Everything To Know About Snake Plants – An Introduction To The Sansevieria Genus

Sansevieria Trifasciata— Snake Plant

Many succulents are short and squat because they’ve adapted to grow in arid climates, but not the snake plant! It’s a tropical plant known for its beautiful tall leaves and color variations. Some varieties have leaves with thick, buttery yellow edges, while others have striking dark green stripes. Interior designers love this plant, and so do we―it compliments any decor style and looks great in arrangements!

Succulents are known for being hardy, and snake plants are no exception. They’re one of the most accessible types of succulents to care for, so we love to recommend them to new gardeners and people with black thumbs.

Even if you forget to water your snake plant for a month, you probably won’t kill it, so don’t let your lack of gardening prowess stop you from owning this excellent plant!

Even though snake plants are tough, you’re still going to need our advice to keep your plant looking its best. This article will give you helpful care-taking tips with some fun snake plant facts thrown in for good measure, so keep reading!

Snake plants in white planters sansevieria trifasciata
@succsandpups

History and Origin Of Sansevieria Trifasciata

Snake plants are native to tropical West Africa and essential to African culture. Nigerians believe that the plant provides spiritual protection. They use it in a ritual to remove the evil eye. A nasty stare casts a curse on its victims. This succulent is also associated with several African gods, including the god of war.

The Chinese also think this plant brings good luck like the jade plant. They believe that the gods will bestow the eight virtues, including long life and prosperity, onto their caretakers. Even if this succulent didn’t bring us good luck, we’d still keep it around because it’s so pretty!

Snake plants are a type of Sansevieria, a genus of seventy different flowering plants. These plants are grouped because they all have shared characteristics like narrow, upright leaves and short, thick roots.

Because the snake plant belongs to the genus Sansevieria, its full scientific name is Sansevieria Trifasciata. The second word in its name, Trifasciata, comes from Latin. It means “marked with three bands.” Several snake plant varieties are variegated, which is a fancy way of saying that their leaves have different colored streaks. These colorful markings are why snake plants got the name Trifasciata.

In addition to its scientific name, the snake plant has a few nicknames. It’s often called mother-in-law’s tongue because of its sharp, pointed leaves. If you ever buy this succulent for your mother-in-law, don’t tell her what it’s called!

Snake plants are also known as viper’s bowstring hemp because they have strong fibers that were once used to make bowstrings.

Snake plant in black planter
@perryscorners1855

How to Care for Snake Plants

Best Soil for Snake Plants

Snake plants are sensitive to water and prone to root rot, so it’s essential to plant them in soil that drains well. Commercial succulent or cactus soil is great for them because it has added sand that helps with drainage. Read our best soil article to understand the best soil mix for your succulents.

You can also make your succulent soil from scratch. You’ll save some money and get to control exactly what goes into it, so try it out if you can. Many homemade soil recipes are floating around on the Internet, but we like to use three parts of potting soil, two pieces of coarse sand-like builder’s sand, and one part of pumice.

We won’t lie, though―as much as we love a good DIY, we usually use commercial succulent soil because it’s more convenient.

We highly recommend this soil mix by Bonsai Jack. It is one of the best soil mixes on the market. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any other soil. It helps fight root rot, is perfectly pH Balanced & is pathogen-free (i.e., it won’t kill your plants). This soil is the go-to for our office plants. Go ahead and get the 7 Gallon Bag if you are a plant nerd like us :). Pick up some of our favorite soil by clicking here: Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil.

Repotting Snake Plants

Unlike other succulents, snake plants prefer to be a little squished in their pots. You don’t have to repot these guys until they’re busting out. Wait until you see apparent overgrowth signs, like an excessive top-heaviness that makes your plant topple or roots that stick out of the drainage hole. You can expect to repot your snake plants every three to six years.

Here are some nifty geometric planters in case you want to get fancy.

Repotting a snake plant is pretty straightforward, but you still need to know a few things. Snake plants like to be root bound, so each time you repot yours, choose a pot only a few inches larger than the old one. The pot you pick should have a drainage hole because snake plants can rot if they sit in any water.

Get your succulent soil and fill the new pot about a third of the way entire when you’re ready to repot. Support your succulent by placing your hand on the ground and gently turning the pot over. Your plant should pop right out, but if it doesn’t, try tapping on the sides of the pot a little. Try watering it if it doesn’t want to come out no matter what you do (we’ve all been there). Soaking the soil will loosen the roots and make it easier to get your plant out. 

Now, place your plant in the new pot and see where it sits. You’re good to go if your plant sits one to two inches below the pot’s rim! If not, add or remove soil until it’s positioned correctly. Allow your succulent some time to adjust to its new pot before you water it―a few days is usually enough.

Hold off on fertilizing it for a few weeks, too, so that you don’t damage its unestablished roots.

ALSO READ:

Snake plants in modern planters
@my_green_home_and_me

How Much Water Does a Snake Plant Need?

Succulents need a lot less water than other kinds of plants, and they also need a different watering schedule. Succulents do best when they let their soil dry completely between waterings, which usually takes about a week.

