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How to Grow Snake Plants (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)

Hardy, drought-tolerant, & low-maintenance.

Snake plants, also commonly called ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’, are one of my favourite houseplants because they are low-maintenance and hard-to-kill. I think they add a modern touch of greenery to any space, and they thrive on neglect. Plus, there are lots of cool varieties to choose from! Anytime I have a low-light spot in my house that looks like it needs a plant, it isn’t long before a snake plant takes up residence there.

Up until recently, snake plants were classified under the Sansevieria genus, but in 2017 they were officially reclassified as Dracaena. For those who don’t care too much about the scientific names of their houseplants, this likely means very little to you. But if you’re like me and you are very used to distinguishing plants by their scientific names, this reclassification may be confusing at best. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever quite break the habit of referring to snake plants as Sansevieria.

RELATED: How to Propagate Snake Plants in Water With 100% Success

WARNING!

All varieties of snake plant are considered toxic to cats and dogs according to the ASPCA.

Several medium sized snake plants in a tray in a nursery or garden center.

Light, Water, & Soil

Light

Calling all people with low natural light – snake plants are the houseplants for you! These plants are extremely versatile and adaptable to many different light conditions from full sun to full shade. While they can tolerate low light conditions, snake plants grow best in bright light conditions and will only flower if they receive adequate light.

Water

If you have a tendency to under-water your plants, a snake plant is the perfect houseplant for you as they are extremely drought-tolerant. Allow the soil to dry out thoroughly between waterings and then water well – allowing the excess water to drain from the pot.

Soil

Snake plants thrive in dry, well-draining soil. A mixture of one part potting soil, one part sand, and one part perlite is ideal.

Propagating

Snake plants can be propagated by leaf cuttings in water or soil, and they can also be propagated by division. Personally, I prefer to propagate leaf cuttings in water rather than soil as I like being able to monitor root growth, especially because propagating these plants from cuttings takes a long time. It can take a couple of months before roots begin growing and several months before pups begin to establish. That being said, if you have the patience propagating by cuttings is a fun and rewarding process. If you are interested in learning how to propagate snake plant cuttings, I’ve written a whole blog post that goes into it which you can check out.

To propagate a large snake plant by division, simply remove the plant from its pot and gently separate a clump of leaves and roots from the main plant. Then, pot this newly separated plant in a separate pot with sandy, well-draining potting soil and put it in a location that receives bright, indirect light.

Snake plant cuttings in water growing roots.

Types

There are numerous different snake plant varieties and cultivators that differ based on both colour and size. The following are some of the most popular:

  • Dracaena trifasciata ‘Black Gold’
  • Dracaena trafasciata ‘Future Robusta’
  • Dracaena trafasciata ‘Future Superba’
  • Dracaena angolensis
  • Dracaena masoniana ‘Whale’s Fin’ or ‘Shark Fin’
  • Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’
  • Dracaena trifasciata ‘Moonshine’

Growing Tips!

Snake plants truly don’t require a lot of attention. They are happy in the same pots for a couple of years at a time, and only need to be repotted once they have outgrown their previous container. Signs that your plant may be ready for a new pot include roots growing from the drainage holes, and extremely compacted soil.

It is also important to know that snake plants enjoy relatively warm temperatures and are not frost-tolerant. They do well in a range of humidity conditions, but avoid extended periods of moisture (particularly in the soil) as these plants are susceptible to root rot.

READ NEXT: Top 5 Common Houseplant Pests: Identification & Control

FAQ

What are snake plants good for?

Like most houseplants, snake plants are great air purifiers and help to filter the air in your home.

How tall do snake plants get?

Depending on the variety, snake plants can grow between 6 inches and 8 feet tall!

How do I get my snake plant to flower?

The best way to get your snake plant to flower is to keep it root bound and ensure it’s getting plenty of bright, indirect light.

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