nest. To learn about many different varieties check out my post here.

The pattern in snake plant leaves tends to be more bright when exposed to light. But bright direct light may be too intense for the plant and may cause leaf burn or leaf dropping. A North facing window is acceptable but long periods of Northern exposure may cause drooping leaves.

If you did place the plant in full sun without a gradual transition, remove it to a shadier place and slowly transition it back to the sunnier area over a period of time.

I also like to turn the pot a quarter turn every week for even light exposure. This prevents it from stretching too much in one direction.

Snake Plant Care and Propagation | Sansevieria
Snake Plant

Watering Snake Plants


When watering the soil, 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. Try to keep water out of the center of the leaf clump. Add water until the water drains from the bottom and empty drained water from trays promptly. Or better yet put water in a larger container and allow it to soak for 20 minutes or so. This is my favorite way to water. If the leaves are drooping it means something isn’t right, and usually it is from over watering. 

Most problems with growing Sansevieria are usually related to watering. Allow the top two to three inches of soil to dry out between watering during the growing season. 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.

In winter months only water when leaves begin to look slightly wilted. Once a month is usually sufficient depending on your humidity. If your snake plant is near a heat vent or sunny window you will need water it more frequently.

Overwatering Snake Plants

If the leaves turn yellow, or get soft or mushy at their base, it is most likely from overwatering. If this happens, do not add anymore water!! Another option is to rub a small amount of vegetable oil on the  mushy leaves. 

snake plant care and propagation

The vegetable oil will force water out of the mushy spot and turn it green again if it is not too late.

Now the natural yellow outline on the edges of the variegated snake plant is normal. However, yellowing across the entire leaves is a sign the plant is either being over watered or has been introduced to too much light. To rescue the plant before it is too late, reduce the watering immediately. Be sure to let the soil dry out. As a rule of thumb, always allow the soil to dry out before your next watering. 

Snake Plant Care

I like to keep the leaves dust-free and glossy by wiping them with a damp cloth. I have also heard  that  a cotton ball dipped in milk will also do the trick. 

Plant spray isn’t recommended, but I have heard conflicting opinions. I have read that leaf sprays prevent CO2 and O2 exchanges, and can suffocate the plant.

Snake Plant Repotting

Sansevierias like to be slightly root bound so 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.

Snake plants 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

The Sansevieria will produce roots when placed in soil or water. Be sure to let the cuttings callus over for 3-7 days first though. If not, they are more susceptible to rotting. Keep in mind that when the variegated cuttings send up new growth, the sprouts revert to solid green, and the yellow margins are lost.

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

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


snake plant care and propagation

From my experience with propagating other succulents, I always find they root much faster in water.

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

Well the same thing happened with the snake plant cuttings. The cuttings in water grew beautiful roots.


They take much longer to root than most succulents, so just be patient and think of how many new babies you will eventually have.

We also placed cuttings in soil, I have two that shriveled up and died but all of the others have at least some new growth. Now we wait for babies to appear!

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

View my Snake Plant & Water Propagation update video below!

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