Snake plant is one of the most interesting houseplants, easy to grow, undemanding, pleasing to the eye, requires less watering, and thrives with minimal care. They are commonly called mother-in-law’s tongue, lucky plant, good luck plant, bowstring hemp, devil’s tongue, and sansevieria. Sansevierias are attractive plants, variegated, and can easily be recognized by their sword-shaped foliage that grows upright. The foliage grows directly from the thick rhizome (underground stem) that runs just below the surface of the potting mixture. Let’s briefly look at the basic care tips for snake plants.
Shopping for Snake Plants
Where to buy snake plantsA garden centre is often the best place to get snake plants, because they are well-looked after. The care tag attached to it gives reasonably information on required light, water, temperature, fertilizer, and growth rate or patterns. Whereas, in ordinary shops or stores, the quality of plants sold vary greatly. In some case, the pot plant might start to show signs of neglect just few weeks after you brought them home.
What to check when buying snake plantsWhen buying from an ordinary shop, check to see that the compost is moist. For snake plants, it’s still fine if the compost is almost dry. But if the compost is too dry, it’s a sign of neglect, don’t buy. Check the drainage hole -a few small roots shooting out from the bottom is a good sign, but if many roots are shooting out from the bottom, it’s a sign of neglect, because the plant is matured enough to be potted. Lastly, be bold to turn the leaves and examine for holes, spots, diseases, yellowing, and wilting. If you see any of these, don’t buy.
Where to position snake plantsIt is essential to know the amount of light your plants need before deciding the best spot to position them. Place snake plants on window sill, verandas, balconies, bath tub, kitchen and bedroom. Provided they get adequate light.
Snake Plant CareCaring for snake plant is very easy and less demanding because of its natural adaptation to minimal extreme environmental conditions. Let’s quickly take a look at basic care tips for snake plants.
LightSnake plants flourish best when placed in a medium light shaded from direct sunlight. However, they also do well when exposed to long period of direct sunlight, and certain amount of shade because of their adaptation to minimal harsh environmental conditions. But growth often times may slow down or stop, when exposed to long period of shade. When a snake plant that was subjected to long period of shade is suddenly exposed to direct sunlight, it may result to leaf burn, because the plant is not yet accustomed to the intensity of light. To avoid leaf burn, you first move your plant from the original shaded area to low light area at home, then to a veranda or balcony, and finally to outdoor under direct sunlight if need be.
TemperatureSit your snake plants where they can get a steady level of warm temperature of about 65°F to 80°F. Snake plants can tolerate a rise and fall in the amount of day and night temperature. Be sure not to subject them to extreme cold temperature, below 55°F.
WateringOver-watering is the cause of death of most potted snake plants. When watering snake plant, ensure pots have holes for effective drainage. Water your plants when compost or potting mix is loose and feels dry. Give them a good soak when watering rather than little at a time. Sit pot in a tray and allow drained water to be soaked up. Discard excess water after about 20 minutes. If pot cannot sit in a tray, collect drained water and recycle once or twice until your plant is well-watered.
A Key FactSnake plants can withstand long period of dryness. Its major weakness is too much watering. Over-watering causes root rotting. Be sure not to overwater!
FeedingFeed snake plants with a weak concentration of liquid fertilizer once a month, especially during the active growth period. Usually, snake plants grown under required compost or potting medium do not need much feeding, a little feeding is just enough. During winter or resting period, snake plants are usually dormant and need no feeding.
Compost for snake plantsChoose a good quality potting mix that is well draining. You can choose either loam-based compost or peat based compost. Read on to see their benefits and disadvantages. Loam-based compost: use loam as the main ingredient. Add little coarse sand or perlite and peat to improve the soil structure, and work-in organic compost or fertilizer to supplement the nutrients in the loam. Peat-based compost: use peat as the main ingredient. Add a little coarse sand or perlite, and work-in organic compost or fertilizer to supplement the nutrients in the peat.
Loam based compost Vs. Peat based compostLoam-based compost has weight, and good for re-potting large plants, and provides stability to pot. While peat-based compost is light, pleasant to handle, but requires careful watering to avoid overwatering. More watering and feeding is necessary for peat compost than loam compost. Note: Both composts are good for potting snake plants. It all depends on what’s best suited for you.
A Key FactYour plant will only be as good as the compost or potting mix they grow in.
When to repot snake plantNever be too much in a hurry to transplant snake plants. Repot to a larger pot, when you see plenty roots shooting out from the base of the pot, or when the pot is packed with a mass of roots so that little soil is visible.
Potting snake plantPrepare a new pot that is one size larger than the original pot; cover the drainage with pieces of bark or styrofoam. To remove the plant easily from its original pot, invert the pot and tap the rim on a hard surface. Once the plant is out, look at the root-ball. If the roots are densely bound in a pattern, having the shape of the pot, break up the pattern to loosen the roots and trim off dead or damaged roots with a sterilized sharp knife or scissors. Put a little amount of potting mix inside the new pot to about an inch or two inches high, and slightly firm with your fingers. Sit the plant such that the root-ball sits properly and erect, and then work-in compost around the sides, turning the pots and forcing the compost down. Once done, gently firm the compost with your fingers. Leave about 2 inches space between the compost level and the rim of the pot to accommodate watering and future feeding or topdressing.
After potting snake plantAfter potting, move the newly potted snake plant to a partially shaded area. Allow settling for one day, then reposition to a good spot where they can get adequate light before you resume moderate watering.
Snake plant propagationSnake Plants can be propagated either by easy division or leaf cuttings.
Propagating snake plant by division methodThe most common and easiest way to propagate a snake plant is by division method. This method is fast, efficient and easy, when compared to other methods. To propagate snake plant by division method, start with the “mother” plant that is in good health, with no disease or pest problems, then cut through the rhizome with a sharp knife. Replant each division singly in an appropriately sized pot or container. Use normal potting mix (loam or peat based compost) if rhizomes have roots. However, if rhizomes have little or no roots, use a mixture of peat moss and sand or rooting compost for quick root development.
Propagating snake plant by leaf cuttingsEnsure the small-sized rooting pots have effective drainage. Fill-up the pot with a mixture of peat moss and sand or rooting compost. Use a sharp knife to neatly detach a whole leaf from the base of “mother plant.” Chop the leaves into 2 inches long pieces, remembering which way up they are planted. Root 3 to 4 cut sections to a depth of 0.5 inch into the rooting mix per pot. After rooting, position the pots to light, shaded from direct sunlight. Water sparingly just enough to keep the compost barely moist until rhizome is formed. Note: formation of rhizomes in leaf cuttings is a slow process. When the rhizome is sufficiently formed, cut off the old leaf section and pot the new growth. The ideal time to propagate is early spring so that plants have enough time to adjust and settle before temperatures start to warm up.
Propagating snake plant in waterThis method of growing plant in water is called hydroculture or hydroponics. It is simple to set up, and can be carried out successfully by a complete beginner.
Let’s take a look at how to propagate snake plant in water:
- Select pot or container that is tall enough to hold the leaf in place.
- Identify a young leaf that is in good health, with no disease or pest problems.
- Use a sterilized sharp knife to neatly cut off the identified leaf from the base of the mother plant.
- Wash off all traces of compost, being careful not to damage them.
- Chop the leaf into 2 to 3 inches long pieces
- Allow the cuttings to air dry for few days to prevent rotting
- Place each cut sections in water, remembering which way up they are planted.
- Move the container to bright light, shaded from direct sunlight and wait for root formation
- Change water frequently once a week