Do you feel calm and peaceful by simply looking at greenery? It can be a rewarding feeling, giving you positive energy, especially if you live in a city with less or no access to green covers. This is why having a green corner in your house can be a healing experience. On the other hand, trying to care for the plants can be quite taxing for most. That’s why most plant parents tend to opt for houseplants that require minimal care like pothos. Another houseplant that is easy to grow and care for is the snake plant, due to its highly adaptive and tolerant nature.
Snake plant or Sansevieria trifasciata is a perennial plant with upright, elongated leaves in dark green color, bearing lighter shades of green bands. Native to Nigeria, Snake plants have a high level of endurance and can grow even in the most unfavorable conditions. This succulent, rhizomatous houseplant produces fragrant flowers in summer or autumn when grown outside. Indoors, snake plants rarely flower and are grown mostly for the aesthetic appeal added by their erect, evergreen leathery leaves.
Snake plants are also known by another unflattering name, mother-in-law’s tongue, drawing a rude comparison between the sharp leaf shapes and sharpness of tongue. Bowstrings hemp or viper’s bowstrings hemp is also another common name, as the plant fibers are known to have been used in making bowstrings. It is also generally referred to by its genus name, Sansevieria, attributed after the name of Prince of San Severo of Naples, Italy.
Snake Plant Brief Summary:
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Soil Type: Sandy, well-drained
Flower: Fragrant, tubular flowers
Soil pH: Alkaline, Neutral
Light: Full sun, partial shade
Plant Type: Houseplant
Height: Up to 8 feet
Width: Up to 3 feet
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans
How Fast Does Snake Plants Grow?
Unlike other houseplants like pothos which have a high growth rate, snake plants are slow growers. You can expect your snake plant to gain a height of about 1-3 inches in a month. Of course, this growth rate depends on how well you look after your snake plant by providing ideal growing conditions.
Sansevieria are stemless plants, so the height achieved is actually from the upright, ovate, or strap-shaped leaves. In a year, you can expect your snake plants to produce 6-10 new leaves. You will also see the snake plant achieve a total spread of about 1-2 inches in a year.
Aside from being a relatively slow-growing houseplant, snake plants also take a sort of growth hibernation during the winter months. Generally, not showing any new growth till the onset of early spring, when even the existing leaves show an increase in size.
How To Make Snake Plants Grow Faster?
Growing snake plants is possible in both outdoor and indoor locations. To grow snake plants, one can use different methods of propagation. While the usual method is through leaf cuttings, the easiest way to propagate snake plants is through division. There are also the fleshy rhizomes, produced by the roots, which can be removed and potted up. It is also possible to simply take the new shoots from the soil and replant them.
Snake plants have strong roots. Therefore, it is best to choose pots made of sturdy materials to avoid cracks as your snake plant grows. Ideally, clay pots are better suited for snake plants as they provide better draining than plastic ones.
Slow growing nature of Sansevieria means that you won’t need to repot them annually or at all. However, if your snake plant is growing healthily and outgrowing the pot, you might need to repot. This can be done during spring, using fresh, free-draining soil.
Fertilization isn’t a must for snake plants to grow as they aren’t heavy-feeders. However, better growth is observed when some amount of fertilizer is used to fulfill the plant’s nutrient requirement.
How To Care For Snake Plants?
The ability to withstand a bit of negligence in its care makes snake plants a perfect candidate for new gardeners or houseplant parents. However, there are a few basic requirements that are essential for your snake plants to grow well.
Exposure to Light:
When grown outdoors, snake plants thrive in a sheltered area, receiving full sunlight. For snake plants that are kept indoors, it is ideal to place your snake plants in an area receiving bright and indirect light. Snake plants are adaptable to different conditions and can even grow in very low light. The only downside is that the leaves may show less or no coloring at all. They might not show much growth in size. If you decide to move your snake plant from low light to bright, make sure to do it gradually, as abrupt change to bright light may cause sunburns.
Ideal Temperature for Growth:
Sansevieria grows better in warm temperatures, ideally above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The best temperature range for this hardy houseplant falls between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature starts to dip and falls below 50 degrees (F), your snake plant will start to suffer. Also, care needs to be taken to place the houseplant where it is protected from drafts.
As snake plants prefer well-draining sandy soil, they do not need too much watering. Sansevieria also have thick and long leaves which store water for the plant so frequent watering is not advisable. Usually, you only need to water them once a week or two weeks. If you are unsure about the frequency or doubting if you should water again, the best thing to do is check the soil. If it is still moist, you can wait for it to dry and only then water again. Over-watering does more harm to your snake plant than under-watering. During the winter months, snake plants need even less water.
Signs Your Snake Plant Isn’t Growing Well:
One of the easiest houseplants to grow, there isn’t much you can do wrong with snake plants. Still, under extreme negligence and irregular caregiving, your snake plants can stop growing and show signs of distress. There can be several reasons why your plant isn’t growing, including light, water, pests, or disease. Here are a few issues and their signs that will help you notice if and why your snake plant is suffering, and what you can do to resolve the problem:
Leaves drooping low or falling over and are rotten at the base can mean that your snake plant has too much water. It can also be an indication that there is a root rot from your plant staying too wet. In case of the latter, the roots will be brown or black, mushy, and carrying a bad odor.