Snake plants require less water than other succulents, so you may want to water your every week and a half to two weeks instead of every week.

How To Water a Snake Plant

You need to fill up a watering can and pour water onto the soil until it starts to run out of the pot’s drainage hole. Make sure that your succulent doesn’t sit in any water―if you keep your pot on a saucer, lift the pot once or twice a day and drain any excess water. Ensure that the soil is dry before you water your succulents again.

Considering that succulents need less water than other plants, it sounds strange to flood your snake plant with water every other week. But trust us―this watering schedule works!

Read our complete water guide for succulents if you’re still unsure how much water you’ll need. (It’s helped over 2000 succulent lovers to date!)

Snake Plant Light Requirements

Snake plants love indirect sunlight, but they’re pretty adaptable and can survive in full sun and low light conditions. Because they only need indirect sunlight to thrive, they make great houseplants like these.

To keep your snake plant healthy and happy, try placing it near an east-facing window. These windows provide a few hours of direct sunlight in the morning and indirect sunlight for the rest of the day, perfect for this plant. If you want to keep it close to brighter south or west-facing window, just make sure to shield it from the sun’s rays by closing the blinds a little. Too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves of your snake plant.

The best place to put your snake plants outside is in the shade. While they can be planted in areas with full sun, we don’t recommend it. In full sun, they’re much more likely to develop symptoms of sun damage, like dark brown spots on their leaves. You’ll also have to water them more often because the heat from the sun causes the soil to dry out faster. If you’re not always great at remembering to water your plants, keep them in the shade!

If you’re dying to plant this gorgeous succulent in a sunny spot in your garden, we get it! We think it would look fab out there too. Just keep a close eye on it and have a shade cloth on hand if it starts to burn.

Snake plant Sansevieria Trifasciata
@plantsandcindy

Snake Plant Temperature Requirements

Just like real snakes, snake plants don’t like the cold! They can’t tolerate temperatures below 40°F. If you leave them outside in freezing temperatures, the water inside their cells can freeze, expand, and burst their cell walls.

This will cause tissue damage and make the leaves look brown and mushy in certain spots. Your plant can even die if it’s left outside in the cold for too long! If temperatures in your area drop to forty degrees, bring your outdoor snake plant inside or put some frost cloth over it to keep it as warm as possible.

If you keep your plant inside, that’s ideal. Snake plants do best in temperatures between seventy and ninety degrees, so indoor environments are perfect. They’ll reward you for keeping them indoors by purifying the air you breathe. They remove toxins like formaldehyde from the air and release lots of oxygen, improving the air circulation in your home.

Best Fertilizer for Snake Plants

Fertilizer can encourage your snake plants to flower and help them grow faster. You can fertilize them as often as once per month during the spring and summer months.

To get the best results, use a balanced fertilizer. You can tell that fertilizer is balanced with three identical numbers on the package, like 8-8-8. These numbers indicate that the fertilizer contains equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three primary nutrients in the fertilizer. We recommend that you pick up an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 formula and dilute it to half strength before applying it to your succulents.

Pests

Succulents can sometimes get infested with pests like mealybugs. Plants kept outdoors, and those that are overwatered are more susceptible to infestations, but any plant can become infected.

The two main pests you need to watch out for are mealybugs and spider mites. They hinder your plant’s growth and suck the sap from its leaves, wounding them. If they’re left on your plant long enough, they can even kill it. That’s why it’s so important to get rid of these nasty little critters as soon as you spot them!

Mealybugs are often mistaken for mold because they’re white and fuzzy. If you see many white, faint spots on your plant, grab some isopropyl alcohol and put it in a spray bottle or on a q-tip. Spray or wipe the affected areas with alcohol. Do this as many times as it takes to eliminate all the mealybugs.

Because they’re so small, you probably won’t see the spider mites on your plant, but you will be able to see the damage. Spider mite damage appears as small yellow and brown spots on your plant’s leaves. These mites are related to spiders, so they’ll also leave webbing on your plant that looks similar to a spider web. If you see any warning signs, start spraying your succulent leaves, especially the undersides, with water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Propagating Snake Plants

One of the reasons we love succulents is because you can get baby plants from them for free through propagation.

The division is one of the most popular ways to propagate snake plants because it preserves the variegation patterns of the mother plant. If you want your new snake plant’s leaves to have the same thick yellow borders as your old plant, then don’t propagate it with leaf cuttings or rhizomes―divide your plant instead.

Propagating Leaf Cuttings

To take a leaf cutting, grab a sharp knife or a pair of shears and cut a leaf off your plant. You want to cut pretty close to the bottom of the plant.

Now, take that leaf and cut it up into a few different sections. As you’re cutting, make sure that you note which end of each unit is the bottom. The “bottom” of each cutting is the side closest to the roots of the main plant when it was still attached.

If you plant the top sides of the cuttings in soil, they won’t root, so that’s why this step is so important. We like to take a non-toxic sharpie or pen and mark which sides we need to plant so that we don’t get confused.

Leave these cuttings to dry out for a few days. Then, fill a planting tray or pot with succulent soil and plant the cuttings bottom side down in the ground. You should keep them in bright, indirect sunlight and mist them with a spray bottle once a day to keep them moist.

