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Why Sansevieria (Snake Plant) Is An Ideal Houseplant For You – Types, Growth Tips & Propagation Methods

Sansevieria

Who doesn’t want to have a plant that is easy to grow and lovely to see?

Especially when it gives a mysterious look too, that can attract anyone’s attention.

So, here it is – the SNAKE PLANT – the look of which is strange at first glance, yet it’s beautiful and attractive.

Let us learn how to grow this plant at home, its types, propagation, and much more.

What is Sansevieria Plant?

Sansevieria is the genus of toughest houseplants with large hard leaves erecting directly from the base, shaped like a standing snake, whale’s fin, paddles, sword, nest, etc., belonging to the family, Asparaceae, with more than 70 types.

The other names for Sansevieria are snake plant, snake’s tongue, mother-in-law’s tongue, Viper’s bowstring hemp, Saint George’s sword, etc. In the UK it’s also called Susie.

Why are the snake plants so popular?

  • They are the toughest known indoor plants
  • They can live off with less water, less light, ordinary soil, and fertilizer
  • It can easily be propagated with water, soil and division methods
  • They are air purifiers, as certified by NASA
  • Less care and maintenance is required
  • It’s cheaper to buy, ranging between $12 to $35 on the average

Taxonomical Hierarchy of Sansevieria

Plantae (Kingdom)

Tracheophyta (Division)

Magnoliopsida (Class)

Asparagales (Order)

 Asparagaceae (Family)

Sansevieria (Genus)

70+ (species)

Quick Guide

Scientific Name Sansevieria (genus)
Common Name Snake plant, snake’s tongue, mother-in-law’s tongue
Native to Tropical West Africa
Size 1-1.5 m
Unique Feature Identified by NASA as air purifiers
Light Need Bright Indirect
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
USDA Zone 9 to 11
RHS Hardiness Rating H1B (see all RHS hardiness ratings)

Types of Sansevieria

There are more than 70 Sansevieria varieties that exist today. But we will discuss the most common ones that can easily be found at greenhouses and plant shops.

Sansevieria trifasciata or Dracaena trifasciata

Trifasciata means three bundles. The snake plants under this category have solid yellow lines throughout on the edges. In the center, there are two different shades of horizontal zig-zag green stripes.

Let’s look at a few of the varieties of Sansevieria trifasciata below.

1. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (Viper’s Bowstring Hemp)

2. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’

3. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’

4. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’

5. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Twisted Sister’

6. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’

7. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘ Silver Hahnii’

8. Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Cylindrica’

9. Sansevieria trifasciata variegata ‘White Snake’ or Bentel’s Sensation

Sansevieria Ehrenbergii

Snake plants under this category are succulent and have layers of leaves stacked one upon the other. Each leaf stretches away from the center the way petals bloom in flower.

10. Sansevieria Ehrenbergii (Blue Sansevieria)

11. Sansevieria Ehrenbergii ‘Banana’

Other Sansevieria

The following are some of the common snake plants available in the United States and the UK.

12. Sansevieria  ‘Fernwood Punk’ 

13. Sansevieria Zeylanica (Ceylon Bowstring Hemp)

14. Sansevieria Masoniana F. Variegata

15. Sansevieria Kirkii (Star Sansevieria)

16. Sansevieria Patens

17. Sansevieria ‘Cleopatra’

18. Sansevieria Parva (Kenya Hyacinth)

19. Sansevieria Ballyi (Dwarf Sansevieria)

20. Sansevieria Eilensis

Snake Plant’s Care (How to Grow Sansevieria)

How to take care of a snake plant indoors? (Sansevieria care)

Taking care of your snake plant is much easier than you might think. Just water when the top layer of the soil dries, ordinary soil mix is fine, fertilize only in the growing season, keep it in bright indirect light, and temperature between 55°F to 80°F is fine.

If you are a novice in gardening, then this plant is the one you must adopt, because it does not require much attention, just like peperomia and Scindapsus pictus plant.

Instead, basic gardening know-how can make you grow this plant.

The funny thing is that you have to try hard to kill this plant; otherwise, it will survive the tough conditions.

1. Sansevieria Soil Requirements

A good thing about snake plants is that they don’t require special soil mix. Instead, what depends more is how moist the soil is and how well it’s drained.

Add pumice, perlite, or whatever you usually mix with the soil to let more drainage happen.

But don’t add too much to prevent excessive drainage, or you may use peat with it as a water-retaining element with some amendments.