Solution: You can either let the soil dry out or better yet, repot your snake plant using fresh and well-drained soil. In case of excessive root rot, some immediate actions need to be taken. First, all the affected roots need to be pruned and washed off, even the soil, to get rid of the rot-causing pathogens. Repot in fresh soil and a pot with proper drainage holes. During this period, give the best of conditions for your snake plant and avoid any extremes. Slowly but surely, you will get to witness the complete recovery as your snake plant begins to grow healthily again.
Pot-bound and Root-bound:
When growing in the same pot for long, snake plants may become pot-bound or root-bound, filling up the entire space of the pot and the roots spreading all around to the point of even breaking the pot. You can check if the roots are protruding out of the drainage holes to ascertain if your snake plant is root-bound or not.
Solution: Dividing the plant by separating the roots into different pieces, each with some shoot, is an easy solution for pot-bound or root-bound snake plants.
Uncharacteristically dry soil and curling of leaves with browning of the tips are signs that your snake plant is parched and needs immediate watering. As tolerant and adaptable as snake plants are to lack water, they still need water to grow.
Solution: In order to avoid too many days without watering, you can do a soil moisture check on your snake plant every few days. Make sure to reach into the soil with your finger and check if the soil is moist or damp inside. You can then water accordingly.
Pests Infestation or Disease:
Sansevieria is among those houseplants that rarely attract any pests. When they do, it is mostly mealybugs and scale that target snake plants.
Solution: Regular inspection of the entire plant above the soil, both sides of the leaves, can help early detection of any pest infestation. If present, prompt action can be taken to deal with it. You can manually remove the pests using cotton swabs and light water-alcohol solution if there aren’t many. In case the infestation is worse, spray the entire plant with neem oil, diluted hydrogen peroxide, or insecticide. To make sure all the pests are gone, repeat the treatment once a week for a couple of weeks.
Snake Plant Not Growing Straight Up:
Sansevieria plants are often grown for their modernistic-looking erect leaves. When the leaves fail to grow up straight, it can be a cause of worry for the houseplant owners. As with almost all plants, snake plants also grow towards the light. This leads to the leaves curving over time as it grows towards the source of light.
Solution: The simple solution is to rotate the plant at regular intervals. To make it easier to remember, you can turn the plant whenever you water it.
Interesting Facts About Snake Plants:
- One of the interesting features of snake plants is how they exchange gases. Most plants perform the exchange of gases during the day. The stomata or the microscopic pores on the leaf surfaces of snake plants open only at night. This feature prevents the loss of water during the day due to evaporation. Because of this special feature, snake plants also release their stored oxygen at night when the pores open up and take in carbon dioxide. So, having a snake plant in your house is quite beneficial.
- Snake plants are stemless, which also means that there are no branches, giving them a slender profile with elongated, erect leaves. This makes it ideal for small spaces, especially as a floor plant.
- Flowering is unlikely for snake plants and when they do bloom, there is no set schedule. Most snake plants bloom irregularly and only once every several years or so. When the snake plants bloom, they flower in clusters and can fill the room with its sweet fragrance, especially at night.
- Did you know that snake plants have received the stamp of approval from NASA? Whether it’s from your fabrics, furniture, paints, or even cleaning supplies, pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and others remain in the air in your homes. In the 1980’s NASA did a study and it was found that snake plants help keep your home clean by removing several of these known pollutants.
What are the Different Types of Snake Plants?
Altogether there are around 70 different varieties of snake plants which are all evergreen and native to European, African and Asian tropical and subtropical regions. Here are a few varieties or cultivars of the snake plant:
Sansevieria ‘Golden Hahnii’:
Also known as Bird’s Nest snake plant, Sansevieria ‘Golden Hahnii’ don’t grow too tall; at most up to six inches in height. The short leaves with yellow borders form clusters shaped like a cup, resembling a bird’s nest.
As the name suggests, Sansevieria cylindrica have rounded leaves, unlike other snake plants. The dark-green leaves with light green cross-bands reach up to a few feet in length and grow outward from a central crown. Native to Angola, Sansevieria cylindrica is also known as the cylindrical snake plant or African spear plant.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’:
A popular snake plant variety, Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ has green leaves with creamy yellow margins. If you are growing Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, be sure to propagate by division and not through leaf cuttings. Leaf cuttings result in the plant reverting to the green form.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Twist’:
Reaching about 14 inches in height, Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Twist’ has peculiarly twisted leaves. The leaves feature horizontal stripes and yellow variegated edges.
Featuring red-tinted leaves, Sansevieria desertii is also known as Rhino Grass. They can grow to a height of around 12 inches.
Sansevieria trifasciata “Bantel’s Sensation”:
White Snake Plant is another name for Sansevieria trifasciata “Bantel’s Sensation”. The narrow leaves of white snake plant feature white vertical stripes and the plant can reach a height of up to 3 feet.
Among the slow-growing houseplants, snake plants require minimal care from your side to achieve their best growth. Keeping a reminder to note down the important information like when to water, fertilize, check for pests etc. can aid you in taking proper care of your snake plants and see them grow into their best healthy versions.
Ranjan Singh Moirangthem is a media professional based in India, currently working as a freelance copywriter. Growing up in a hill station and now living in a concrete jungle, he finds solace in the green corners of the city, be it parks or his housing society garden. He’s even passionate about plants and gardening and shares his experience by writing in-depth and well-researched articles for our readers.