Sansevieria (snake plants): Care, Types & Varieties, Propagation, and Watering

Sansevieria is one of the most common indoor plants, famous among plantsman and newbies alike due to its amazing adaptability and beautiful features. This plant has adaptations that allow it to survive in areas with low light and little water or moisture. If you’re new to plants, looking to start with something low maintenance, Sansevieria is the right choice for you. Perfect for your office, bedroom, or living room, this plant will surely brighten and freshen up your space without the hassle of worrying about it every day.

What are snake plants

We want you to delve into the world of nurturing plants seamlessly, so we carefully crafted this guide on how to care for snake plants. Read through our list of the different types of Sansevieria and some important things to consider before starting your journey of tending these plants. By the end of this guide, you’ll surely be able to choose which variety of Sansevieria is perfectly suited for you and your home.

Are snake plants safe or toxic to cats, dogs and other pets?

If pets and plants are what make your heart light with joy, you must be aware that, sadly, some plants can be harmful to your pets. Despite all their wonders and benefits, snake plants can also be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. Snake plants contain saponins, which are natural toxins the plants use as protection against fungi. These saponins, however, can irritate the gastrointestinal tract when ingested due to its ability to destroy red blood cells, thereby causing diarrhea and vomiting.

Saponins are usually harmless to both mammals and other warm-blooded animals when ingested in small quantities, only producing short-term symptoms. But if consumed in moderate to large amounts, saponins will cause nausea, vomiting, pain, and diarrhea. So, if you notice your pets exhibiting symptoms of poisoning and you own a snake plant, contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Keep your snake plants out of your pets’ reach as much as possible. And keep an eye on your pets when they go near any type of Sansevieria plants to ensure their safety.

Benefits

Sansevieria plants have various benefits besides being ornamentals; it has medicinal properties and can be a source of strong elastic fibers. But the most significant benefit of having a snake plant in your home is its ability to remove indoor pollutants in the air.

  • As a medicinal plant:

A study by Takariwa & Nordal (2002) summarized the medicinal uses of Sansevieria, and it included treatment of hemorrhoids, toothache, earache, wounds, and sores, among many others. 

  • As a source of strong elastic fibers:

Sansevieria foliage is a great source of strong elastic fibers, and these fibers are used in the manufacture of ropes, bowstrings, and clothing.

  • As an air purifier:

Multiple studies have shown the benefits of having indoor plants in purifying air. Snake plants were among the common indoor plants that NASA studied, and results showed that Sansevieria could remove organic pollutants like benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and formaldehyde from the air.

A study by Rajapandian et al. (2017) developed a strategy to rank indoor plants on their ability to purify the air. Snake plants ranked 5th among the 38 plants studied, able to remove the most dangerous indoor pollutants (benzene, acetone, formaldehyde, toluene, carbon monoxide, TCE, and xylene) from the air efficiently.

Types and its Varieties

Sansevieria is native to tropical western Africa, and now, it also thrives in other tropical and subtropical parts of the world like Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean. Consisting of about 70 species, the names associated with Sansevieria include snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, cow tongue, devil’s tongue, bow-string hemp, good luck plant, and many more. However, the name ‘Snake Plant’ is the most commonly used one; thus, this name is sometimes considered synonymous with almost all species of Sansevieria. Below, you will notice that the other common names of snake plants usually reflect the appearance of their foliage.

  • Sansevieria trifasciata (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” or “Common Sansevieria”)

This is one of the most famous and common types of snake plants, with over 20 varieties being sold worldwide. Common Sansevieria’s foliage consists of dark green leaves with light gray-green cross banding. Below are some varieties of this plant that we think will suit your tastes, with their gorgeous color strokes, shapes, and patterns.

Image source: @succsandpups 

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (“Variegated Snake Plant” or “Goldband Sansevieria”) – This cultivar is one of the most popular snake plants, with its eye-catching contrast between the green foliage and its golden margins.

Image source: The Sill

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ (“White Sansevieria”) – For the minimalists, this cultivar of Sansevieria is definitely for you. Donning alternating variable pattern of white and dark green stripes on its tall thin foliage, this lush snake plant will surely complete your aesthetic while giving you fresh air.

Image Source: foreverplanty

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Gold’ (“Black Gold Snake Plant” or “Black Gold Sansevieria”) – Like ‘Laurentii,’ the deep green leaves of this snake plant have light yellow- or gold-colored margins, creating a wonderful contrast. This contrast is made more apparent by the black-green banding on its foliage. 