Propagating succulents from leaves isn’t an exact science, and not every leaf will take, but you should see some roots and buds after a few weeks. Once your baby succulent grows larger, you can water it the way you water your mature snake plants.

3 snake plants in modern white planters
@philodendro

Propagating Rhizome Cuttings

Propagating rhizome cuttings is pretty much the same process as propagating leaves. If you’re not familiar with rhizomes, they’re like roots, except they grow horizontally. Plants that have them use them to store nutrients. Rhizomes sometimes sprout up through the soil near your main plant and grow new leaves. They can be cut and used to develop new succulents.

It’s essential to wait until a rhizome sprouts a leaf before cutting it. Once that happens, take a sharp garden knife and cut the rhizome as close to the bottom as you can. Allow the cutting to dry out for a few days, and then plant it in soil, cut side down. Water this cutting the same way you watered the leaves.

Dividing Snake Plants

You can also cut your snake plant in half with a sharp knife to gain a brand new plant. As we mentioned earlier, the division is the best way to ensure that your new plant will have the same variety as your main plant.

Cut your plant and its root structure in half right down the middle. Plant each half in its pot with some succulent soil. Allow these plants to take root for a few days before you water them, and then water them as usual.


You’re probably dying to run to your local garden center and pick up one of these plants. We don’t blame you! Snake plants are beautiful, low-maintenance houseplants that anyone can grow and enjoy regardless of their gardening skill.

We love their gorgeous tall leaves, color variations, and greenish-white flowers. We hope that this guide has helped you figure out how to take care of a snake plant once you get it home from the nursery, whether or not you have a green thumb!

Last update on 2022-05-21 / Amazon

Leave a comment below about what you enjoyed learning about in this article. We’re curious! And if you have a new snake plant after this, let us know the progress of your succulent baby, happy planting!

Enjoyed learning about Snake Plants? If so, you’ll want the ebook about The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully. With this ebook, you’ll find more detailed answers to help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

43 thoughts on “Everything To Know About Snake Plants – An Introduction To The Sansevieria Genus

  1. My snake plant just bloomed April 9-13. Fragrant tubular white flowers cover a hardy stem that grew over a couple of weeks. The lovely smelling fragrance is strong at night. There are sticky drops of nectar on each flower. I’ve had others that bloom. It sits in a sunny eastern window all year round.

  2. The leaves of snake plant are used to cure shingles and the juice extracted from the snake leaves is dropped into the ear as a treatment for an earache, pharyngitis (a sore throat)and hoarseness (abnormal voice change).

  3. Had a few in my yard in Florida, that spread and spread over about 8 years, some grew 6 feet tall, and then all at once they started to dry up and die. I noticed it starts with brown patches on a leaf. Is it a blight?

  4. When I was 5 or 6, I went to a garden store with my Mom and she bought me my own short variety Sansiveria plant. I had it for years and it produced many babies. I attribute that gift as the beginning of a lifetime of loving plants. I am now 71!

  5. I have a type of Bromeliad that I couldn’t isolate it to any particular kind, finally after much searching the internet and even using a picture app. (that didn’t help) I saw a picture of a wide variety of snake plants, and it looked as if it may be among this family of plants. To the best of my knowledge, it would be a Jade as it has solid, thick, green leaves. How do I know for sure. It propagates well on it’s own and everyone I give it to asks me, “what kind of plant is it?” And I just say, “one that I don’t think that anyone can kill.” It has survived sitting in water for days, not being watered for weeks, freezing cold, excessive heat, being moved 1200 miles, jostled around, nothing has caused it lasting harm. Is this customary of this type of plant? Thank you, and for now I am just saying, “it’s a snake plant.” I hope to be not too far off base.

  6. Great info! I would add that it’s incredibly easy to propagate these by cutting a leaf and putting a few in a glass jar by the kitchen window. Change the water 2x/week and you’ll see roots in about a month and pups grow soon after. Fun project for the kids. Can be repotted into soil, just keep very damp and ease off the water gradually.

  7. My mother in law bought me a snake plant when she went to a small nursery unfortunately it was the only one and it’s in bad shape it has dry stringy holes what is that and how do I fix it also I noticed it have a new little plant growing next to it and it looks like another one is coming out how do I report those?

  8. I propagate my snake plants by cutting a leaf off and putting the cutting in enough water to just touch the bottom of the cutting. When it roots I transfer the cutting into a pot of dirt and secure it with a small stake. I have done this several times and have had success. I love my plants and have quite a few of them. Use the same process with my African violets. Ritchey

  9. Just repotted my little snake plant “Francine” and she’s got a shoot coming off of her. So I’ll have to research more about that. Glad she’s liking her new home. Thank you for the article.

  10. I just read your article about the snake plant and it’s really interesting. I’m not a fan of succulents but this is actually my favorite plant in the whole world! It grows so tall and has such beautiful leaves. I love how they come in different colors too.
    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge on this awesome plant, I learned a lot from reading your post today!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Posted in Succulents