Snake Plant Growth and Care Guide

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 5, 2024

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Snake plants are a striking addition to any plant parent’s collection, boasting stiff, upright leaves and an appealing striped green color. Also called sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plants are perfect for beginner or busy plant owners because they have a strong drought tolerance and require little maintenance to thrive.  

Learn how easy it is to care for snake plants and grow your indoor collection with our snake plant care guide.


Snake Plant Profile

Snake plants are instantly recognizable from their long sword-like leaves that stand upright. Some leaves twist and curl while others stay straight, giving every plant a unique profile. You can choose from three main types of snake plants to add to your home.

You can also find rarer cultivars such as Bantel’s sensation or white sansevieria. While each species of snake plant has a dramatically different appearance, they’re all easy to care for.

As you shop for the perfect one, examine the plant to ensure it’s healthy. Look for firm leaves that can stand up without support and have a deep green color. Also, check that the plant has a healthy root ball that’s fully submerged in the soil. Finally, inspect the plant for pests: clusters of eggs or mites on the undersides of leaves, webbing that hints at spider mites, or holes in the leaves. A plant that’s strong and damage-free with no signs of wilting is ready to come home with you.


Growing Conditions

Snake plants thrive in low-maintenance conditions, which makes them a favorite among plant parents. They prefer indirect light far from windows, room temperatures, and light humidity. 

Because they’re hardy and drought-resistant, snake plants need fast-draining soil that won’t hold water around their roots. Opt for soil mixes made for cactus, citrus, and succulent plants; these mixes are lightly acidic and have a loose, airy texture thanks to the combination of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. This lets your snake plant’s roots breathe, so you can worry less about overwatering or root rot.

Once you plant your sansevieria in its new pot, it only needs the right environmental conditions and occasional watering. Water snake plants once every two weeks (and even less often in winter).

Light Requirements

If you’ve been wondering how to add plants to parts of your home that don’t get a lot of direct sunlight, snake plants are the answer. They thrive in indirect light and will continue to grow until you have a towering snake plant over the years. If the leaves start to droop, that could mean they’re getting too much sun.

You can place snake plants near windows in east- or west-facing rooms or put them between 2 and 4 meters from the nearest window. They’re perfect for living rooms, home offices, and kitchens where plants that need lots of direct light can’t thrive.

Temperature and Humidity

Snake plants do well in the same temperatures people do: between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can handle some temperature fluctuation, but you may need to check on plants near the window at the hottest parts of summer or the coldest parts of winter. 

Snake plants also love average humidity conditions. When the air is dry, mist the plant every two weeks. If you have a gas-powered heating system, make sure the plants aren’t directly under a vent, as the dry heat can pull moisture out of their leaves. Once you find the right spot for them, they’re hardy and resilient.


Watering and Fertilizing

Many busy plant parents love snake plants because they only need very occasional watering, even during the summer growing season. Water the plants once every two weeks.

You can also check the soil to adjust your watering. When it’s dry about 3 inches below the surface (where the roots sit), thoroughly water the plant. The soil should be fast-draining, so you don’t have to worry about drowning it. Just be sure to select a pot with a drainage hole.

When the temperatures cool, the plant will become dormant, and the soil will stay damp for longer. Reduce watering to once a month or so—if the leaves feel firm to the touch, they’re getting plenty of water.

Another benefit of snake plants is that they don’t need a diligent fertilizing cycle. They originated in environments with poor, rocky soil that didn’t house a lot of nutrients. During summer, enrich your plant’s soil with a diluted fertilizer that contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium once per month. This type of mixture is commonly referred to as a 10-10-10 NPK product. Skip the fertilizing treatments entirely during winter.


