GARDENINDOOR PLANTS

How To Grow And Care For Snake Plant

Snake plant—also called Saint George’s sword, mother-in-law’s tongue, and viper’s bowstring hemp—is an evergreen perennial in the family Asparagaceae, and has nearly 70 different species. Its botanical classification until 2017 was Sansevieria trifasciata, and you may still see some refer to it as such, but it is now known as Dracaena trifasciata. Erect, spikey, sword-like leaves that resemble some snakes are this plant’s defining feature. They vary in color, but most are dark green leaves with lighter green or yellow borders or accented veins. Unfortunately, snake plants contain saponins, organic chemicals that are mildly toxic to cats and dogs. So be aware and take precautions if you have furry friends.

Plant Attributes

 Common Name  Viper’s bowstring hemp, mother-in-law’s tongue, St. George’s sword
 Botanical Name  Dracaena trifasciata
 Family  Asparagaceae
 Plant Type  Evergreen, perennial
 Mature Size  1-6 ft. tall
 Sun Exposure  Shade, partial
 Soil Type  Well-drained
 Soil pH  Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline
 Bloom Time  Spring (rare)
 Flower Color  White, cream, yellow
 Hardiness Zones  9-11 (USDA)
 Native Area  Africa
 Toxicity  Toxic to dogs and cats

Snake Plant Care

With a range of anywhere from eight inches to 12 feet tall, snake plants can be ideal for either outdoor or indoor environments—easily able to adorn porches, windowsills, and hanging containers. They continue to be a popular choice for houseplants year after year because they are easy to care for and difficult to kill, which makes them the perfect starter plant for beginners and an ideal constant for those who want houseplants but don’t have much time to devote to them. Snake plant is tolerant of low light and irregular watering. It can also survive droughts.

Light

Snake plants can do well in almost any light, from dimly lit rooms to full sun, but they grow more quickly in bright, indirect light. Keep them near a sunny window out of direct sunlight.

Soil

Plant in loose, free-draining, sandy, or loamy soil to provide adequate drainage and prevent rot. Cactus or succulent potting mixes work well.

Water

Snake plants can be watered every one or two months during the winter. As the temperature increases, let the plant dry out between waterings. Underwatering is better than overwatering for these plants.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants like warmth. Keep them in areas free from drafts and at temperatures 50° F or higher. A warm 70 to 90° F is optimal. Frost destroys these plants.

Fertilizer

Because snake plants don’t grow much, they don’t require a lot of fertilizer. Use cactus or all-purpose houseplant fertilizer during the growing season. During the winter months, fertilizer isn’t necessary.

Types of Snake Plant

  • ‘Golden Hahni’: This mini variety grows to about six inches tall and its leaves form a nest-like cluster.
  • ‘Bantel’s Sensation’: This cultivar is known as the white snake plant because of its white-streaked leaves.
  • ‘Laurentii’: This popular variety features variegated foliage of dark and light green.
  • ‘Black Gold’: Gold edges the dark green leaves of this easy-to-care-for upright plant.

Pruning

Trim an overgrown plant or remove damaged leaves by using a clean, sharp knife to cut the stalk close to the base of the plant near the soil line.

Propagating Snake Plant

Growing new snake plants from cuttings is easy and cheap. Here’s how to root cuttings from your plant.

  1. Use a sharp knife to cut a leaf close to the soil line.
  2. Allow the cut leaf to dry out for a few days so the cut end will heal. Skipping this step may cause the leaf to rot.
  3. Plant the cut end in a pot filled with loose, moist potting mix. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole and saucer.
  4. Water twice a week for two weeks to keep the soil moist. Empty any excess water that drains into the saucer.
  5. When new leaves emerge, care for the new plant the same as you do the mother plant.

For varieties like ‘Laurentii’ that feature green leaves with gold bands, root cuttings won’t work. You’ll need a rhizome cutting. Here’s how:

  1. Remove the snake plant from the pot and shake off excess soil.
  2. Look for feeder roots on the plant’s underground stems, or rhizomes, and use a knife to remove a rhizome that has leaves and roots.
  3. Proceed with steps 2-5 above.

How to Grow Snake Plant From Seed

While propagating a snake plant is the easiest and most effective method for growing new plants, they can be grown from seed. To start, fill a small pot with cactus potting soil mix and spread seeds on top. Keep the seeds moist. Cover the pot with plastic wrap to maintain humidity, and set it in a warm, sunny area. Remove the plastic covering when the seeds begin to grow, and repot when the seedling is about four inches high.

Potting and Repotting

Snake plants rarely need repotting. When they do, choose a sturdy pot that can withstand the plant’s strong roots. Repot in the spring using a cactus potting mix or potting soil.

Overwintering

Bring an outdoor snake plant inside during the winter months. You will only need to water it every couple of months. Because they retain water so well, snake plants are extremely susceptible to overwatering which causes root rot. Before watering, use your hands to check if the soil feels dry.

Common Pests and Diseases

Snake plants can get common houseplant pests like aphids, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and fungus gnats. Remove the insects with a spray of water, and treat the plant with neem oil.

How to Get Snake Plant to Bloom

Many people—both beginner plant parents and seasoned gardeners—grow snake plants, but only a smattering have ever seen one bloom. Snake plant flowers are quite rare, but it is possible to get yours to bloom with the right care regimen. Snake plants can bloom every year. You must wonder what exhausting series of weird machinations are needed to produce such a year-after-year, mind-blowing spectacle. Well, the secret is that it’s actually rather simple, with just a few easy steps to follow.

Here’s how to get your snake plant to bloom:

    1. After overwintering a snake plant indoors, move it to a partly sunny location outdoors after the last spring frost. Snake plants are semi-tropical, native to tropical West Africa, from Nigeria to the Congo, as well as tropical and subtropical regions of Europe and Asia. Even though they can handle low light, they will not survive freezing temperatures. This is why it’s best to keep them inside during the cold months.
    2. Feed it twice during the summer with Miracle-Gro and let it get plenty of sunlight. Snake plants like slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil, and can be treated the same way you would treat a cactus or succulent. You should feed them with mild cactus fertilizer during their growing season. Increasing the snake plant’s exposure to sunlight will boost its growth and increase the chances of blooming flowers. Though it can tolerate low light and even dark corners of your home, snake plant grows slower in low light. It needs several hours of direct sunlight in order to promote growth and encourage flowering. So, when it can’t be kept outside in full sunlight, make sure it spends plenty of time in a location where it can receive some direct light through your windows.
    3. Do not water it. An outdoor snake plant doesn’t need anything more than rain to sustain it. However, because it is a succulent and stores water in its leaves, it does require a pot with a drainage hole and fast-draining potting soil. The stomata, microscopic pores on the plant’s leaves, open only at night, a tactic to prevent water from escaping or being evaporated. Given that, it can get rained on practically every day with no problem.
    4. Take the snake plant back inside before the first autumn frost.

    Note: Snake plants will not flower when they are new and young. An aged plant is your best bet for getting the flowers to bloom. So, if you are too impatient to wait for a few years to see flowering, make sure you get a more mature snake plant.

    Common Problems with Snake Plant

    Drooping or bending leaves are often a sign of overwatering. Snake plants are similar to succulents and store a lot of water, meaning they don’t need to be watered often. Root rot can occur when plants have been sitting in water or soil that’s too moist for too long. Soft and mushy leaves are signs of overwatering. If you are watering infrequently and the leaves are still soft, make sure the pot has proper drainage.

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