The snake plant, Dracaena trifasciata, is one of the most popular and hardy houseplants. Sansevieria trifasciata was the botanical name until 2017, when it was renamed Dracaena species due to its similarities with other Dracaena species. The plant can grow from six inches to eight feet tall, with stiff, sword-like leaves.
While some snake plants feature green-banded leaves and a yellow border, they may vary in color. These plants are simple to establish and, in many cases, practically indestructible. They’ll do well in the brightest regions of the house, or almost dark areas. Indoor snake plants grow slowly in light, but if they get a few hours of direct sunlight, their growth will increase. The best time to plant and repot is in the spring.
This plant is toxic to cats and dogs.1
Snake Plant Care
Since it is difficult to kill, snake plant is an excellent option for novice gardeners. It thrives on the floor or on tabletop displays in a container and grows well. Warm weather supports snake plant, but cold weather casts a pall over it. Only water the plant when the soil feels dry. This plant is drought-tolerant, but it is vulnerable to root rot from overwatering. During the winter months, these plants may go two months without watering. Water is only available every two weeks in the summer.
In the shade, snake plants prefer indirect but steady light. They may endure bright but not strong light and may adapt to full sun circumstances.
A loose, well-drained potting soil is preferred by snake plants. In sandier soils, this plant performs well. Use a peat-free potting substrate. Peat is effective in a variety of applications, but it can become packed and struggle to rehydrate or drain in certain conditions. A suitable option is an all-purpose cactus potting soil.
Between watering, let the soil dry. Reduce watering to monthly or less throughout the winter if the soil is dry to the touch. Over-watering may harm the plant, so err on the side of under-watering.
Temperature and Humidity
If temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, snake plants will struggle. Place the plant in a draft-protected location. It is best to keep the temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant will be killed by frost.
During the growing season, feed with a balanced liquid slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer or a 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half strength. During the winter, don’t fertilize.
Types of Snake Plant
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Hahnii’: It is also called bird’s nest snake plant, it grows to only about six inches tall. Its leaf clusters form a bird’s nest clump.
- Dracaena angolensi (formerly Sansevieria cylindrical): This cylindrical snake plant has round, stiff leaves that can reach several feet in length. The leaves arch outward from a central crown.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’: This variegated snake plant has creamy yellow leaf margins. To propagate this plant, it must be divided rather than propagated from leaf cuttings.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Twisted Sister’: This plant has twisted leaves striped horizontally with yellow variegated edges. It grows about 15 inches tall.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’: This snake plant grows about three feet tall and has narrow leaves with white vertical stripes.
- Dracaena pearsonii: Sometimes called rhino grass, this plant grows about 12 inches tall with succulent red-tinted leaves.
Remove leaves at the soil line or cut off damaged or mature leaves to encourage new growth using sterile pruning shears, scissors, or a sharp knife. During the growing season, which is normally spring or summer, is the best time to prune. During the off-season, you may trim a tree, but it’s recommended to do so when the plant is in its growing stage because trimming can stress it out. Remove the tallest leaves from your snake plant to regulate its height. Remove any damaged leaves as well. Leaf removal stimulates new leaf development.
Propagating Snake Plant
Propagation should be done in the spring or summer, when the plant is growing. If the plant is at least four inches tall, Dracaena plants may be divided easily during repotting. New shoots may also grow from the earth and be potted independently instead. Cuttings are another way to propagate snake plants. For both approaches, follow these directions.
Propagate via root division:
- Gather a sharp knife, a clean pot, and cactus potting soil.
- Pull the root ball out of the old pot and place the plant on a flat surface. Using your hand, gently brush away the soil from the root structure or rhizome.
- Using the sharp knife, divide the plant into sections, making sure the roots for each section remain intact. Cutting through the plant will not kill the plant.
- Replant the new snake plant sections into a clean pot with cactus potting soil.
- Water it and place it in a partly sunny location.
Propagate new offshoots:
- If you notice any new pups or baby offshoots that the plant has developed, you can plant those separately.
- As with root division, you’ll need a sharp knife, a clean pot, and cactus potting soil.
- Pull the root ball out of the pot, locate the offshoot’s root, cut off the pup and plant the cut root end in the cactus potting soil.
- Water it and place it in a location with indirect bright light.
- Using sterilized scissors, a sharp knife, or pruning shears, slice off a long, healthy leaf from your snake plant.
- Root the leaf cutting in water by placing it in a clean jar of water, submerging the cut end. Place it in a partially sunny spot and look for root growth.
- Every few days, top off the water, keeping it level. Every two weeks, dump the old water and refill with clean water to inhibit bacterial or algae growth.
- Once roots develop at least an inch long, plant the root end in a well-draining cactus potting mix.
- Water it and place it in a partially sunny spot.
