The snake plant is one of the hardiest and most popular houseplants out there. It’s a great plant for a beginner due to its easy care requirements and beautiful colored leaves.
This houseplant makes for a great tabletop or floor plant, and it’s especially beneficial to your health, which is why it’s commonly placed in the bedroom.
We’ll explore the different types of snake plants, their key characteristics, care requirements, and finally how to revive one.
A snake plant belongs to the Asparagaceae family, the same family as the dragon tree. Its botanical name is dracaena trifasciata, however, it is commonly known as St. George’s sword, viper’s bowstring hemp, and the good luck plant. There are also many variations of the snake plant that we’ll discuss later on.
This succulent is known for its array of colors and stiff, sword-like leaves. It prefers warmer environments as its native to West Africa, specifically between Nigeria and Congo.
Fun Fact: The dracaena trifasciata, until 2017, used to be known as the sansevieria trifasciata. Due to the plant’s many commonalities with the dracaena species, it was changed.
Snake Plant Varieties
There are many types of snake plants, but we’re going to discuss the most popular and sought-after varieties.
- Bird’s nest snake plant: This type of snake plant is also referred to as hahnii. It is a small plant that only reaches up to 6 inches (15.2cm) tall. The leaves form small clusters that resemble a cup, almost like a bird’s nest.
- Cylinder snake plant: This houseplant has round leaves that can grow a good couple of feet in length, and reach outwards looking like a crown.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’: The laurentii has beautiful colored green leaves with yellow margins.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Starfish’: This is a more compact hybrid of the snake plant and has fan-shaped, light green foliage with stunning dark green circles.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Black Coral’: The black coral snake plant is known for its tall, thick dark green leaves with lighter green markings on them.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘ Whale Fin’: It also goes by another name; shark fin. This plant is rare and a highly desirable variation for collectors. Its rhizomes sprout leaves that have a slight white-purplish tone to them.
- Moonshine snake plant: The moonshine variety has such an interesting look to them. The leaves are an almost silvery-green color with dark green stripes.
- Dracaena trifasciata ‘Twist’: This type of snake plant gets its name from the appearance of its leaves. The foliage is twisted with horizontal, yellow stripes along the edges. This houseplant grows around 14 inches (35.5cm) tall.
You cannot discuss the snake plant without mentioning its brilliant health benefits. Just like the English ivy, the snake plant is a natural air purifier. Dracaena trifasciata are also effective against allergies.
Laurentii’s are especially incredible at removing harmful toxins from the air. That’s why they’re often kept in the bedroom.
Did you know?: They eliminate xylene, nitrogen oxide, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air you breathe.
How Big Do They Get?
Dracaena trifasciata grow anywhere between 1 to 8 feet (30.5 – 243.8cm) tall, depending on the type of snake plant. They can also grow about 6 inches (15.2cm) to 3 feet (91.4cm) wide.
How Fast Do They Grow?
In ideal conditions, it is a slow grower. The average dracaena trifasciata grows 1 to 3 inches (2.5 – 7.6cm) taller per growing season, and it usually produces 2 to 4 new leaves per growing season.
How Long Do They Live?
When well cared for, the houseplant can live for an average of 5 to 10 years. Some experts have even managed to extend their snake plant’s lifespan to 25 years by growing them outdoors.
Are They Toxic to Cats, Dogs and Humans?
Dracaena trifasciata is toxic to both pets and people because it contains saponins. These chemicals are meant to protect the plant from insects and fungi, however, when ingested they can cause some troubling symptoms.
Cats and Dogs
The saponin chemical causes both cats and dogs to experience gastrointestinal upset when ingested. We’ll discuss the symptoms below.
Here’s a list of symptoms:
Call your vet if any of these symptoms persist.
When a person, usually a young child, ingests the snake plant it can cause vomiting, nausea, and even swelling of the tongue and throat. The reason your tongue or throat will swell is that the poison in the leaves has a numbing effect.
Seek professional medical advice should you or a child ingest the plant.
Snake Plant Care
Although this houseplant is relatively easy to grow and very hardy, it still has to be adequately cared for according to certain guidelines. Below, we’ll talk about all the care and environmental requirements to keep your plant healthy.
How Often to Water
The snake plant doesn’t need to be watered frequently, and overwatering it can lead to some serious issues such as root rot or other fungal diseases. To prevent soggy conditions, you should only water the plant once the top 2 inches (5cm) are dry.
