How to Choose, Plant, and Take Care of Your Snake Plant

The snake plant is a popular indoor or outdoor plant for its distinct foliage.

Not only does the snake plant look good, but it also helps purify the air, especially indoors—another reason why you may want to have this plant in your home.

Snake plants planted along a paved walkway
Snake Plants, Dracaena trifasciata

The Basics of Snake Plant

Snake plant’s scientific name is Dracaena trifasciata. Until 2017 it is known by the scientific name Sanseveria trifasciata.

Other common names for the snake plant are mother-in-law’s tongue (for how sharp and menacing it looks), and Saint George’s sword (because its leaves are long and pointy). It is also sometimes referred to as viper’s bowstring hemp.

The snake plant got its nickname for the patterns on its foliage that seem reminiscent of snakeskin.

This evergreen perennial form dense stands from its rhizomes.

The snake plant has stiff leaves with pointy ends, growing straight up from a basal rosette.

The snake plant’s leaves are usually dark green with light grey and green cross-banding, but some varieties come in lighter shades of green with yellow edges and grey banding.

The foliage of the snake plant can range from 28 to 35 inches (70 to 90 cm) long and 2 to 2.4 inches (5 to 6 cm) wide.

Some varieties only grow to less than 12 inches (30 cm), while others can grow up to as tall as 6 feet (2 metres).

In addition to its interesting foliage, the snake plant, particularly Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, was included in the NASA Clean Air Study.

The snake plant, together with other indoor plants, was found to help remove volatile organic pollutants indoors, such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.

Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’

This snake plant has the leaf shape characteristic of a snake plant—long, upright, with a pointy end—and its edges are golden yellow.

Snake Plant Laurentii with Yellow edges
Dracaena trifasciata Laurentii Snake Plant

Dracaena trifasciata ‘Hahnii’

Also known as Bird’s Nest, this is a dwarf variety of the snake plant. Some Hahnii snake plants have yellow edges.

Golden Hanii Snake Plant
Dracaena trifasciata Hanii, Bird’s Nest Snake Plant

Dracaena trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’

This is a variety of dwarf snake plant with golden or yellow strips along its foliage.

Golden Hahnii Snake Plant Dracaena trifasciata
Golden Hahnii Snake Plant, Dracaena trifasciata

Dracaena trifasciata Cylindrica

This snake plant has long tubular foliage and can grow up to 7 feet (2 metres) tall.

Snake Plant Cylindrica in a pot
Dracaena trifasciata Cylindrica Snake Plant

Planting Your Snake Plant

Snake plants are easy to propagate. You can use leaf cuttings or division to grow more snake plants.

Propagating Snake Plants Through Leaf Cuttings

When using leaf cuttings, choose leaves that are not too old and use clean shears to cut the leaves.

To root them in water, place the cut snake plant leaves upright in a container, cut part down. Fill the container with the snake plant cutting with just enough water to cover about the bottom fourth of the leaves. For example, if you cut an 8-inch leaf, fill the container to cover about 2 inches.

Place the container in a bright position and change the water every few days until the snake plant cutting grows roots.

You can also plant the leaf cuttings directly in a container, but let the cut part of the snake plant’s leaf dry out and form a callous before planting. The callous formation usually takes about a day or two.

Propagating Snake Plants Through Division

This method is simply dividing your snake plant by digging it out of the soil and cutting into sections.

Use a sharp shearing knife or saw to cut the snake plant at the base, making sure that each division has rhizomes.

Planting the Rooted Snake Plant

Snake plants prefer loose and well-drained medium. However, avoid adding too much peat to your medium as peat can compact later on. Add sand instead of peat to make a looser potting medium.

Your snake plant can adapt to full sun or part shade. However, it is best to place them in bright and sunny positions.

Caring for Your Snake Plant

Mother-in-law’s tongue is low maintenance and can survive most light conditions; that is why it is ideal as an indoor plant.

Snake plants can be sensitive to cold, so do not place them outdoors if temperatures in your area drop below 50 °F (10 °C).

Wait for the soil to dry at the top before each watering. Do not overwater your snake plant and water at the base, taking care not to get the snake plant’s leaves wet.

Fertilise your snake plant during the growing season.

Common Problems with Snake Plant

Snake Plant Pests

Snake plants can be infested with mealybugs and spider mites.

These pests suck the sap from the snake plant’s leaves.

The feeding habit of these pests will cause your snake plant to grow weak and eventually die.

Snake Plant Diseases

Part of caring for your snake plant is to avoid getting the leaves wet when watering.

Wet leaves will make your snake plant susceptible to fungal diseases such as red leaf spot and southern blight.

Snake plants infected with fungal disease will have brown and sunken lesions along its leaves.

White web-like growth will turn brown and harden.

Stinky Snake Plant Leaves

You may notice that your snake plant is bloating and giving off an unpleasant smell. This could be due to the explosion of cells within the snake plant’s leaves.

This issue is caused by over-watering or waterlogged soil.

Make sure to keep your snake plant’s soil well-drained and remove affected leaves.

Brown Leaf Tips

Too much watering, as well as inconsistent watering, can cause your snake plant to have brown leaf tips.

Brown Leaves

Just because your snake plant is low maintenance, it does not mean it will not suffer from prolonged drought.

The leaves of your snake plant will turn brown and look crunchy when kept dry for too long.

Scarring on the Snake Plant’s Leaves

Scarring on snake plant’s leaves may occur if there is something constantly touching or brushing against your plant.

Move your plant where it is away from people or pets moving around and passing by.

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