A simple test to check the right mixture is when you water it, it should go down and not float on the surface of the soil.

How Often Your Snake Pant Needs To Be Repotted?

Almost every plant needs to be repotted after 12-18 months, depending upon its growth pace. If it’s growing faster, repotting into a slightly bigger pot is needed. However, if it’s growing at a slower pace replacing soil with a fresh one is highly recommended

2. Snake Plant Watering Guide

How often should you water the snake plant? The soil of Sansevieria needs to be completely dry out before any re-watering: that’s rule number one.

Even if you put it in the indirect bright light, you should not water more than once in ten days (tap water is fine). Self-watering controlled baskets can be of great help here.

If the plant is in a terra-cotta pot, it will dry out faster, because these clay pots are porous, that tend to absorb water as bricks do.

So, the tip here is, when you’re thinking of transporting your Sansevieria plant sooner, plant it in a slightly or completely porous pot. Why?

Because if you over water them, which most people often do, the excess water would be absorbed by the pores of the pot.

Does snake plant pot size matter?

The pot should neither be too big to retain excess water, nor should be too small to hinder the root growth.

Always water the plants with some shower and not with your garden hose directly, otherwise the powerful thick stream may damage your plant or drain the soil.

Another obvious factor in watering is the exposure of this plant to light. The more the light, the quicker will it dry out.

Summarizing the water need, we can say, don’t water them unless you see the soil dry. Otherwise, root-rots would happen.

3. Ideal Temperature for Snake Plant

The ideal temperature for the snake plant is between 60-80°F in the day time and 55-70F at night.

4. Do Sansevieria plants need extra humidity?

No, it does not need any extra humidity. It works almost equally well in the washroom, living room, bedroom in beautiful pots.

5. Light Requirements

Usually, we label these plants as low-light plants, as they can survive in poor light even.

But that’s not the ideal thing to have for these plants. They grow the best in indirect bright sunlight, just like Alocasia Polly.

In a nutshell, try to put the snake plants in an area where there is medium to bright indirect light.

However, it may survive as well if you don’t have good light in your living area.

6. Fertilizer

Snake plants don’t need much fertilizer but will grow much better if you fertilize it 2-3 times in spring and summer. A mixture of fish emulsion and chelated iron is just fine for Sansevieria as a fertilizer.

When you buy a snake plant, you don’t know for how long it stayed at the nursery.

In other words, those persons at the nursery add a slow-releasing fertilizer, which might have gone by the time you buy it.

So, you need to fertilize it once a month in the growing season. But again, it’s an arbitrary question that more depends upon the actual condition of the plant.

Over-fertilizing may burn the edges of the leaves as the roots absorb it much faster, especially when it’s dry.

7. USDA Zone

USDA hardiness zone for the snake plant is between 9 to 11.

8. Pests

Vine weevils and mealybugs may sometimes attack snake plants. Vine weevil pests are native to Europe but common in North America as well.

These insects may get into the base of the plant when there’s too much humidity. A common pesticide may work well against these insects.

9. Diseases

The snake plant is mostly prone to fungal diseases, which mainly happens because of the moisture on the leaves. Let’s look at a few of the diseases that catch snake plants quite often.

1. Brown Spots

If you see oozing wounds like brown spots on the leaves of sansevieria that spread to the extent that it eats out the leaf, it’s the sign that you have overwatered it or the soil drainage is too poor.

The solution to this is to cut the leaf from the bottom because you can’t do anything to stop it.

2. Red Leaf Spot

Red leaf spot is commonly seen in spring and summer when fungal spores in the air find a moist leaf surface to attach itself to.

Signs include small reddish-brown spots on the leaves with a tan in the center.

The usual treatment is to remove the affected leaves to prevent its spread further/

To know if your snake plant is dying, and how to save it, watch the following video.

10. Pruning

Pruning is more relevant to the plants that have multiple stems growing, with a large number of leaves, like myrtle plant.

This plant needs less pruning. Because you can see it’s the collection of large vertical leaves and nothing else.

So, the only time you need to prune this plant is when you see a leaf becoming droopy or getting affected by any disease, like a bacterial spot on it.

If you love watching content more than reading, the following video can help you with what has been said in the above lines.

Sansevieria is an Air Purifier Plant: Fact or Fiction

The snake plants are a few of those plants that release oxygen at night.

It’s been specifically mentioned in the journal published by NASA that mother-in-law’s tongue is an air purifier.

That is the reason it’s placed in the bedrooms even, because it releases oxygen by absorbing toxins, such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides through its leaves.

