The Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata), also known as the Mother-in-law’s Tongue, is a popular perennial succulent native to the tropics of Africa. Before 2017, it had the botanical name Sansevieria trifasciata, but later studies resulted in it being reassigned to the Dracaena genus.
The plant has tall, sword-shaped dark green leaves with white stripes that appear as different types of marbling depending on the variety. Many different Snake Plant varieties are cultivated for the unique marbling on their leaves. The plant gets its name from its growth pattern, which resembles an arboreal snake’s body coiling around itself. This plant is often used in offices to filter the air for harmful toxins. However, it can also be kept outdoors during certain times of year without any risk since it does not need sunlight.
- Dracaena trifasciata Main Characteristics
- Snake Plant Care
- Snake Plant Varieties
- How to Propagate Snake Plant
- Potting and Repotting Snake Plant
- Are Snake Plants toxic to cats and dogs?
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- Keeping Your Snake Plant Alive and Healthy: Tips and Tricks (Video)
Dracaena trifasciata Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Snake Plant, Golden Bird’s Nest, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Good Luck Plant|
|Botanical Name||Dracaena trifasciata|
|Synonyms||Sansevieria aureovariegata, Sansevieria jacquinii, Sansevieria laurentii, Sansevieria trifasciata|
|Native Range||Tropical West Africa|
|Common Cultivars||Hahnii, Laurentii, Silver Queen, Compacta, Goldiana|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||10 to 12|
|Mature Size||Height: 2-4 feet; Spread: 1-2 feet|
|Bloom Time||Spring (rarely flowers indoors)|
|Propagation methods||by leaf cuttings, by suckers, by division|
Snake Plant Care
Dracaena trifasciata is a popular houseplant known for its ability to purify the air of unwanted toxins. In addition, it is an exceedingly forgiving plant, making it an excellent choice for those who are new to gardening. Here are some benefits of growing one yourself and some useful tips to help you along the way.
Light and Location
Their extreme tolerance to low light conditions cements their status as beginner-friendly plants. And while they thrive in partially shaded conditions with moderate light, they can go long periods without a hint of sunlight and still be okay. The growth might not be as vigorous and lush, but they’ll live.
Location-wise, it depends on the climate. If the environment is warm enough, these plants can serve as a groundcover, but if temperatures drop frequently, it’s better to use them as indoor ornamental houseplants.
Watering a Snake Plant is easy – just make sure you water it regularly from spring to autumn. The plant likes moist but not soggy soil, so be sure to give it a good watering and then wait until the top of the soil feels dry before watering it again. In winter, reduce the watering frequency to one session every two months. Avoid overwatering as the plant can quickly get root rot.
Dracaena trifasciata wants temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and should be kept away from heat or air conditioning vents. These hardy plants won’t topple over from a stiff breeze but keep them away from drafts anyway. Temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is where the plant’s health is adversely affected.
If the air is particularly dry, this plant may benefit from being misted with water every three to four weeks. But it isn’t needed in most cases. Average humidity levels are more than enough.
This plant does not need a lot of fertilizer. In fact, over-fertilizing can actually be harmful to the plant. You can apply a dilute fertilizer solution every month or two during the spring and summer growing season, but it isn’t required.
Snake Plant Varieties
Dracaena trifasciata is an incredibly popular plant, and many Snake Plant varieties are cultivated for their pretty white marbling and hardy nature. Here are some of the more famous cultivars in circulation today:
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Hahnii’
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Goldiana’
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Silver Queen’
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Compacta’
How to Propagate Snake Plant
Dracaena trifasciata can be propagated by division, offsets, or leaf cuttings.
To propagate a Snake Plant using division:
- Loosen the soil around the plant and then pry it up.
- Separate the plant into sections, ensuring that each section has a good amount of roots attached.
- Replant each section in its own pot with well-draining potting soil and water thoroughly.
- Place the pot in filtered sunlight and wait for new growth.
To propagate a Snake Plant using leaf-cutting:
- Pick a healthy leaf, preferably the biggest one, and make a clean cut along the width of the leaf.
- Place the cutting in a container filled with clean water.
- Replace the water every few days and wait for new roots to form.
- Once new roots reach about an inch in length, replant the cutting in a pot of moist, well-drained soil.
To propagate a Snake Plant using offsets:
- Remove the offset (sucker) from the mother plant.
- Use a sharp, sterile knife and ensure that the roots attached to the sucker stay undamaged.
- Clean off excess soil and replant in a pot filled with cactus potting mix.
- Water thoroughly and wait for the offset to show new growth.
Potting and Repotting Snake Plant
The plants are not too particular about the type of potting soil they want in their pots. They are even considered weeds in some parts of the world, so they’re quite forgiving. Use any standard good quality potting mix (well-drained, of course), and if you’re really looking for the best of the best, a cactus potting mix would be ideal.
Select a wide pot for this plant. They tend to grow top-heavy, and a narrow pot might tip over if you’re not careful. Ensure the presence of draining holes, and you’re good to go.
Generally, these plants are slow growers and take some time to outgrow their pots. Therefore, be confident that your plant actually needs repotting before getting a fresh pot.
To begin repotting the Snake Plant, remove it from its current pot. In most cases, it’s easy as pie. But sometimes, you might need a small digging tool to get the compact soil loose before pulling out the root ball. Once the plant is out of its pot, gently shake off the soil around the roots and then plant it in a fresh pot about 2 inches wider than the old one. Ensure the presence of drainage holes, and fill it with good quality cactus potting mix.
Are Snake Plants toxic to cats and dogs?
Snake Plants are, in fact, toxic to cats and dogs. The toxins in the leaves can cause stomach problems, but symptoms are mild and go away on their own in most cases.
The most common pests you’ll find yourself dealing with are mealybugs and spider mites. Mealybugs are tiny, white insects that attach themselves to the leaves and stems of the plant and suck the sap from the plants. Spider mites are tiny, red spiders that also suck the sap. You can control both mealybugs and spider mites with horticultural oil.
Why is my Snake Plant drooping?
If the leaves are already old, this is the end of their lifespan. But if young leaves are drooping, it could be for several reasons. First, check the lighting conditions; although this plant can tolerate low light levels, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need any light at all. Second, check the watering routine; both under- and overwatering can result in this issue.
Snake Plant leaves turning yellow
Yellowing leaves are a sign of overwatering, especially in winter. This most commonly occurs in the winter as gardeners tend to overwater easily. Remember, from October to January, water the plant every one or two months. Any more than that simply isn’t needed.
Plant leaves getting wrinkled
Wrinkled leaves represent a lack of water. Give the plant plenty of water and wait for the leaves to recover. It should go back to normal in a couple of weeks.
Keeping Your Snake Plant Alive and Healthy: Tips and Tricks (Video)
How often to water Snake Plant?
From spring to autumn, water the plant regularly with moderate water. Allow the water to drain, and don’t let it stagnate. In winter, lessen the frequency drastically and only water once every one or two months.
How to propagate Snake Plant?
You can propagate this plant by division, leaf cuttings, and planting offsets. Usually, the recommended strategy is dividing the root ball, as this method retains the characteristic marbling of the specific cultivar you have. You can also try propagating by seeds, but the slow germination rate might put you off.
What is the best soil for Snake Plant?
Any well-draining potting soil works well with this plant. But if you’re looking for something better, use a cactus potting mix as these plants are succulents and benefit the most from that potting mix. Also, once established, these plants are nigh indestructible.