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When it comes to houseplants, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better suited for a beginner than the snake plant. There’s a reason these guys are often found on top ten lists. Snake plant care is simple. They practically thrive on neglect.
In this guide, you’ll learn how easy it is to make this forgiving fellow a happy houseplant.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY – Easy
101 Guide to Snake Plant Care
Snake plants, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, are very architectural in appearance. Frankly, Just looking at their stiff, upright leaves gives you a sense of hardiness and strength. Not only are they robust in appearance, but Sanseveria leaves come in a range of designs, from narrow and pointed to more rounded and flatter.
You’ll even find varieties, like the Sansevieria starfish shown here, with leaves that look like thick, pointed fingers. How cute is that!
However, variation is not confined to leaf shape only. Leaf colors can range from solid deep greens with banded patterns of lighter and darker greens, to leaves edged with creamy yellows and whites.
In addition, these slow-growing, long-lived plants can be tall or short, making them great options for both tabletop or floor use.
And one last bonus, snake plants are excellent at filtering toxins from your home. Not only that, they are nighttime oxygen producers, making them superb bedroom plants.
Water & Humidity
Good snake plant care means an easy does it attitude when it comes to watering. But it’s important to keep in mind how frequently you water will depend on several things. Namely, the time of year, how well draining the soil and pot is, and the home environment. A good rule of thumb is to let the soil dry almost completely before giving it a good watering.
Always remember to water at the base of the plant directly onto the soil. Otherwise, watering habitually into the center of the plant can cause the water to pool and potentially lead to rot.
As for humidity, snake plants are versatile. They’ll tolerate an arid environment, but they’re also able to take a bit more humidity. In other words, don’t be afraid to put that baby in the bathroom!
And if you miss a watering, don’t be too concerned. These plants are very forgiving. In fact, a snake plant’s drought tolerance is one of the reasons they make excellent starter plants.
Though missing a watering might not be a concern, overwatering your snake plant definitely can be. When it comes to Sanseveria, too much water is often one of the biggest issues. This is because overwatering your snake plant can lead to root rot.
Snake plant leaves should be stiff and upright. If you find your plant’s leaves are drooping, this is a sign something is not right. And there’s a good possibility your plant has been given too much water.
However, although too much water may be the cause, your watering schedule itself may not be to blame. It’s possible the soil is retaining too much water, or the pot isn’t allowing enough drainage. In either case, you may be watering infrequently but the water is just hanging around longer than anticipated.
No matter the reason, you’ll want to address what’s causing the excess water immediately.
First, allow your plant to dry out. Then, reduce your watering schedule. If your snake plant has been too soggy for too long, you may need to repot the plant. When you do, take a good look at the roots to see if any are showing signs of damage.
Similarly, if the pot doesn’t have adequate drainage, repotting may be in order. You can read here to learn more about remedying an overwatered snake plant.
Light & Temperature
Snake plant care is simple. But, that’s not the only reason for its popularity. Snake plants are very versatile, tolerating both high and low light areas. For this reason, they’re often a favored plant for windowless rooms or more shadowed corners.
Now, having said that, it’s good to keep in mind that snake plants prefer medium light. Moreover, they will grow faster in lighter areas.
Also, the more variegated the leaves, the more light it will need to keep the intensity of the variegation. However, try to keep them out of strong, direct sunlight. This can burn their leaves.
Snake plants will also tolerate a range of temperatures. In general, if you’re comfortable, they’ll be comfortable.
Although they’re versatile with temperature, they’ll not do well in the cold. So, if you’ve placed your plant outside for the summer, make sure to bring it in when the temperature turns.
Your snake plant will do best in fast, well-draining soil, like cactus soil. When it comes to snake plant care, root rot is the main concern. Given this, it’s important your soil doesn’t hold too much moisture. If you’d like to learn more about bagged soils check out my post on the topic.
In general, snake plant care requires minimal maintenance. As I said, they practically thrive on neglect. Low maintenance is another reason this hardy plant is great for a houseplant beginner.
If you do wish to fertilize, do so during the growing season and use a balanced fertilizer or mild cactus fertilizer. Don’t fertilize in winter.
Because snake plants are slow growers, they don’t need repotting often. Besides this, snake plants can take their roots a little snugger. When it is time to repot, do so in the spring and chose a pot one or two sizes larger than its current pot.
Snake plants don’t require pruning, but if you want to take off any dead or dying leaves, or want to reshape the plant, then remove the leaves from the base. And remember, always use clean sharp pruners.
When it comes to propagation, there are two primary methods – taking a leaf cutting or dividing the plant.
If using a leaf cutting, remove a healthy leaf. Mark which end was near the roots, then let the end dry out and callus for a few days. Once dried, place the plant, marked side down, into your potting medium. If the leaf is long enough, you can cut it into several sections – 3 to 4 inches in length – and propagate each section into its own pot.
A good time to divide your snake plant is when it’s time to repot the plant. This can be especially helpful if the plant is rootbound or producing babies.
When dividing the plant, remove the plant from the pot. Again, using a clean, sharp cutting instrument divide the root clump so that each plant has some roots and some greenery. Then simply plant each section in their individual pots.
Propagating snake plant babies is similar to dividing your plant. Snake plants reproduce by rhizomes, which are creeping root stalks that extend along the soil. New roots and plants form from these root stalks and the baby plant pops up in a new spot.
As with the other methods, you’ll use a clean, sharp instrument to cut the rhizome at the base of the plant, being very careful to leave the roots of the mother and baby plant intact. Then repot the baby into its own container.
This article by Smart Garden Guide further explains ways to propagate your snake plant.
Pests & Problems
As you’ve likely guessed, these guys are also fairly resistant to problems. If your snake plant is living under poor conditions, you might experience mealybugs or spider mites. Additionally, reddish-brown lesions or white growth can be a sign of fungal problems.
In either case, make sure to treat the problem immediately. Even though snake plant care is minimal and these guys are tough, problems left untreated can cause your plant to wilt and die.
Snake plants are toxic to people and animals if ingested, especially in larger quantities. In my opinion, this is a snake plant’s only potential downfall. Ingesting the plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
If you are looking for an easy-care, forgiving plant, you need to look no further than the snake plant. This hardy specimen not only provides an interesting look, but it’s also perfect for the beginner plant owner. Good draining soil, medium light, and low watering are all you need to make your snake plant happy.
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