If you’re someone who struggles to keep houseplants alive, then you need a snake plant in your life. Stop torturing yourself with finicky plants that are always wilting or require constant care and attention.
Here is your snake plant care guide and everything you need to know to grow a healthy mother-in-law tongue plant.
The snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, does best when you forget that it exists. With sword-shaped leaves that stand straight, these plants are attractive and striking, and oh-so-easy to care for.
The hardy succulents can survive and thrive in almost all environments, they need very little water and come in a range of varieties that are sure to make a statement in your home.
You may be wondering why a care guide is necessary for a plant that is so easygoing. But it’s important that over-eager plant parents know just how much the snake plant likes to be left alone.
Perhaps the spiky leaves are there as a deterrent for humans that are heavy-handed with the watering can.
Whether you’re looking for a diehard plant to make up for all the dying plants in your home, or you’re a greenery addict wanting to add to the collection, the snake plant is a fantastic addition to any home. Keep reading for a complete guide on how to take care of a snake plant.
How to Care for Snake Plant: Soil and Fertilizer
You’ll be happy to know that keeping on trend with easy-going sansevieria care, these hardy plants don’t have crazy soil nutrient requirements.
You don’t have to worry about getting the pH level just right or a complex mix of different soils.
That being said, snake plants are prone to root rot, so a free-draining soil mix or a soilless potting mix will keep these plants happy.
If you’re not entirely sure what constitutes free-draining soil then stick to loamy and sandy types or simply ask your garden centre for a succulent and cactus mix — this works like a charm.
When it comes to fertilizer, this plant can thrive without it. You can get away with simply adding a topping of worm compost once a year.
But if you’re committed to fertilizing your snake plant then stick to an all-purpose houseplant food fertilizer and feed them twice a year in the summer and spring.
Snake Plant Light Requirements
You may be thinking, ‘Does My Snake Plant Need Sunlight?’ While all plants need sunlight to some degree, Snake plants aren’t very needy.
This is why they’re such great low light indoor plants. This extends to the plant’s light requirements, too. Your mother-in-law’s tongue is going to grow best in bright, indirect light of medium intensity.
If you were planning on popping your snake plant in a dark and shady corner, go for it. These versatile plants thrive in indirect light, but they tolerate low light, too.
And if the sunlight streams through your window bathing your snake plant in bright rays, it’ll still grow well.
Always try to provide the best possible light conditions for your snake plant to flourish, but it’s unlikely to drop dead if you don’t. It will just grow at a slower rate in low light. Pretty great, right?
Signs Your Snake Plant Needs More or Less Light
Uh-oh, your snake plant’s usually erect, straight leaves are starting to droop, its leaves wilting downwards.
This is a good indication that your plant could do with a little more light. When this happens, don’t put your plant in direct sunlight to make up for the lack of light. It may end up burning the leaves.
On the other hand, if your snake plant is getting too much light then the leaves will start to go black and become thinner.
The edges will become brown and crispy. Basically, your plant is suffering from sunburn, and you need to move it to a darker area.
Sansevieria Plant Temperature Requirements
These diehard house plants will survive and thrive in a range of temperatures — I bet that doesn’t surprise you.
Overall, these plants prefer warm conditions. Being succulents and native to Africa and South Asia, they’re adapted to high temperatures.
Of the two things that can kill these extremely hard-to-kill plants, cold temperatures is one of them.
You should only keep your snake plant outdoors if you live in warm climates where there is no snow or frost, and the temperatures remain above 12 degrees celsius.
If your snake plant is an indoor resident, you won’t need to worry too much about cold temperatures.
Be mindful of cold drafts coming in through the window and make sure your plant isn’t exposed to this.
How Often to Water Snake Plants
Now you know that caring for a snake plant is relatively easy-going, you’re probably wondering, “how often should I water my snake plant?”
Snake plants are succulents, so they store extra water. This means that they do best when you almost forget about them. So, you should take it easy with the watering, especially because these plants are susceptible to root rot.
The soil should be completely dry before you water it. Don’t simply look at the soil to judge the moisture, stick a wooden stick or your finger a good couple of inches into the soil.
These plants really don’t like soggy soil and overwatering is a surefire way to send them to their deaths.
Depending on the environment, the size of the pot, and the time of the year, aim to water your snake plant every three to eight weeks.
Yep, you read that right. In winter you can give your plant a two-month break between watering.
Dry vs Overwatered Snake Plant
You’re unlikely to experience fatally underwatering your snake plant — unless you forget about it forever. But there are a couple of symptoms to look out for if your plant is thirsty and in need of some more water.