Image source: Hudson + Oak

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Twist’ (“Twisted Sister Snake Plant”) – This snake plant has twisted leaves, as its name suggests, with green horizontal stripes and yellow variegated edges. This cultivar is a dwarf Sansevieria, growing only up to 12-15 inches, and it will perfectly fit in your workspace.

Image source: Cellar Door Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ (“Birdnest Sanseviera” or “Bird’s Nest Snake Plant”) – This snake plant has short funnel-shaped dark green glossy leaves. Despite the lack of bloom of this cultivar, its vase-shaped rosette foliage never fails to look good anywhere.

Image source: White Flower Farm

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’ (“Futura Superba Snake Plant”) — ‘Futura Superba’ resembles the cultivar ‘Laurentii,’ but its leaves are shorter and broader. The leaves have narrower yellow or gold margins, and each rosette contains more leaves compared to Black Gold. If ‘Laurentii’ is your favorite snake plant, but you want something smaller, this cultivar is perfect for you.

Image source: Costa Farms

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Robusta’ (“Robust Sansevieria”) – ‘Robusta’ resembles ‘Futura Superba’ because you can get the former upon propagating the leaf cuttings of the latter cultivar. ‘Futura Superba’ has yellow margins, while this snake plant has silvery green leaves with dark green cross-bands. Both cultivars have broad leaves and a robust growth habit. 

Image Source: Pigment

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’ (“Golden Bird’s Nest Sansevieria” or “Golden Hahnii Snake Plant”) – This compact rosette cultivar, growing only up to six inches tall, has light green leaves with thick gold margins. 

Image Source:  suculentas.com

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Hahnii’ (“Silver Birdnest Sansevieria” or “Silver Bird’s Nest Snake Plant”) – Another compact cultivar, growing only up to ten inches tall, has silvery gray-green leaves with dark green margins, all arranged in rosettes. 

Image source: In Succulent Love

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Queen’ (“Silver Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” or “Silver Queen Snake Plant”) – The young leaves of this cultivar are silvery gray-green in color with dark green margins. As the plant matures, the leaves darken. The silver-gray foliage is narrow and grows upright, with a vase rosette formation.

Image Source: Exotic Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ (“Black Coral Sansevieria” or “Black Coral Snake Plant”) – This elegant cultivar has silvery gray-green variegated foliage that can grow up to 36 inches in height. Like the other cultivars, this Sansevieria forms a basal rosette. 

Image Source: Garden Goods Direct

  • Sansevieria francisii (“Francisii Snake Plant”) – This rare snake plant is a compact and herbaceous snake plant, with its spike-like leaves spirally arranged. Its foliage has dark green vertical lines, and has a slightly rough texture.

Image Source: Greenery Unlimited

  • Sansevieria ‘Cleopatra’ (“Cleopatra Snake Plant”) – This is a rare Sansevieria hybrid, a gorgeous hard-to-find snake plant that many plant collectors aim to add to their collection. It has a beautiful intricate pattern on its leaves, and its leaf margins are burgundy to brown in color. Its foliage forms a rosette, giving the plant a lush look.

Image Source: Sobesuccs

  • Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel’ (“Starfish Snake Plant”) – This is another rare, hard-to-find succulent. Its leaves are short, cylindrical, fleshy, and grey-green in color, with dark green concentric circles up to the pointed tips. The foliage is spread out like a fan that resembles a starfish.

Image Source: AYANAS

  • Sansevieria zeylanica (“Bowstring Hemp” or “Ceylon Bowstring Hemp”) – The dark-green leaves of Bowstring Hemp are sword-shaped with pointed tips and are adorned with light gray-green bands. This plant closely resembles S. trifasciata, and thus, some mistakenly sell Common Sansevieria as Bowstring Hemp.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria ehrenbergii ‘Samurai’ (“Samurai Snake Plant” or “Samurai Dwarf”) – This hard-to-find compact cultivar is a favorite of many, with its short stature that only grows up to 4-6 inches tall. It has V-shaped leaves, with a reddish tint along the margins. This dwarf Samurai Snake Plant is the perfect ornament for small spaces like your office table.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria stuckyi or Dracaena stuckyi – This snake plant has stiff, upright cylindrical leaves, which are dull green in color and adorned with dark green bands. This plant can grow up to 2 meters tall.

Image Source: mentor100.blogsot.com

  • Sansevieria masoniana (“Whale Fin,” “Shark’s Fin,” or “Mason’s Congo”) – This plant is named after the leaves’ unique shape. The leaves are dark green in color with light green spots and reddish tinted margins. This snake plant can grow up to 4 feet long and 10 inches wide.

