Snake plant care is simple and easy. If you are looking for a plant that will thrive even with neglect, this indoor plant is for you!
Also known as mother in law’s tongue, this tough plant has stiff, sword-like leaves with stripes and creamy yellow borders. The plant grows slowly indoors, and is comfortable even in low light conditions.
Keep reading to learn more about growing this popular houseplant.
Is Snake plant Sansevieria or Dracaena Trifasciata?
I grew this plant for years and always called it sansevieria. However, many botanists now refer to it as dracaena trifasciata (scientific name.) Which is it?
Both botanical terms refer to the same plant commonly known as the snake plant. Botanists reclassified it in 2017 as Dracaena trifasciata. Taxonomically, it belongs to the Dracaena genus.
The change was part of a larger reclassification effort by botanists and taxonomists to update the taxonomy of various plant families. This reclassification is based on genetic research and a better understanding of the relationships between plant species.
Even though the scientific name of the plant has changed, the common names for the plant, “snake plant” and “mother-in-law’s tongue,” (and other names) have remained largely unchanged, since these names are more familiar to the general public.
Snake plant fun facts
Brush up on your knowledge of indoor snake plant with these fun facts.
- Botanical name – Dracaena trifisciata (formerly sansevieria)
- Family – Asparagaceae
- Plant type – tender perennial, often grown as an indoor plant
- Other common names – mother in law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp, good luck plant
- Flowers of snake plant – Getting snake plant to flower outside of its natural environment is difficult. The flowers vary from greenish white to cream-colored and have a sticky texture.
- Hardiness zones – 10-12 USDA
- Native to – various regions in West Africa, including Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and other parts of tropical West Africa.
- Toxicity – According to the ASPCA the plant is toxic to cats and dogs
- Mature size – Up to 12 feet tall in its native habitat. Will grow up to 3 feet tall indoors.
- Snake plant benefits – Snake plants are known for their ability to thrive in low light, their overall hardiness and their air-purifying qualities (study from Nasa).
- Snake plant symbolism – Snake plants are symbols of good luck, longevity, independence and motherhood. If you have an interest in feng shui, snake plant is often associated with feng shui principles
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Snake plant care
Dracaena trifisciata is a good choice for beginning gardeners because it is so tolerant in its growing needs. The plant looks great in a container and is not bothered by many pests or diseases.
Here are some steps to help you grow a healthy indoor snake plant:
Sunlight needs for snake plant
Indoor snake plants are adaptable and can tolerate a range of light conditions, from low to bright, indirect light. However, they do their best in medium to bright indirect light.
Avoid direct sunlight, since too much sunlight can scorch the leaves. If you give it very little light, the color of the leaves of some snake plant varieties can become washed out.
Too little light can also lead to the plant becoming leggy and floppy.
Soil and fertilizing needs
Avoid soil mixes which gave a high percentage of peat. These will retain too much water.
Fertilize your snake plant sparingly. You can use a balanced, general-purpose liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Feed the plant during the growing season (spring and summer) about once every other month. Do not feed in the dormant season (fall and winter.)
How to water a snake plant
Indoor snake plants are more likely to die from over-watering than under-watering. Allow the top inch or two of the soil to dry out before watering again.
During the growing season, water every 2-6 weeks, or when the soil is almost completely dry to the touch. In the dormant period, reduce watering to every 6-8 weeks or so.
If you noticed that your plant is developing yellow leaves, this is a sign of too much watering.
The large, flat leaves of snake plan will tend to collect dust. Wipe them down with a damp cloth if you notice this when watering the plant.
Temperature and humidity requirements
Snake plants prefer temperatures between 70-90°F (21-32°C) but can tolerate slightly lower temperatures. They are also adaptable to different humidity levels.
The average humidity in most homes is between 30 and 50 percent, and indoor snake plants are fine with this level of humidity.
Keep plants out of drafts. They are tropical plants and don’t like temperatures than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C).
Snake plant propagation
Snake plants can be propagated through leaf cuttings or division of the main plant. This is best done in spring or summer, with a plant at least 4 inches tall.
To grow leaf cuttings, cut a healthy leaf into smaller sections and plant them in a new pot. Note that leaf cuttings of plants with yellow edges will root, but the new plants will be all green.
Offshoots that grow from the base of the plant can also be grown in new containers. These will grow with similar characteristics to the parent plant.
Pests and diseases
Snake plants are generally resistant to most pests and diseases. However, you should inspect your plant regularly for signs of common houseplant pests such as mealybugs or spider mites and treat them promptly if you find any.
If you discover curling leaves on your plant, the problem may be thrips. Treat these with neem oil.
Cold temperatures can cause the leaves of snake plant to turn brown.
The most common problem with snake plant comes from over-watering which can produce root rot and drooping leaves.
When to repot snake plant
Dracaena trifisciata is a slow growing plant, so it doesn’t need frequent repotting. Check your plant every 2-3 years.
If you have your plant growing in low light conditions, it may not need repotting more than once every 10 years!
If you discover that it is root-bound, repot into a container about twice the size of the root ball. You can separate any offsets at the same time!
The best time for repotting snake plants is in the spring before new growth starts.
Types of snake plant
Note that all snake plant varieties should technically be referred to as Dracaena trifasciata varieties. However, it is common for people to still use the older Sansevieria name, and both names are often used interchangeably in the horticultural and gardening world.
You may find these varieties with names that are called either “Dracaena trifasciata” or “Sansevieria”. I show both names in my list below.
Each variety of snake plants has its own unique characteristics, and differences in leaf shape, color, and pattern. Here are some popular ones:
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata – This is the most common and traditional variety with dark green, sword-shaped leaves and light green horizontal stripes.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ (Bird’s Nest Snake Plant) – This compact variety has shorter, rosette-shaped leaves that give it a distinctive bird’s nest appearance. It’s often grown in smaller pots or as part of a decorative centerpiece.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Moonshine’ – This variety has silvery-gray-green leaves, making it stand out from the typical green snake plant.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ – It features narrow, vertical white stripes on its leaves against a dark green background, giving it a striking, variegated appearance.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ – As the name suggests, this variety has dark, almost blackish-green leaves with contrasting light green vertical stripes.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Cylindrica’ (Cylindrical Snake Plant) – Unlike the typical flat leaves of other snake plants, this one has cylindrical, upright leaves that are often braided or twisted.
- Dracaena (or Sansevieria) trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ – Also known as the “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue,” it features dark green leaves with golden-yellow margins.
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