Plant Profile: Snake Plant

Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata or sometimes Sansevieria trifasciata), is one of the easiest houseplants to grow, which explains its popularity in malls. It’s a great gift for a young homeowner, a perfect plant for those just getting into houseplants and one of the best statement plants to try if you have a corner of your living room just crying out for something green.

snake plant in potSnake plants are native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa and Asia. With more than 70 species in the genus, there is a lot of variation in size. Some snake plants may not grow more than a foot tall, while others will grow up to 12 feet tall. In their native range, they will flower, though most houseplants are grown for their striking, sword-like, sometimes variegated leaves.

The plant is toxic to dogs and cats, so keep that in mind, if your pets are plant chewers. (Here’s a list of 10 common houseplants that are not toxic to animals.)

Thrive on Neglect

Their image as an easy-care plant comes from their tolerance of all light levels. Snake plants can tolerate low-light levels and they can handle fairly sunny ones indoors, though suddenly moving a plant from low-light to high-light conditions can cause leaves to burn. Ideally, they would get a medium light level. An east-facing window that provides morning light and some brightness the rest of the day would be perfect.

Once it’s located in a good spot, snake plant is one of those plants that prefers to be ignored. Too much watering can lead to root rot, so make sure the soil is ultra dry before watering this plant. It is especially prone to root rot in winter, so hold back during the cold months.

You should also go easy on the fertilizer. Snake plants are native to rocky soil, so they don’t need a lot of extra nitrogen. An all-purpose houseplant food given once a year, preferably in spring, is all your snake plant needs.

So Many Varieties

Not all snake plants are alike. Here are a few popular snake plant varieties you may want to look out for in the garden center or plant shop.

‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue’ — This is the variety you will find in most shops. Tall leaves with a slight green variegation in the center and yellow edges.  Grows to 3 to 4 feet tall.

‘Moonshine’ — It has slightly wider leaves that Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and a silvery color to the leaves. Grows 2 feet tall.

Sansevieria masonianaThis plant has leaves that are wider and paddle-shaped. It likes a brighter light and can grow up to 4 feet tall in ideal conditions.

‘Futura Robusta’ — This plant has gray-green leaves and tops out at 2 feet tall.

There are more varieties in stores, including short ones and twisty ones.

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