Image Source: Plant Circle

  • Sansevieria pinguicula (“Walking Sansevieria”) – The common name of this plant came from the behavior of its leaves when the plant matures: the leaves elongate and migrate to distichous. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, blue-green in color, concave-angular from base to apex, with reddish-brown margins, and are arranged in a rosette.

Image Source: Charlotsy on Reddit

  • Sansevieria ‘Fernwood’ (“Fernwood Sansevieria” or “Fernwood Snake Plant”) – A rare hybrid snake plant, ‘Fernwood’ is perfect for tabletops or countertops. Its foliage consists of dark green narrow cylindrical leaves with light green banding. A new hybrid, ‘Fernwood Mikado,’ has a more elegant look with its mature leaves arching slightly outwards, resulting in a foliage that resembles the shape of a fountain.

Image Source: (L to R) Plantscapers & Hortology

Growing Sansevieria: Care and Propagation

Since snake plants are xerophytes (Gr. xeros “dry,” phuton “plant”), meaning, they have adaptations that allow them to survive in dry environments like deserts. These adaptations make snake plants highly resilient, which is why these are the perfect plants for newbies and for people who are too busy or do not want to tend to a plant frequently. Leaving snake plants alone for a week or two at their preferred environment would do them little to no harm, and some may even thrive better since these plants are sensitive to overwatering.

There are three things that you have to remember when it comes to growing a snake plant: less water, indirect sunlight, and adequate temperature. Read further to know more about how fast snake plants grow, the environmental conditions best-suited for Sansevieria, and how to propagate a snake plant if you want to expand your plant collection.

How fast do snake plants grow? 

If your Sansevieria isn’t growing noticeably, you don’t have to panic. Snake plants are one of the slowest-growing plants. Yes, they might be easy to grow, requiring minimal effort in terms of watering and propagating, but it doesn’t mean the process will be fast. If you placed your snake plant at a place with moderate to low light, as most of us do, then the plant’s growth rate would be fairly slow compared to the ones grown outdoors. If you want to boost your plant’s growth, you can put it in a well sun-lit place. 

The final height and width of Sansevieria would depend on its species or cultivar. S. trifaciata ‘Laurentii,’ for example, grows to up to 1-3 feet, depending on its environmental conditions. And as expected, compact or dwarf cultivars can only grow up to a few inches high, such as the Samurai Dwarf, which can only grow up to 6 inches tall.

However, if your Sansevieria is not a dwarf or compact variety, but you want it to fit in a small area, there are ways to stunt its growth. The first thing to do is to limit the size of the pot it is in; the snake plant will be root bound and will prevent growth away from the base. Another way is to cut the tip of the leaves to limit the growth in the height of your snake plant.

How do I grow and take care of snake plants?

Depending on the environmental conditions of a plant, it can either thrive, survive, or die. Luckily for everyone, snake plants have a high chance of survival even when given little attention. The environmental conditions that you must focus on are light, water, soil, and temperature.

Light

As previously mentioned, snake plants can survive in moderate to low light environments. However, if you want to boost the growth of your snake plant, then it would be best to place your plant in well-lit rooms, which will allow your plant to receive a bright and steady indirect or filtered light. Some Sansevieria can produce flowers, and if you want to stimulate the production of its inflorescence, you can expose it to direct sunlight.

Although snake plants are resilient, it is important to let the plants transition gently from one setup to another. Meaning, if you plan to transfer your snake plant from a dim room (low light) to outdoors (direct light), you must place it first at an area where it can receive steady indirect light for a few weeks before transferring it outdoors.

Water and the best soil

The amount of water snake plants need is significantly less than other plants that need daily watering. Ranging from once a week to once a month, the frequency of watering snake plants depends on the temperature or the area where the plants are placed. Less water is needed for snake plants situated indoors or in shaded areas, especially if the temperature is cool and the soil used is moisture retentive. The simplest way to know if it is time to water your Sansevieria is to check if the soil is dry. Underwatering would do little harm to your snake plant because of its adaptations, but overwatering is a sure way to kill it.   

This is why we prefer to put our Sansevieria plants on a shelf, situated at a well-lit room where the plants can receive sufficient indirect light. Placing snake plants outdoors where rain can reach them is not ideal. If you’re worried about mold or fungi infestation in your shelves due to the chances of it getting wet while watering the plants, then I suggest you use a shelf made up of a material that won’t allow fungus growth that easily. One example is this marine grade plywood which can survive repeated contact with water, made up of high-quality wood that is cross-laminated, held together by waterproof glue. And while we’re on the topic of making shelves, you might be interested to check out portable bandsaw sawmills and wide belt sanders that can make woodworking much easier.