During the warm spring and summer months, you can water it once a week. When it begins to get cooler during the winter and autumn months, you’ll need to reduce the number of times you water the plant to about once a month.
When you water the snake plant it’s best to drench the soil and let the excess water flow out through the drainage hole.
Do They Need Drainage?
Dracaena trifasciata require great drainage. This can be achieved by using the right potting medium and container.
The snake plant, just like many other houseplants such as the century plant, will thrive in well-draining soil. Later on, we’ll discuss exactly how you can ensure this.
The container that your houseplant is grown in must have a drainage hole. This is a large hole or multiple smaller holes that are at the bottom of the pot. It allows for any excess water to drain out.
Ideally, you should place a saucer underneath the pot to catch the excess water and prevent any damage to your furniture. This should be emptied after each watering so that the plant isn’t sitting in soggy conditions.
A terracotta or any clay pot is perfect for this houseplant. It allows the soil to dry faster which prevents root rot. You should also keep in mind a pot that is either too large or small will hold onto too much moisture.
How to Trim
The first thing you should know about pruning any houseplant is that the tool you use must be sterilized. You can wipe the blade with a diluted bleach solution or some rubbing alcohol. This way no diseases or bacteria will be transferred from one plant to the next.
Dracaena trifasciata should be trimmed during spring or summer. Pruning can add some stress to your plant, so it’s best to do this when your plant is at its healthiest.
Pruning is only necessary to remove any damaged foliage, encourage new growth, and control the plant’s height. You should cut off any brown, dead, or damaged leaves to allow for new, healthier growth.
If you don’t want your plant to become too tall for its pot or home, then cut off the taller leaves.
Top Tip: If your snake plant’s leaves are dusty, all you need to do is wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Dracaena trifasciata rarely need to be repotted. Generally, you should only need to repot this houseplant every 2 to 3 years, or once it’s become pot bound.
If you suspect that your houseplant has root rot or is too heavy for its current container, then you should repot it as soon as possible.
It is best to repot it during the springtime and make sure to use fresh potting soil or a cactus potting mixture.
Here are the quick and easy steps to repot a snake plant:
- Gently slide out the plant on its side and use your fingers to dust off any excess soil around the roots.
- Observe the roots to check for any damage or rot. If you notice that it may be damaged then simply cut it back until the healthy tissue.
- Fill a new, clean container with the potting mixture, about one-third of the way. Place the plant in the center of the pot and cover it with additional soil.
- Now you can deeply water the plant and place it back in its original home.
Dracaena trifasciata prefers indirect sunlight, however, just like the sago palm, it can tolerate full sunshine.
You should be cautious not to expose it to too much direct sunlight because its leaves can burn or scorch.
Loose, well-draining soil is excellent for this houseplant. Generally, it does best in sandier soils that are low in peat. Peat moss can become tightly packed which causes drainage issues.
A commercial succulent or cacti potting mix is suitable as well. You’ll want to steer clear of any heavy, clay soils that will retain way too much moisture.
Try out the potting mix below:
- 1 part regular potting soil
- 2 parts perlite
Dracaena trifasciata can benefit from a feeding every now and then. Ideally, you should use a balanced cacti fertilizer that has been diluted to half of its strength.
It is best to fertilize the houseplant once a month during its active growing seasons; spring and summer. You should refrain from feeding it during its dormant winter months.
The ideal pot is a terracotta or clay pot that will absorb moisture and prevent the plant from withering away in soggy conditions.
It prefers to be slightly crowded, so make sure that the container is only one-third wider than the rootball.
It will thrive in temperatures between 70 to 90°F (21 – 32°C). It can’t survive in temperatures lower than 50°F (10°C), however, it’ll stop growing once the temperature is below 55°F (12°C).
Do They Like Humidity?
It is not fussy when it comes to humidity. The average household humidity will do just fine as long as it isn’t placed near a vent or draft.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
Dracaena trifasciata flourishes in USDA zones of 10 through 12. The houseplant can thrive in your garden during the summertime.
Once the winter chill sets in, you’ll have to bring it indoors because the snake plant cannot survive cool temperatures.
Do They Flower?
Even in ideal conditions, it is very rare for the snake plant to flower indoors, however, outdoors this perennial flowering plant blooms during the springtime.
The pleasantly scented flowers are formed in small white clusters that almost look like miniature lily flowers, and the clusters are accompanied by small, round orange berries.
How to Grow
There are a few ways to propagate and grow a snake plant. You can divide the roots, use leaf cuttings, and offshoots to expand your collection. You can even grow a snake plant from a seed.
