Snake Plant (Mother-in-law’s Tongue) – Care, Growing, Watering, Requirements, Propagation
Native to tropical West Africa, the snake plant is a drought-resistant plant that thrives in most household settings. They have a reputation for being very hardy plants that require minimal maintenance.
The snake plant features long and stiff upright leaves that can grow quite tall. Most varieties feature green banded leaves, but some also feature yellow borders.
It purportedly has air purification capabilities (removes benzene and formaldehyde from air) and it’s a distant relative of the garden asparagus.
If you’re looking to add a touch of elegance and freshness to your living room or an office, the snake plant can definitely deliver.
Despite the plant’s hardiness, I encourage you to read the plant caring tips below, so you can enjoy a healthy plant.
Snake Plant Care Tips
If you want to give your plant the best care and enjoy its benefits, there are a few things to go over before you get one for your home or office.
Although there are a few snake plant varieties that don’t grow large, most varieties can grow to 12 feet tall. If you’re worried your plant will grow too tall, you can trim it by cutting the tallest leaves all the way to the soil line.
When it comes to light conditions, the snake plant is fairly adaptable. It enjoys bright indirect light, but it can withstand some direct light too. What’s more, it can even adapt to dim lighting conditions.
Good news for those who can’t stick to a strict watering schedule — the snake plant is resistant to drought and it can be forgiving if you forget to water it. In fact, overwatering is a bigger issue when it comes to the watering requirements of this plant.
Ideally, you should leave the soil to dry out between waterings. In the winter, you may only need to water the plant once a month. Before watering, check to see if the soil is dry. If it isn’t, don’t water the plant just yet.
Temperature & Humidity
Since the snake plant is a tropical plant, it follows logically that cold temperatures won’t do it for them. Ideally, the plant should be kept in an environment where the temperature is between 70 and 90 F.
Under no circumstances should you keep the plant in a location where the temperature is below 50 F. It’s also recommended to keep the plant in a location that’s protected from draft.
For this plant, I recommend that you choose an all-purpose cactus potting soil because it’s well drained and loose, which is what the snake plant needs. You want to avoid soil that is high in peat, which will eventually pack and stop rehydrating or draining normally. Even sandier soils are a good option for the snake plant.
Feeding the snake plant with a fertilizer should only be done outside of winter, in the growing season. You can go with a mild cactus fertilizer or other balanced fertilizer, just make sure it’s diluted to half-strength.
Potting & Repotting
Snake plants grow fast and require annual repotting in fresh repotting soil. Because of their strong roots, snake plants are known to break weak pots, so choose something that’s resistant and sturdy. Repotting should be carried out in the spring.
Snake Plant Propagation
You can propagate a snake plant in two different ways — either by dividing the plant during repotting or by potting shoots that emerge from the soil into a separate pot. Once they take hold in the soil, they’ll grow rapidly.
You can also propagate the plant from cuttings, but the other two methods are more reliable and faster.
Different Types of Snake Plant
I mentioned that the snake plants usually have green banded leaves and that there are also a few varieties with yellow leaf margins.
Here are some snake plant varieties that I find interesting:
Bird’s Nest Snake Plant
While most snake plants grow to a few feet tall, this variety stays small at only 6 inches. It got its name because the leaves grow to form a cluster in the shape of a bird’s nest.
Therefore, if you enjoy the beautiful banded leaves of snake plants, but you really don’t want them growing tall, this dwarf variety is an excellent alternative.
Cylinder Snake Plant
The leaves of this snake plant variety are less clustered together as they usually reach outward from a central crown. The leaves can grow several feet tall.
Variegated Snake Plant
This snake plant variety features creamy yellow leaf margins and has variegated leaves. Propagation of this variety is only possible through division.
Twist Snake Plant
Almost all snake plants have straight leaves, but the twist variety is an exception. Its leaves are twisted and striped horizontally. The leaf margins are etched with yellow. The plant doesn’t grow tall, it gets to around 14 inches.
A short snake plant variety with dark green leaves speckled with silvery green.
The Bantel’s sensation snake plant variety distinguishes itself from other varieties through its long narrow leaves that can reach three feet in height. Leaves feature white vertical stripes.
Rhino Grass Snake Plant
The rhino glass snake plant variety is a short plant that only grows to about 12 inches and its leaves resemble that of succulents.
Snake Plant Problems & Diseases
Even through snake plants are hardy, they can develop problems and diseases if they’re not kept under the right conditions.
Here are some issues to look out for:
Overwatering your snake plant will cause its roots to rot. Root rotting is common especially during the winter months when the plant requires very little water, usually once a month.
If the soil is too soggy, it can harbor fungi, which can also destroy the plant. To prevent root rot, simply allow the soil to dry out between watering.
Exposing the plant to extreme temperatures is another problem to look out for, because extreme cold will damage your plant.
If you notice the leaves yellowing, scarring or if they’re becoming mushy despite not overwatering the plant, check the air temperature to see if it’s in the range acceptable for your snake plant.
These insects can usually be found on the leaves that are close to the soil surface. Mealybugs are pink, soft-bodied insects that can cause symptoms like stunted growth, deformed leaf growth, curling and yellowing of the leaves that will eventually drop.
Manually removing the bugs from infested areas and treating the area with rubbing alcohol is an efficient way to deal with an infestation.
Spider mites can pierce the waxy coating on the plants to access the fluids inside the leaves on which they feed.
They are usually found on the underside of plants and symptoms include discoloring of the leaves, yellowing of the leaves and spider-like webbing at the base of the leaves.
Caused by a parasitic fungus, southern blight is a disease that can affect as many as 500 different plant species. The first symptoms of southern blight are white areas on the leaves.
These white patches then turn into a deep brown color. Softened areas of plant tissue and white thread-like growths are also signs of southern blight.
Red Leaf Spot
This is another fungal disease that can affect snake plants. Fungal spores attach themselves to damp surfaces of the plant and cause small red or reddish-brown spots on the leaves.
If left untreated, these spots can expand and form sunken, liquid lesions on the plants. Since it’s difficult to treat, prevention is best by not allowing water to sit on plant leaves.
Snake Plant FAQs
Read the FAQs below to find out even more about snake plants:
Is Snake Plant Toxic to Pets & Humans?
The snake plant is a moderately toxic plant, so it’s best if kept away from children and pets. The plant is toxic if ingested, although, in rare instances can also cause skin reactions. Signs of snake plant toxicity include excessive salivation, mouth pain, nausea, diarrhea.
Do Snake Plants Clean Air?
Yes, the snake plant is known for its air purifying properties. It can filter formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air. However, to harvest the full benefits of this plant, you’ll need 6-8 waist-high plants.
Can You Keep Snake Plant in Your Bedroom?
Yes, because of their air purifying capabilities snake plants make an ideal bedroom plant.
What is the Lifespan of Snake Plant?
The average lifespan of a snake plant is 5 to 10 years, but they can live much longer if their needs are met.
Considered an architectural plant because of their strong structure and distinctive shape, a snake plant can beautifully complement an elegant office décor but will fit nicely in a living room setting as well.
Snake plants are one of those plants that don’t require intensive maintenance but are a rewarding plant to grow, nonetheless.
There are also a few varieties to choose from if you need a smaller or a taller version for your home or office.