Soil

Sansevieria grows better in a fast-draining potting mix because snake plants are sensitive to water and are prone to root rot. A sandier mix of potting soil would be ideal to allow drainage. You can buy commercially available all-purpose cactus or succulent potting soil, which is perfect for water-sensitive plants. If you’re worried about soil-borne diseases and carrying harmful microorganisms into your home, you can opt for a soilless potting mix instead. Just make sure that the mix allows proper water drainage.

Temperature

Snakes don’t like the cold, and neither do snake plants. As xerophytes that are native to Africa and thrive in tropical and subtropical areas, it is expected that snake plants would fare terribly at a temperature below 50 ℉, especially in freezing temperatures. The ideal temperature for snake plants is around 70-90 ℉. Make sure to never leave your Sansevieria plants outdoor during winter; they’ll surely die after a few hours of exposure to freezing temperatures.

Of course, this temperature rule extends to the water you use for your snake plants. Even if your plants do not have the ability to nag at you when you give them cold water, you’ll surely see the effects of exposing them to the cold after a few days such as browning and mushy leaves. Take that extra step towards the faucet that can give you warm water, or let that tap run until you get the right temperature, so your snake plant won’t suffer during watering. If you want to remove the shortage of hot water in your home, you might want to install a good hot water recirculating pump system in your home. 

How do I repot a snake plant?

Snake plants grow slowly, as mentioned earlier, but if you expose them to ample sunlight, then they might grow more rapidly. The first thing to consider when repotting is the sturdiness of your pot and the presence of drainage holes. Choose a material that would be sturdy enough to handle strong roots and cramped space. This is because snake plants, unlike other succulents, prefer to be root bound (in simpler words, potted in a cramped space). You’ll only need to repot a snake plant if you notice signs of overgrowth like roots sticking out of the drainage hole.

To repot, fill the new pot with a fresh succulent potting mix or soil up until only a third of the pot isn’t filled. Get your snake plant from the old pot gently by holding a hand on top of the soil and then gently turning the pot upside down. If the plant does not pop out of the pot, tap the sides or water the soil for a bit to loosen it up. Then, place the plant in the freshly filled pot, making sure that it isn’t above the pot’s rim. Adjust the level by adding or removing the soil; situating your plant an inch or two below the rim would be ideal. Lastly, let your plant adjust to the new environment and establish its roots before watering it.   

How do I propagate a snake plant?

Propagating snake plants is pretty easy and straightforward. You can either do division by cutting your plant in half, or you can use leaf cuttings or rhizome cuttings. However, if you want to preserve the variegation of your snake plant, the former will give you your desired result compared to using leaf or rhizome cuttings. 

Propagating via division

It’s important to use a sharp knife when cutting your plant in half for a clean and swift cut. Cut your plant in half right down the middle, and then simply pot each half separately. Do not water or add anything to the newly potted plants; wait for a few days until the plants establish roots.

Propagating leaf cuttings

With a sharp knife or garden shears, cut a leaf from your snake plant. Make sure that your cut is close to the base. Then, cut the leaf into different sections, and mark the part of each section that was closest to the base since this is where the roots will take form. Let the cuttings dry out for a few days.

Next, ready your pot with fresh succulent soil and plant the cuttings, making sure that the marked bottom is the one touching the soil. Let your cuttings grow into a new snake plant in an area with steady indirect sunlight. For leaf cuttings, you do not need to wait for the roots to establish before misting the cuttings. Mist it once a day to keep it moist but not wet. Only water as usual once the plant grows larger, about the same size as the baby plants being sold in gardens.

Propagating rhizome cuttings

This process is essentially the same as using leaf cuttings. Spot a rhizome that already sprouted a leaf (do not use rhizomes that have not sprouted yet), and use a sharp knife to cut it as close as possible to the bottom. Let the cutting dry out for a few days. Then, plant it in a newly filled pot, with the cut facing down the soil. Like leaf cuttings, only mist the newly potted rhizome cuttings. Only water as usual once the plant matures enough to handle the water.

And if you’re someone who makes plant propagation a business, or someone who’d like to make your own fresh produce in your very own apartment, then you might want to know a few more things that can help you in propagating plants. Propagating large amounts of plants with different water and soil requirements can get taxing. Hydroponic farming eliminates the need for soil and allows you to utilize vertical gardens, giving you the freedom to grow your plants in small areas like your apartment in the middle of the city. For someone who owns a plant propagating business, on the other hand, you might want to check out these fuel transfer tanks that you can use to store not only fuel but also water and fertilizer.

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