- Wrinkling, curling, or dropping leaves
- Brown leaf tops
- Brittle and dry leaves that are turning yellow or brown
- Dry leaf edges
It’s more likely that you’ll overwater your snake plant as any enthusiastic plant parent may do.
In fact, overwatering is the most common snake plant problem and it’s something you want to attend to immediately. Here are some symptoms of an overwatered snake plant:
- Soggy or mushy leaves
- Wilting leaves
- Leaves turning soft and yellow and eventually falling over
- Brown spots
- Root rot
How to Care for a Snake Plant: Pruning and Propagating
You won’t need to pull out the pruning scissors too often to tackle an unruly snake plant. But if you want to maintain a specific shape or size, or propagate your plant, then it’s a pretty simple process.
Pruning Your Snake Plant
If you give your snake plant enough room in a big pot, it can grow to impressive heights of 1.2 meters. The plant will also begin to spread outwards and new leaves will sprout from the bottom.
To keep your plant looking tidy and beautiful, you’ll probably need to prune it at some point. Besides maintaining shape and aesthetics, you should prune the plant to remove damaged or old leaves to boost growth.
Use a pair of plant pruners or a very sharp knife and cut the leaves off at the soil line. You should aim to remove damaged and mature leaves rather than new leaves to encourage healthy growth. Aim to prune your snake plant in spring or summer when it’s at its peak growing season.
If you want to prune the plant to reduce the spread and size, then start removing the leaves around the edge. Try to cut it off as close to the soil as possible so that you don’t leave unsightly stubs behind.
To reduce the height of the plant you should cut off the tallest leaves of the plant, or those that are taller than you want the plant to be.
This means you may have to cut off leaves growing in the middle of the plant, which is much easier with scissors or pruners. Luckily, you don’t have to cut these too low down as the stubs won’t be visible.
Propagating Your Snake Plant
There are plenty of ways that you can propagate your snake plant. Because who wouldn’t want more snake plants?
Lucky for you, I’ve written an entire post that’ll take you through the step-by-step process of propagating a snake plant.
The most common technique is using snake plant leaf cuttings which is as easy as can be. You can also propagate the plant in water or through the process of division.
Why not experiment with all three methods and see which one gives you the best snake plant babies?
How to Take Care of Snake Plant: Common Problems and Solutions
Yes, snake plants are tough houseplants that thrive under most conditions. That being said, there are some common problems that you may encounter in your snake plant. Most are easy to treat and unlikely to be fatal.
Snake Plant Root Rot
You probably already know this by now, but root rot is the most common problem caused by overwatering.
This typically occurs during the winter months when over-eager plant owners may forget that snake plants only need to be watered every two months or so.
Overwatering causes the roots to die back, either as a result of a soil fungus or due to lack of oxygen.
When the soil is soggy and moist, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for various fungi that spreads into the root, infecting the rest of the plant.
It’s difficult to notice root rot as it happens below the surface. You’re unlikely to see roots becoming brown and mushy until it’s too late.
Severe root rot can kill the entire plant in less than two weeks. Look out for yellow, wilting leaves that also become mushy over time.
If you suspect root rot you need to re-pot the plant as soon as possible. Remove all of the infected soil and apply a root treatment.
Do your best to prevent root rot by being conservative with watering and ensuring a well-draining pot and soil mix.
Snake Plant Insect Invasions
There are two common critters that will love to make a meal of your beloved snake plant. Mealybugs look like tiny balls of cotton fluff.
Don’t be fooled by this cute description as these small insects hide in protected areas of your snake plant, lay a ton of eggs, and inject a toxin into the leaves as they feed. This toxin stunts and deforms leaf growth.
It doesn’t stop there. The bugs excrete a sticky liquid, called honeydew, that supports the growth of a sooty mold.
If your plant has a mealybug infestation you’ll notice yellowing and drooping leaves as well as brown spots. The best way to treat this is to manually remove the insects.
Spider mites are another minuscule pest that leaves plant destruction in their wake. These mites hang out on the underside of leaves, sucking the fluids out.
Symptoms include yellowing of leaves and a thin, spider-like webbing between the leaves.
These mites are small and prolific so the best way to treat an infestation is to wipe each leaf with insecticidal soap.
Snake Plant Dropping Leaves
You’ll have noticed throughout this guide that the symptoms of an unhappy snake plant are dropping leaves.
From overwatering to insect infestations, and too little light, there are many reasons behind drooping snake plant leaves.
If you notice your leaves drooping, you need to try to identify the problem so that you can nurse your plant back to health.
Check the soil for excessive moisture, evaluate the environment for lighting and temperature issues, and look out for tiny invaders that are munching on your plant.
Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow
Much like drooping leaves, yellowing leaves is also a common symptom of all of the above-mentioned afflictions. In fact, you’ll likely see drooping leaves coupled with yellowing leaves.
Keep in mind that snake plants are hardy, so if the leaves are yellowing then the plant is really not happy.
Luckily, because they’re such tough plants, you should be able to identify the issue pretty easily.
Snake Plant Brown Spots
Brown spots on snake plants’ leaves are less common than yellowing or drooping. If you notice small brown flecks appearing on the leaves then it’s likely due to a fungal disease or an insect infestation.
The typical fungal problems include southern blight and red leaf spot.
Temperature issues can also cause brown spots. If your snake plant is exposed to direct sunlight, brown spots may appear on the leaves.
On the other hand, very cold temperatures (less than 12 degrees) can also cause brown spots, as snake plants aren’t too fond of the cold.
Other common causes of brown spots are low humidity and excessive fertilizer. As mentioned earlier, snake plants don’t need fertilizer to flourish.
A potted snake plant needs only a tiny amount of fertilizer if any, and it should only be fed in the spring and summer.
If you give your plant too much fertilizer, the nitrogen and salt levels increase, causing a burn effect.
Snake Plant FAQs
Hopefully, this care guide has answered most of your snake plant questions and concerns. But just in case, here are some frequently asked questions to make sure that you’re armed with all the knowledge necessary to look after your mother-in-law’s tongue.
What Are the Best Pots for Snake Plants?
It’s vital that you choose a pot that has a drainage hole so that your plant is safe from root rot.
Consider planting your snake plant in a terracotta pot instead of plastic, as terra cotta encourages the soil to dry quicker.
The sword-like, striking leaves of a snake plant are dramatic enough that you don’t need an overly decorative pot.
Something simple works best aesthetically. If you want something a bit more stylish than simple terracotta then opt for a ceramic pot in a bamboo plant stand for added effect.
Are Snake Plants Safe for Cats?
It’s highly unlikely that ingesting the snake plant will be fatal for your furry friend, but they will experience some nasty symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If you notice these symptoms in your pet and you have a snake plant in your home then it’s advised to seek veterinary attention.
Why Are My Snake Plant’s Leaves Curling?
Are your snake plant’s leaves looking a little less like swords and a little more like a curled ribbon? It’s likely due to underwatering.
The leaves curl in an attempt to conserve moisture. A dehydrated snake plant’s leaves will also become wrinkly and dry.
But it’s nothing a little water can’t fix! Once you’ve provided some thirst-quenching water for your plant, the leaves should uncurl in no time.
While underwatering is the most common reason for curled leaves, anything that stresses the plant can lead to curling.
So, before you drench your snake plant in plenty of water, make sure that parched, dry soil really is the cause. It may also be insects, a fungal infection, or inadequate temperatures.
Are Snake Plants Poisonous?
Is it possible that the name ‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue’ comes from the fact that snake plants are mildly toxic? It’s not only furry friends that need to avoid consuming these plants as they are mildly toxic for humans too.
While you’re unlikely to start munching on your snake plant, you should know that your tongue will swell and become numb if you make a feast of the plant’s leaves.
If you’ve got an inquisitive child in the house then it’s best to keep the plant well out of reach to avoid any curious nibbles.
What are the Benefits of Snake Plants?
Snake plants are amazing green additions to your home. They’re hardy, striking in appearance, and almost impossible to kill.
But the snake plant benefits don’t stop there. These plants are incredible air purifying plants. They filter the air in your home, removing pollutants and improving your air quality.
These plants also improve airflow as it’s one of the few plants that convert CO2 into oxygen during the night.
These awesome air-purifying benefits make snake plants the perfect bedroom greenery as the plants encourage a peaceful environment, clean air, and improved airflow for the best sleep possible.
Where Can I Buy Snake Plants?
Snake plants are relatively common and popular houseplants so you’ll most likely find them at your local nursery or garden center.
However, as these plants are an invader species, you may find that some nurseries avoid stocking them. If this is the case, then you can buy one online.
Look After Sansevieria Plants By Leaving Them Alone
What could be better than a gorgeous houseplant that thrives when you almost forget to care for it? There are only two things that you need to do to make sure your mother-in-law’s tongue remains healthy and flourishing.
Firstly, take it easy with watering as root rot is the most common problem for these succulents.
Always make sure the soil is well and properly dry before giving your plant a drink. Secondly, keep your snake plant away from cold drafts as it’s not too fond of cold temperatures.
Other than that, simply enjoy this impressive and interesting plant and all the air-purifying benefits that it provides.
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