Succulents are taking the world by storm. Their popularity in recent years is largely due to the exposure they’ve been getting via social media. Succulents have come a long way from the abyss of the unknown to taking over our gardens and adorning our living spaces.
Some people think succulents are too difficult to grow – myself included! Out of all the plants I’ve owned, I’ve killed more succulents than I care to admit. And do you want to know what killed most of them? Overwatering. Too much water is detrimental to succulents and overwatering is one of the easiest ways to kill them.
However. There are actually plenty of hardy succulents, one of those is the snake plant! Yes, a snake plant is a succulent!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a quick refresher on these little water hoarders we fondly refer to as succulents.
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What Is a Succulent?
Succulent plants are plants that store water in their leaves. Crazy, right? Succulents are characterized by thick, fleshy parts that exhibit an incredible water retention capacity in arid soil conditions. They come in a range of features, shapes, and colors.
Succulent leaves, as a general rule of thumb, are thick and fleshy. Some plants have much thicker leaves than others but since the water is retained in their leaves they all have thick leaves.
The maintenance for succulent variants also has a spectrum of its own. Some variants may only need to be watered once every month while other variants will be fine even without water for months. This particular comparison showcases the range of the variants’ water retention capacities.
Succulents are also known to propagate easily. Some succulent house plants, like the burro’s tail, can even be propagated from leaves that have fallen off! Now if only all indoor plants did that!
One of the least troublesome succulent variants is Sansevieria. This beginner-friendly variant, also called snake plant, has long, sinuous foliage.
Snake Plant: Background
The snake plant, is a succulent that goes by a handful of different names. Mother-in-law’s tongue, Saint George’s sword, and viper’s bowstring hemp are a few of the common names it goes by. It’s scientific name is sansevieria trifasciata.
It is generally characterized by its upright leaves that come to a point. They have dark green leaves that often have a variegated pattern that often gives the impression of an exotic snake.
There are a lot of different varieties of snake plants. Some are short and cylindrical while others are tall and elegant. They generally grow to a height of 6 inches to 4 feet.
(Want to know about some other tall succulents? Head to this post!)
Some variants grow best in well-lit environments while some show aversion to direct sunlight. Some variants sport sharp, upright, and buttery yellow edges on their leaves. Others exhibit striking dark green bands.
Snake plants are renowned for being tough succulents. They are native to West Africa and indigenous to a host of climates – arid deserts, cold mountains, seaside cliffs, and tropical jungles.
Thanks to their incredible water-storing capacities, snake plants require very little maintenance. The same capacity allowed them to withstand harsh desert conditions.
Nevertheless, you should still care for and maintain your succulents to ensure that they look their best to compliment your space.
Is a Snake Plant a Succulent or a Cactus?
The snake plant is a succulent. It’s often misunderstood to belong to the same plant family as the cactus because of how well it can store water in its fleshy roots, leaves, and branches.
A good way to distinguish succulents from cacti is by looking for areoles. Areoles are small mounds of flesh that occur only within the cacti family. The mounds can be light or dark depending on the cactus variant and can have clusters of spines growing out of them.
Succulents don’t have these characteristics.
Is the Snake Plant Easy to Care For?
Yes, snake plants are easy to care for. I started with my first snake plant in college and have added many, many snake plants since! They’re fairly low-maintenance, easy-care houseplants which makes them an ideal fit for newbies. Here’s a guide on how to take care of snake plants.
Snake plants have thick, fleshy leaves that showcase their great water retention properties. Watering the plant once every 10-14 days should be sufficient during the growing season. Remember, always let the soil dry out completely before you water it.
You can check the soil by sticking a finger into the soil. If it’s dry you’ll know it’s time to water it. If the soil is still wet, wait a few more days and check it again.
Overwatering can lead to root rot. While cracks appearing in the soil may alarm you, it’s a lot better than overwatering.
Snake plants can grow in brightly lit spaces or low-light conditions. The best places are where they’re not directly getting full sun but will still get enough indirect light. Just place the plant in a sunny corner of your house where it can easily receive partial indirect sunlight during the day.
Putting specific succulent variants under direct bright light can scorch their leaves. Moreover, if you’re trying to curb or regulate its growth, keep the snake plant under a shady spot.
