Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Plant Mom Care
Dracaena trifasciata, (formerly classified as Sansevieria trifasciata), or snake plant, is a species of plant indigenous to tropical Africa. It grows and spreads in dense stands through rhizome growth. It has stiff leaves that grow vertically, usually 2–3 feet long and 2–2.5 inches wide.
It can flower occasionally, producing clusters of fragrant green flowers on tall spikes. The leaves are normally dark green with light green or grey or yellow variegated banding.
It can withstand drought-like conditions since its microscopic pores or stomata only open at night, preventing water from escaping during the day.
It was used traditionally in Africa to provide hemp for bowstrings in the past, but it is primarily grown as an ornamental plant nowadays, indoors in cooler climates and outdoors in warmer climates.
It is a rather easy plant for new gardeners to grow since it can tolerate longer periods in between watering and low-light conditions. It also has a reputation for filtering toxins, although the slow rate of filtration is not practical unless you have many snake plants growing indoors.
Snake plants thrive in indirect bright light and can also tolerate direct sunlight. They also do well in low lighting conditions in homes, although growth may slow down a bit.
Snake plants tend to develop root rot if overwatered and growing in a soggy soil mix. Water the plant once per week or once every fortnight if it is in a low-lit area.
It needs less water in winter since growth slows down. It must also be noted that snake plants do not like their leaves to be wet as fungus can attack the leaves.
The snake plant can tolerate the humidity of an average home which is around 40% and even higher humidity levels of warmer climates.
It grows well in temperatures above 50° – 80°F. Temperatures below 50°F will cause the roots to die and leaf scars. The plant must not be exposed to drafty winds in the winter.
Snake plants generally don’t need to be fed but appreciate a little boost during their growing season of spring and summer. A regular houseplant fertilizer is good enough. Apply the recommended dosage when spring begins and once again during summer. It doesn’t require feeding in winter.
Potting mixes meant for growing cacti and succulents are the best as snake plants are prone to develop root rot in water-logged soils. Use a porous clay pot or similar material with large holes to help ensure proper drainage.
The plant can be repotted when you see the roots appearing from the pot’s drainage holes. Some recommend repotting the plant once in two years, others prefer to wait longer before repotting.
Grip the plant firmly around the plant near the soil – avoid gripping the plant at the top since this will stress out the plant. When you’ve got a firm grip, pull the plant up gently. Once the plant is free from its pot, it can be repotted it into a bigger pot.
Pruning is not recommended as it does not stimulate growth, as with other houseplants. This stresses the plant and it will grow slower while the cut heals. The only pruning/maintenance needed is to remove dead or diseased leaves.
Snake plants are propagated by two methods – cuttings from leaves and dividing the plant by rhizomes.
Snip off a healthy leaf near the soil and divide it into 2-3 inch-sized cuttings and plant them in pots. These cuttings can also be propagated in water until the roots start to appear and are planted in soil afterward. Sometimes though, variegation can disappear if snake plants are grown from leaf cuttings.
Dividing from rhizomes.
Take your snake plant and remove it from the pot as if repotting it. Carefully remove the soil and start separating it, breaking off rhizomes as necessary, and plant them in separate pots, watering as recommended.
Occasionally, small offshoots or babies will appear which should be carefully removed and replanted in a separate pot.
Turn the pot once a week (best done when you’re watering the plant) to ensure all the leaves get enough light. This will help the plant to grow evenly and vertically, rather than leaning towards the light. Use a trellis to support the leaves if they begin to bend. This normally happens as the leaves grow taller.
The flat leaves tend to collect dust so must be cleaned with a damp cloth and carefully dried.
Snake Plant Common Problems
Funguses can afflict snake plants if temperatures get too low or if you water them too often. Another problem that occurs is leaf scarring if the temperature in the location of the plant becomes too cold. Proper temperature recommendations must be followed, along with watering properly and not wetting the leaves. This will help stop fungus growth and leaf scars.
Root rot affects the plant’s ability to thrive and perhaps even kill the plant. Always use a soil mix with good draining properties in a pot with large draining holes, otherwise, the roots get over-saturated. Make sure you follow the correct (once weekly) watering schedule.
Spider mites and mealybugs like to eat snake plant leaves. Spider mites can be dealt with by dipping a cloth in water and a little dishwashing soap and wipe the leaves. Make sure you dry the leaves thoroughly afterward.
Mealybugs can be killed or warded off by wiping the leaves with a cloth dipped in a mixture of equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water, making sure to dry the leaves properly when you’re done.