Propagation

If you want to grow your collection of snake plants, you don’t even have to go to the gardening store. There are many ways to propagate your snake plant to grow more new plants for your home. Three of the most popular methods for home growers are the following:

  1. Division method: If you have a mature snake plant that’s growing a “pup,” or a secondary plant, you can divide it. Take the plant out of its pot, choose the clump of stems you’d like to separate from the main plant, and gently pull it free. Take care to untangle the roots. Repot both of your snake plants and care for both with the same sunlight, watering, and fertilizing routines.
  2. Stem cuttings in water: Snake plant cuttings can also turn into thriving, individual plants. Identify a healthy leaf from your existing snake plant and cut it off at the plant’s base. Cut the leaf vertically into long 3- to 4-inch strips from base to tip. Then, cut several notches into the base end of each strip to encourage the formation of roots. Place the cuttings into water and monitor them for new growth. You can move them to the soil once roots appear.
  3. Stem cuttings in soil: This method is similar to growing cuttings in water. The only difference is that you cut the base into a triangle shape instead of ribbons. Also, let the cut end develop a dry callous before potting it directly into the soil.

Experiment with any of these propagation strategies. Then, you can add more snake plants to your home or give them to friends and family.


Pest Management

Like any houseplant, snake plants can attract pests. Two of the most common pests you may see hovering around your snake plants are aphids and gnats. While annoying, these infestations are easy to manage.

Be vigilant: If you see gnats, mites, or aphids on your snake plant leaves, wash the leaves by hand or use a gentle insecticidal soap. It may take a few sessions for the pests to leave. You can spray the leaves with a quick mist of neem oil if you see signs of spider mites and mealybugs, which are attracted to the plant’s sap. Your plant will easily recover.

Other problems, such as mildew, fungus, and root rot, can be stopped by using the right soil. Snake plants are sensitive to long periods of dampness, which can rot their roots. A fast-draining potting mix protects them from these common houseplant worries.


Troubleshooting Common Snake Plant Issues

You can tell if your snake plants are healthy and thriving at a glance. When your sansevieria needs attention, it will visually let you know through drooping or yellowed leaves and spots from pest damage. Two of the most common issues with snake plants are root rot and yellow leaves.

Root Rot

It’s important to water snake plants only when the soil beneath the surface is dry. Otherwise, moisture will build up around the roots, turning the roots mushy. Since roots sit out of sight, root rot can be difficult to spot. One way to tell is that your snake plant’s leaves will also become soft and slightly mushy, losing their rigid, upright form.

When your plant has root rot, carefully cut away the damaged parts of the plant and lightly mist the rest with a treatment such as neem oil. Adjust the watering cycle to avoid overwatering.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are a clear visual cue that your snake plant isn’t happy. The most common cause is overwatering, so make sure the soil is draining well and that you only water when the deep soil is dry.

You may also see yellowing leaves if it’s been too long since a fertilizing treatment or winter temperatures are starting to reach it. If your plants turn yellow in the fall, that may mean your windows have lost some of their insulating capabilities. Consider switching to more energy-efficient windows when renovating your home.


Our Recommendation

Snake plants are resilient, require easy care, and make it clear when they need attention. With a little bit of indirect sunlight, occasional watering, and well-draining soil, your snake plant is bound to thrive. Whether you have a hectic schedule that makes tending to fussy plants challenging or simply want a beautiful, sturdy plant, we recommend snake plants of any size or variety. You can also easily propagate new snake plants from an existing pot and build a collection over time.


Snake Plant FAQ

What does a snake plant do for your house?

Snake plants let you have beautiful, vibrant houseplants all throughout your home, even in moderate- and low-light spaces. Having visible greenery is tremendously relaxing and can improve your mood. Snake plants also remove some toxins from the indoor air, including formaldehyde and benzene. Plants of all types take in carbon dioxide to renew and refresh your home’s air.

Where should I put my snake plant in my house?

You should put your snake plant wherever there’s low light levels. Place it near east- or west-facing windows or on the opposite side of the room from a south-facing window. If you’re creating a sanctuary in your home, use snake plants and other popular indoor plants to make it a natural oasis.

Why is a snake plant toxic to humans?

Snake plants are toxic to humans because they contain saponins. These chemicals cause chemical discomfort, and the symptoms can be severe for pets. Place them out of reach of cats, dogs, and young children.

Do snake plants need sunlight?

Snake plants only need indirect sunlight to be healthy. They can survive in low light conditions, but they grow faster in brighter (though indirect) sunlight.