You can alternatively skip the water rooting process. Allow the cut end to callous over for 24 hours after you’ve removed a healthy leaf from your plant, and then pot it in the cactus potting mix, cut-end down. It takes two months for the plant to grow, so you may not notice any new growth for a while.
How to Grow Snake Plant From Seed
Snake plants may be reproduced from seeds, however propagation via other techniques is simpler, quicker, and more dependable. The germination rates of snake plant seeds are usually low. It can take up to six weeks for a seedling to form.
Fill a three-inch container with a well-draining cactus potting or seed starting mix to start from seed. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the starter dough. Set the pot in an area that is warm and bright. To keep the heat and humidity inside, cover the pot with plastic wrap or a clear plastic dome. Remove the plastic cover once you notice seedling development. During the germination process, keep the soil slightly damp but not excessively wet or soggy. When it is three to four inches tall, the seedling will be ready to repot.
Potting and Repotting Snake Plant
Strong roots can easily shatter weak pots, so choose a solid pot material when potting. Dracaena is a moderate grower that seldom needs repotting, although they may grow quickly and need to be repotted or split if given enough sunlight. These plants should be repotted in the spring. Always use fresh potting soil, a cactus potting blend, or a combination of both when repotting.
Snake plant is a tropical plant that can die if it is exposed to a wintery frost or if the temperature drops consistently below 50°F. Before the temperatures drop that low, bring the plant inside. Keep the snake plant in a warm location with plenty of ventilation, and keep the soil on the dryer side. Snake plants go dormant during the winter and cease to develop. Watering the plant only once every six weeks or so in the winter is required.
Many household pests, such as scales, gnats, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies are attracted to snake plants.3 You can avoid an insect invasion by maintaining your plant healthy. When a plant is afflicted by environmental problems such as low water levels, humidity, or air circulation, insects are more likely to attack it. Pick the insects off, use a gentle spray of water, or apply organic neem oil to keep the insects at bay if you notice them on your plant.
How to Get Snake Plant to Bloom
Snake plants produce tubular white flowers that resemble lilies in color. When the water, sun, and humidity requirements are right, it blooms every year. Nonetheless, these plants seldom bloom when they are cultivated all year long indoors. The plant is awakened from dormancy and begins to grow when the seasons change, specifically with the arrival of spring. It blooms at night, like other dracaena species, and its flowers are fragrant. These blooms do not need to be deadheaded; they fall on their own.
Common Problems With Snake Plant
Whether you have a green thumb or not, snake plants are one of the easiest plants to keep alive, reproduce, and preserve for years. Watering is the most common issue with snake plant health. Plant disorders such as fungal illnesses and root rot are caused by overwatering.
It’s likely that you have root rot if the earth smells like it’s rotting.4 Scoop some of the earth up to your nose and smell it. The scent of root rot is unpleasant. You may attempt to rescue the plant, but you must first check the roots to ensure that the root system has been rescued in time. Pull the root ball out of the plastic container.
Any brown, rotting roots or leaves should be removed. In fresh cactus potting soil or a well-draining potting soil, repot a portion of healthy root rhizome. Discard the rhizomes if you can’t save them. Using leaf cuttings, propagate a new snake plant.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
Green snake plant leaves with silver or yellow streaks are healthy. Overwatering, pests, and root rot are just a few of the conditions that yellow or brown leaves may indicate. If you manage the plant’s water level appropriately, you can address each of these situations. Overwatering stresses the plant and makes it more vulnerable to pests as a result of root rot.
A magnifying glass can be used to look at your plant’s leaves more closely for signs of thrips infestation. It’s simple to control these little black insects. To keep the pests at bay, remove severely curled leaves and spray the plant with neem oil or vegetable soap. The leaves will eventually expand.
Leaves Falling Over or Drooping
Too much water, insufficient light, or poor potting material may cause the snake plant’s leaves to slump or flop over; healthy snake plant leaves grow upward and stand erect. The soil becomes soggy and affects the foliage if you don’t use a well-draining potting mix. If necessary, relocate the plant to a more cheerful spot, reduce the frequency of watering, and alter the soil.
Are snake plants easy to care for?
- Once you discover the ideal location for snake plants, they require very little care. They’re easier to maintain than most other houseplants, but they’re tougher to kill.
How fast does snake plant grow?
- Generally, the snake plant is a slow grower; however, if you place it outdoors in summer, it might experience a boost in growth.
How long does a snake plant live?
- The average lifespan of a snake plant is five to ten years; however, they can live up to 25 years or more.
What’s the difference between Nassauvia serpens and Dracaena trifasciata?
- Dracaena trifasciata and Nassauvia serpens are both known as snake plants, but they have nothing in common. The perennial shrub Nassauvia serpens is native to the Falkland Islands and belongs to the aster family. They don’t seem to be related in any way.