No matter which method you decide to use, propagating and growing a snake plant should be done during spring or summer. The plant must be at least 4 inches (10cm) tall before you can attempt to propagate it.
Snake Plant Propagation
You can propagate the dracaena trifasciata in either water or soil. We’ll discuss the various methods below.
By Root Division
- Pull the rootball out of the pot and brush off any excess soil. You can place it on a flat surface that is suitable for you to cut the plant on.
- Use a clean blade to slice the rootball into different sections, while making sure that the roots aren’t damaged.
- Fill some new containers with fresh cactus potting mix and plant the divisions in their own pot.
- Water each plant deeply and place them in a sunny location.
Offshoots are the pups that the mother plant has produced. These too can be removed and propagated to grow your collection.
- Remove the plant by pulling it out of its container. Use your fingers to dust off the soil around the roots and locate the pup.
- Use a sharp, clean knife to cut the pup off.
- Plant this pup’s cut end about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) deep in the soil.
- You should find a sunny home for your little plant and deeply water it.
From Leaf Cuttings
- Find a long healthy leaf to cut and place it in a container with some cactus potting mixture.
- Water the leaf-cutting and place it in bright, indirect sunshine.
- Once it has rooted, you can care for it as you would a mature snake plant.
- Cut a long healthy stem with a pair of clean scissors.
- Find a clean glass of cool water and submerge the leaf’s cut end.
- Find a bright spot for the glass, and top up the water every couple of days.
- You need to replace the water every two weeks to prevent algae build-up.
- Once the roots have grown 1 inch (2.5cm) long, you can repot it in some well-draining soil.
- Water the plant until it drips out through the drainage hole, and position it in partial sunlight.
The previously mentioned propagation methods are much easier, reliable, and quicker than growing a snake plant from a seed. Although, it is possible, so we’re going to guide you through the process.
- Find a 3 inch (7.6cm) pot and fill it with some cactus potting soil.
- Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the soil.
- Position the container in a sunny, warm spot and cover it with some clear plastic wrap.
- You should notice new growth in about 3 to 6 weeks, and you can then remove the plastic.
- The potting mix must be kept moist throughout the germination process.
- Once the seedling has grown 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) tall, you should repot it in a larger container.
How to Revive
The snake plant may be hardy but it can run into some problems from time to time, especially when being overwatered. Let’s take a look at the potential issues and how to revive your houseplant.
Root rot is caused by excessively overwatering your houseplant. You can tell when your plant has root rot because you’ll notice a foul smell coming from the soil, the roots will be brown and mushy, and the leaves will turn yellow or brown.
It is imperative that you remove the plant and cut back any damaged roots or leaves. You can then repot the plant in a clean container with fresh, dry potting soil.
Keep in mind that the snake plant doesn’t do well in soggy conditions, so only water it once the top of the soil is dry.
There are three main culprits behind the curling of leaves; stress, underwatering, or too much sunlight.
Dracaena trifasciata can experience some stress when it is transplanted. This should stop after a week or two.
Although the houseplant doesn’t like to be overwatered, it shouldn’t be underwatered either. If the soil is completely dry then you’ll need to soak your plant in 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) of cool water for about 45 minutes. You can then allow the water to drain out.
The houseplant can survive full sun, however, in warm environments its leaves become scorched. All you need to do is reposition your plant in an area where it will receive bright, indirect light.
Leaves Falling Over
The plant’s leaves will become floppy and droopy when it’s receiving too much water, not receiving enough sunlight, or is not planted in a well-draining medium.
It is fairly simple to revive an overwatered houseplant. You’ll need to wait until the soil has dried out before watering it again and reduce your watering frequency in the future.
Your snake plant prospers in plenty of sunlight, therefore, you need to find a bright windowsill or an area where it can soak in all that sunshine.
We previously discussed how to ensure that the potting mixture is well-draining. This is very important to prevent root rot and wet conditions.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellow leaves are an indication that your houseplant is either overwatered or suffering from root rot.
If you are overwatering your snake plant, you’ll need to refrain from watering it again until the soil has completely dried out.
Once a plant has root rot, it needs to be immediately repotted in some fresh soil, and the damaged roots must be cut off.
A Quick Recap
This super easy houseplant is perfect for beginners and with all the varieties available, you can really build up a unique snake plant collection.
For a flourishing plant, you’ll need to remember to not overwater it and make sure that it’s planted in well-draining potting soil. If you follow all of the care requirements, your plant will thrive for many years.