With their spiky, sculptural leaves and low-key requirements, snake plants are one of the least demanding plants to grow indoors. They thrive on minimal attention and readily adapt to new locations and conditions. Learning how to grow and care for snake plants helps ensure your plants stay at their spiky best. Just follow these basics and you're on your way to snake plant success:
Snake plants come in low-growing nest-like forms as well as tall spikes.
Snakes plants are native to arid regions of Africa, where light is variable and humidity is low. If that sounds like your house, you're not alone. A snake plant may be the perfect plant for you to grow.
Until recently, these stylish plants were known by the botanical name Sansevieria, but scientists reclassified the group. Snake plants now belong to the genus Dracaena. But don't worry, many people — including plant pros — still use sansevieria as the plant's common name.
When choosing snake plants for indoors, the options are numerous. All snake plants have similar needs, so feel free to explore. Some of the most popular snake plants include the following types:
- Common snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) has erect, sword-like green leaves with horizontal grey-green stripes and sharp leaf tips.
- Variegated snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata 'Laurentii') has thick, narrow, mottled green leaves with bright yellow leaf margins.
- Bird's nest snake plant (Dracaena trifasciati 'Hahnii') is a dwarf form that stays less than 6 inches tall. The short, spiky leaves form a nest-like rosette.
- Moonshine snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata 'Moonshine') is also known as silver snake plant. It has ethereal, pale silver-green leaves.
- Cylindrical snake plant (Dracaena cylindrica) has rounded, cylinder-like leaves rather than flattened, sword-like leaves.
Snake plant benefits extend beyond beauty and style. NASA and university researchers have shown these plants help filter pollutants from air.1
Be aware that snake plants are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.3 Train your pets to avoid houseplants and never chew or eat foliage from any plant — indoors or out. If your pet eats a snake plant leaf, contact your vet right away.
Cylinder snake plants have unusual rounded leaves.
Some people say that snake plants do best when neglected. That's an exaggeration, but they do flourish with very little care. Keep their arid African roots foremost in mind, and you're halfway to ideal care. Always use coarse, fast-draining potting soil and containers with good drainage holes. Then meet these simple snake plant requirements:
- Light – Snake plants are versatile, but avoid light extremes for best results. They tolerate poor light and prolonged shade, but they prefer strong, filtered light. Warm, sunny locations protected from direct hot sun are ideal.
- Water – Snake plants are very drought tolerant, so underwatering is rare. But overwatering is a quick route to root rot. During the active summer growing season, water only when the soil feels dry about 3 inches deep. Then water thoroughly. During winter, water only as needed to keep leaves looking and feeling firm.
- Fertilizer – Because snake plants are native to poor rocky soil, avoid overfertilizing. A premium plant food such as Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 fed once each spring gives your snake plant the primary, secondary and micronutrients it needs. Then it keeps gently feeding for up to four months.
- Repotting – Snake plants are slow growers that rarely need repotting. When your container is overflowing with leaves or roots appear from drainage holes, it's time to repot. Used as directed, Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1 provides newly repotted plants with beneficial nutrients and reduces transplant shock.
- Propagating – Repotting is the perfect time to start new snake plants. Division is the easiest way to propagate. Gently pull the plant roots apart to divide the root ball. Then plant the individual rooted rosettes, and you have new plants to nurture or share with friends.
Starting new snake plants is simple when you divide roots and repot.
If your snake plants aren't doing as well as you'd like, don't worry. Snake plants are tough and resilient. Many common snake plant problems respond to a quick and simple fix:
- Yellow snake plant leaves signal overwatering. Allow the plant to dry out thoroughly and get your watering on track. Remove dead leaves at the base.
- Snake plant root rot reveals itself as soft, mushy, discolored leaves. Yellow-white roots are healthy; dark smelly roots are not. To try again, divide the plant. Replant leaves with firm, healthy roots in fresh new soil and discard the rest.
- Brown snake plant tips can signal several things: improper watering, sunburn, exposure to cold or more. Go through your plant care checklist, then make corrections right away.
- Snake plant falling over isn't always bad. Plants may splay open when they need repotting or more light. If that's the case, proceed. If leaves are collapsing, advanced root rot may be to blame. Examine the roots and act accordingly.
Discolored or damaged snake plant tips on healthy, firm leaves can be trimmed. Use sharp plant shears and follow the leaf shape carefully to keep a natural look. Snake plant leaves stop growing when tips are broken or cut.2 If you prefer, cut the damaged leaf back to the soil and wait for a new leaf to come up.
By learning how to grow and care for snake plants, you can enjoy these low-maintenance wonders for many years. Pennington is committed to bringing you the finest in premium plant fertilizers and expert advice. We're here to help with all your growing adventures.
Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions.
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1. North Carolina State Extension, "Dracaena trifasciata."
2. New York Botanical Garden, "Snake Plant."
3. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Snake Plant."