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This Popular Indoor Plant Is Easy To Love (And Hard To Kill)

The snake plant, or mother-in-law's tongue, makes a dramatic statement in any room and is incredibly easy to care for.

Everything You Need To Know About Snake Plants

Snake plants (scientific name: Dracaena trifasciata; formerly Sansevieria trifasciata) aren’t just an attractive plant that can help freshen and clean your indoor air, but they’re one of the easiest plants to care for! That makes the so-called “mother-in-law’s tongue” a great starter plant for houseplant newbies, and a beautiful, low-maintenance choice for just about anyone.

These hardy flowering plants can survive all sorts of conditions that would spell certain death for pickier plants. This makes snake plants a perfect fit for your home or office, and it’s why I want to tell you all about snake plants in this post!

There are several varieties of snake plants -- this one has gorgeous dark green stripes on its long leaves.

Snake Plant Varieties

There are actually a lot of different kinds of snake plants, but they share similar straits. Most have long, slender leaves that come to a point and rise out of the soil with no stem. Very handsome!

Here are a few snake plant varieties and cultivars you might spot at your local plant nursery or garden center.

  • ‘Bird’s Nest’ (or ‘Hahnii’): Resembles a dark green rose with clusters of leaves like a bird’s nest in the center. At less then one foot tall, they’re sometimes mistaken for succulents. The variegated ‘Golden Hahnii’ has striking wide yellow bands and stripes on its leaves.
  • ‘Black Gold’: Striking, dark green leaves with bright gold edging. They can grow up to 3 feet tall and thrive in low light.
  • Variegated (or ‘Laurentii’): Gorgeous, deep green leaves with light gray-green horizontal stripes. It can survive a multitude of mistreatment, but suffers when over-watered.
This dramatic snake plant has a broad yellow stripe along the edge of every leaf.

Shopping For A Snake Plant

When shopping for snake plants, look for those with dark green leaves, as pale leaves can indicate problems. Check the soil and leaves for insects, and make sure the soil isn’t too wet either — most snake plants struggle when they’re too wet.

Snake plants thrive when they are almost ignored. They don't need water often and they can live in the same pot for up to ten years.

How To Care For A Snake Plant

One of the best things about caring for snake plants is that they do well with practically no care at all. As I mentioned above, the one thing you’ll want to avoid is overwatering — let the soil dry out completely between waterings, and cut back on the amount of water you give them during the winter.

Avoid getting the leaves of your snake plant wet when you water it. The best way to tell if your snake plant needs water is to use a soil meter for indoor plants. (I don’t know about you, but poking my finger in the dirt rarely yields conclusive results!)

Snake plants can tolerate a lot of different light conditions, but indirect light is best. Fertilize your snake plant with an all-purpose plant food during the growing season. (To make it easier to remember when to water, feed, and even transplant your snake plant, download my free Plant Care Quick Guide!)

Soil

Pot snake plants in soil that drains freely to reduce the chances of root rot. Soilless potting mixes are a safe bet! Also, choose a terracotta pot that won’t trap water inside, and be sure to remove any standing water in the saucer right away.

Flowering

Under the right conditions (and especially outdoors), snake plants will bloom and produce big clusters of white to green-ish flowers with a sweet-smelling fragrance. If you are lucky enough to see your snake plant bloom, know that it may not do so again for some time — they don’t really follow a set schedule for producing flowers!

Repotting

As far as repotting snake plants goes, these good-natured plants don’t mind being crowded as long as they aren’t root-bound. After potting your snake plant in fast-draining soil, you may not have to repot it for years!

A snake plant that gets bright light will grow a bit faster, and may need to be repotted after 3-5 years, while one that gets low light may be happy in its pot for up to 10 years.

Propagating Snake Plants

The best time to propagate snake plants is in the spring so they have all summer to grow. Using sharp, sterilized scissors, cut a 2 to 3 inch piece of a healthy leaf and stick it about 1 inch deep into loose potting soil. (Make sure to put the leaf into the soil the same way it was growing on the mother plant.)

You can also propagate snake plants in water. Just take your leaf cutting and let it sit for a couple of days until it forms a callous over the cut, then put it in water and wait for it to grow roots. (It can take a while, but it’s actually faster than waiting for them to root in soil.)

Safety Warning: According to the ASPCA, snake plants are considered toxic to cats and dogs. Pets who chew on their leaves can suffer vomiting and diarrhea, so keep these plants well away from pets, or choose a pet-safe plant to keep at home instead!

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MORE IDEAS FROM

Homekeeping Tips

  • I love my snake plant that I inherited from a friend. But according to you, I am definitely overwatering, so I will try with less water!

  • And here I can’t keep one of these plants alive! I’m usually pretty good at having plants, indoors or outdoors, thrive with a certain amount of benign neglect. But I just keep killing off snake plants. I’ll have to try again, I guess. They’re supposed to be the best for cleaning the air.

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