How to Care for Your Snake Plant

Updated 07/22/19

Westend61/Getty Images 

Snake plants (Sansevieria trifiscata) are some of the hardiest houseplants around. Also known as sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tounge, the most common varieties have slender, upright leaves in variegated patterns growing about two and a half feet tall, although there are also dwarf, solid-colored, inverted, and other unique varieties available.

A related species, Sansevieria cylindrica, has round rather than flat leaves and pointed tips—you may see the leaves of this variety braided together at florist shops or plant nurseries. In its native Africa, wild sansevieria are a favorite food of elephants. 

Because they’re so adaptable and easy to grow, we see snake plants everywhere—restaurants, building lobbies, doctors’ waiting rooms—but they’re not always cared for properly. Snake plants in good condition can lend a lush, jungle-like feel to any space.

Even better? They’re great for improving air quality in your space, particularly while you sleep—even earning the nickname ”bedroom plant” because of the oxygen they give off at night.

A snake plant in an entryway
 Ali Lanenga/Stocksy

Best Growing Conditions for Snake Plants

Snake plants can tolerate just about any light level and can survive drought-like conditions. They don’t like chills, so keep them in a space above 65 degrees.

These plants need very little water overall. During spring and summer, allow them to dry out between thorough waterings; in winter, water even less—just enough to keep the leaves from getting shriveled. 

Pot your snake plant in a free-draining potting mix. A soilless mix works well here—you can buy soilless potting mix at your local nursery or garden center, or make your own by combining sand, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite in equal amounts. 

Since soggy soil will cause root rot, this is a great opportunity to use a pot made from terra cotta or another porous material. When you do water your snake plant, water deeply, taking care not to allow the plant to sit in water in its saucer afterwards. 

snake plant in ezra planter
The Sill Petite Snake Plant in Ezra Planter $26
Shop

How to Care for Snake Plants

Snake plants do best in bright indirect light, but they have a high tolerance for low-light spaces or shade. The amount of water your sansevieria needs is relative to how much light it gets, so take that into consideration as you choose where to display your snake plant in your space. More light means that it will need more frequent (but still relatively rare) waterings, while plants in dimmer areas will need less water to stay healthy.

Fertilize your snake plant every two to three months. Snake plants can be repotted during any season, though they may be able to go up to three or four years without repotting in a slightly larger vessel with fresh potting soil. 

Troubleshooting for Snake Plants

While these easy-care house plants can thrive under benign neglect, it’s important to know what warning signs to look for. 

Snake plants can be sensitive to low temperatures. Brown edges on the leaves indicate that your space is too cool for your snake plant. If you see these, move your snake plant to a warmer area in your space. 

Shriveled leaves indicate that your snake plant isn’t getting enough water. Give it a thorough soak, and keep an eye on the plant to avoid letting it go too long between waterings. 

You’re more likely to encounter the symptoms of overwatering: drooping, yellowing, or mushy leaves indicate that roots below the surface are rotting due to too much moisture in the soil. However, root rot begins below the soil surface first, so it’s best to keep an eye on your snake plant’s soil moisture levels and allow the plant to dry out completely between waterings. 

If your snake plant shows signs of root rot, remove it from the pot and remove the soggy soil. Cut away any brown, mushy roots or leaves and repot the healthy rhizomes in fresh soil. If the rhizomes can’t be saved, discard them. Save a few healthy leaves and use them to propagate new snake plants.

Snake Plant Zeylanica
The Sill Snake Plant Zeylanica $16
Shop

How to Propagate Snake Plants by Division

There are two ways to propagate snake plants: by rhizome division or leaf cuttings.

Step 1: Remove your snake plant from the pot, then use your hands to gently remove the soil from the rhizomes. 

Step 2: Use a sharp, clean blade to separate the rhizomes. 

Step 3: Repot rhizomes into a new container with fresh soil. 

You may choose to divide your snake plant when up-potting in the spring or summer. Most snake plants can be propagated this way without any problems; however, variegated varieties will lose their signature foliage markings when propagated by leaf cuttings, so divide those types instead to maintain their look.

How to Propagate Snake Plants by Leaf Cuttings

Step 1: Cut a leaf from your plant at a slight angle. Cut it into three-inch sections, taking care to keep the sections in their original orientation (from the bottom to the top of the leaf) until Step 3. 

Step 2: Fill a small pot with sand. 

Step 3: Insert your sections of leaf into the sand vertically, with the bottom cut end pointing down, so that half an inch to one inch of the leaf is beneath the soil surface. 

Step 4: Water often enough to keep the soil only slightly moist. You should see new shoots emerge in four to eight weeks.

Related Stories