How to Grow and Care for a Snake Plant
Time Required: 2-4 hours
One of the easiest houseplants to grow, snake plant is also one of the most attractive. With tall, rigid sword-shaped leaves up to three feet in height, and coloration in varying stripes of green and gray with yellow edges, snake plant adds architectural emphasis suitable to many decor styles, from farmhouse chic to modern sleek.
You probably know snake plant by other names like mother-in-law’s tongue. No matter the common name, it’s always sansevieria. In the Garden Center, you’ll usually find sansevieria laurentii with a crisp yellow border on its leaves. Sansevieria is native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia and Europe.
Get tips for snake plant care: Snake plant is one of those near-indestructible, hard-to-kill house plants that will survive in low light and with infrequent waterings. In fact, too much water will kill a snake plant by causing root rot. This plant’s toughness makes it a top choice for offices and homes alike. It can survive long stretches of neglect and will thrive when treated with bright indirect light and proper watering. It’s the perfect starter houseplant.
Snake plant is one of many houseplants that improve air quality and have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and increase productivity. Hard-working houseplants trap and absorb up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds found in ordinary household items such as cleaning products, carpet and ink.
Sansevieria is a tropical plant that thrives in low light. A snake plant makes its home in temperate climates, and it is winter hardy only in USDA zones 9 to 11. In other zones, grow snake plant as a houseplant for much of the year and move it outside in the summer.
Looking around your indoor space, select a spot near a sunny window where the plant will receive indirect bright light.
In the Garden Center, look for a snake plant with a rich green color and unbroken leaves. With a few fingers, touch the potting soil. It should be just slightly damp. Select a planter for the snake plant that is a little bit bigger than the plant you are purchasing. Look for a wide planter that will balance this top-heavy plant. You can choose a self-watering container, or a planter and saucer. Terra cotta clay pots are a good choice for sansevieria because they are naturally drying.
Choose a good quality potting mix that is well draining. Sand, perlite and vermiculite are typical ingredients added to packaged potting mix to improve drainage.
Steps to Planting Snake Plant:
1. Fill a container two-thirds full with potting mix. With your hands or a garden trowel, dig a well in the center of the soil.
2. Remove the sansevieria from its nursery container and loosen the roots. If the roots are tangled and circling the pot, use garden snips or a trowel to reduce the growth.
3. Place the snake plant in the container and press in the soil. Add more soil around the sides, covering the top of the roots up to an inch of the rim of the container.
4. Place the snake plant in a location with indirect light.
5. Lightly water the plant. You’ll know it’s the right amount when you can touch the top of the soil and your fingers will feel slightly damp. Check the saucer for any water that drains away from the plant. Discard the water to keep down bugs, mildew and the potential for root rot.
You have a selected a low-maintenance houseplant. Snake plant care requires minimal effort. To keep the plant looking its best, water when the soil dries out. The best way to tell when your plant needs watering is to touch the soil every week. When the first inch of the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.
- Water: Fill a watering can with room temperature water and give your plant a drink. Give the plant an hour or so to drink up the water that drains into the saucer. Discard any water that sits out for any longer. Alternatively, you can place the plant in a sink or bathtub and run cool tap water over the soil. Let the plant fully drain before placing it back in its location.
- Fertilizer: Snake plant care doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer. You can feed the plant once or twice a year with a houseplant fertilizer following directions on the package.
Sansevieria is a tough plant, and it is resistant to most pests and diseases. You may find mealybugs or spider mite damage on your plant. In that case, care for your snake plant by treating with insecticidal soap according to label directions.
Snake plant is moderately toxic to pets and humans. If you have dogs or cats, or little humans, keep the plant out their reach.