But wait,

Some biologists do not agree with this myth. According to them, oxygen production by plants can happen only when there’s a light.

So, without light, no photosynthesis, and no oxygen.

However, the first school of thought believes that it’s not the photosynthesis alone that is responsible for producing oxygen. Instead, a process called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) can also produce oxygen.

But how?

This kind of plants open their stomata (small pores on the leaves) at night and absorb CO2 in the presence of room light even.

So, we can say both theories are not wrong. If it’s light in the room, it will produce oxygen.

Sansevieria Propagation (How to propagate sansevieria)

There are three ways in which a snake plant can be propagated: by water, soil, and division. So, let’s learn each of them.

1. Propagation by Soil

 Step 1

As a first step, cut down any of the fully grown leaves from the base. Now, cut this leaf further into small cuttings at a 2-3 inch distance.

Make sure while planting these cuttings, you keep the bottom part down into the soil and the top part  at the top. Otherwise, it won’t grow.

Step 2

Either keep the cuttings out and let it dry for 2-3 days or plant it in the dry soil first and then water after a couple of days. This dry soil should be a mixture of potting and cactus soil types.

It’s always recommended to plant more than one cuttings to increase the chances of successful propagation.

If you’re planting the cuttings in your garden, a spiral drill planter can be of great help.

The mother-in-law’s tongue is very slow at growth. Means, Sansevieria cylindrical, for example, may take up to 3 months even to push out new growth.

2. Propagation by Water

Water propagation is easier because we are used to propagating vining plants, like money plant, for long. Also, the fact that you can see the roots growing makes you prefer this method (picture below).

Propagating by water may not be the most effective method for the snake plants.

Why?

Because it’s a bit difficult for snake plants to grow when moved from water to soil later.

And you have to be somewhat careful because it dries out quickly.

So, let’s move to the actual process.

Step 1

It involves the same first step of making the cuttings from a leaf, as mentioned in the Soil Propagation above.

Step 2

There are, in fact, two methods of water propagating a snake plant. First, dip the bottom of the entire leaf, and the second one is to make cuttings and then dip. Both work well.

While keeping the direction of the cuttings the same, means bottom side at the bottom and topside at the top dip them half in the water.

To make them stand in the water, you any use string, twine, tiny sticks, or whatever thing that can make them erect, as shown below.

Either dipping them in a big container with a distance between each other, or 2-3 together in small jars are both fine, as shown below.

Change the water once or twice a week, and be patient as it may take months to make roots.

Also, not all cuttings will make roots. Some of them may make root-rots too, in which case just chop off the bottom up to 1-2 inches and place it back in the water.

Now, you may ask when is the right time to move the cuttings from water to the soil.

Well, as a rule of thumb, if the roots have grown to 2-inch length, you may transfer it to the soil.

3. Propagation from Division

This method is suitable when your pots getting congested with the leaves. So, it’s better to separate the leaves and make more plants out of one.

Alternatively, you can just separate the new offshoots instead of messing with the whole plant. But in either way, you have to take out the plant from the pot, that’s for sure.

Step 1

The first thing is to take the whole thing out of the pot. Brush off the soil well until you see the root structure. If you need to cut any part of the rhizomes, just do it.

Step 2

Now, separate each leaf from others and plant them in other smaller pots with 1-3 leaves maximum in each pot.

Take extra care while separating them so that you may not damage the roots.

Have a look at the following video to get a better understanding of the propagation methods described above.

Do snake plants produce flowers?

Yes, they do.

But if you keep them indoor, they won’t. Only outside in the direct or indirect sunlight, they do.

Their flowers are different because they are not like ordinary flowers that bloom and have broad petals.

Have a look a the few of the images showing flowers of different snake plants.

Is Sansevieria Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

As per the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the snake plants are poisonous to cats and dogs.

The clinical signs of poison are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

Tips to Buy Snake Plants

While buying snake plants, select the one with green leaves, and not the ones having a pale yellow hue. Also, check with the seller if it needs to be repotted immediately, in which case buy a terra cotta pot along with the plant.

Conclusion

The snake plants, no doubt, are extremely easy to grow plants. Their unique foliation has made them an integral part of interior design.

That’s why the depiction of snake plants in the artwork is a lot. Some grow it simply because of their air-purifying nature, and some for their strange kind of look.

If you are a plant lover, or in search of some plant for your office or home, this is something you must give a try. Will you grow it in your backyard or bedroom? Let us know in the comments section.

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