Snake plants generally grow best in environments that mimic their natural habitat. Ideally, anywhere between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit should work just fine. They also fare well in a wide range of humidity levels but generally do best with less humidity.
Remember, snake plants are sensitive to cold temperatures so anything lower than the recommended temperature can trigger their growth and make the plant’s leaves droopy.
Loose, well-draining soil such as succulent soil or a cactus mix is the key to maintaining your snake plants as it gives their roots plenty of room to wiggle around and grow. Loose soil prevents the occurrence of waterlogged soil, ensures good air supply, and provides the plants with nutrients it needs to thrive.
Like most plants, snake plants prefer a pot with a drainage hole like a terra cotta pot. However, if I’m being honest, none of the pots that my snake plants live in have them. They’re hardly plants, just be sure to not give them too much water!
Excess water with no drainage hole is a bad idea. If you have a pot with no drainage holes, start with less water to start while you figure out your plant needs.
Snake plants are very forgiving when it comes to watering and can thrive even in very arid conditions without their growth being impacted. However, in case your snake plant is in any way suffering, whether it’s from lack of growth or some other reason, you can use mild liquid fertilizers to give it a small boost.
The best fertilizer is an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer when needed and dilute it before using. Remember, don’t overuse fertilizers since they greatly affect the soil’s PH level. It’s also recommended to only use fertilizer during the growing months, not winter months. Succulents, in general, survive well without them.
Care and Maintenance
Because of the shape of the leaves, snake plants tend to gather dust very easily. If you’re using this plant to compliment your interior, you may want to consider this fact.
Dust them down when needed. Typically, you should dust them down every day so you don’t have to deal with the subsequent buildup of dust over time. Be gentle to avoid damaging the leaves.
Generally, you won’t have to repot your snake plant as frequently as other succulents. You will only need a new pot when the plant starts to burst out. In general, snake plants are repotted every 3 to six months, or at the first signs of overgrowth.
When you repot your snake plant, make sure that you don’t bury it too deep. Be mindful of the depth when you bury it in the soil. Try to also mimic the same position when you repot it in a new pot.
Pests and Other Diseases
You will rarely encounter any issues with snake plants. However, that’s not to say that the chances of your plant getting pests and diseases are zero to none. Do a regular check of the leaves, soil, and root system to look for any signs of damage or pest problems.
If your snake plant has any pests like mealybugs or spider mites, dip a cotton swab in alcohol to easily remove them. Remember to use diluted alcohol, 70% should do the trick just fine. Anything more than that may damage your plant.
When and How Should You Propagate Snake Plants?
Propagating your mature plants is an easy way to create new plants for your home or for your friends! Here are 3 different ways you can propagate your Sansevieria.
I have a full post with even more details on propagating your snake plant here!
Propagation by division allows snake plants to live longer, up to 20 years. The snake plant grows from a large, root-like growth called ‘rhizome’. It is a stem that grows under the soil and sends off new shoots. These shoots are called pups and can be used to grow a new snake plant.
You can divide the rhizome with a pair of scissors. Make sure that the section you removed has at least one leaf growing. Let the separated part dry for 24 hours before you replant it. However, don’t water it just yet. Let the soil dry out completely before you water the new offshoot.
Water propagation through leaf cuttings is the easiest way of propagating your snake plant.
Remove a healthy leaf from the main plant by using a sharp, sterile knife or a pair of scissors. Now, place the leaf in a container filled with enough water, which should partially cover the leaf, at least 25 percent.
If your plant has substantially grown and has big leaves, you can cut a leaf into sections and proceed with the same directions. Remember to pay attention to the orientation as snake plant leaves only grow roots if the edge closest to the soil is immersed in the water.
Once propagated, remember to keep the plant away from direct sunlight. Also, change the water whenever it starts looking cloudy.
Cut the leaf you want to propagate, and make sure you snip it off close to the soil line. Now cut the leaf into pieces and let them callous over before you place it in a new pot with fresh soil. Make sure you use small pots that won’t overpower your new plant. This will help prevent the formation of bacteria from getting into the leaf from the soil and thus, prevent rot.
Once potted, the new plant will begin to grow roots in about a month. It will likely take the same timeframe to sprout new growth. Make sure to practice the same watering method as you would with the parent plant.
Expect to see some variations when you propagate the plant with cuttings from variegated cultivars.
Is The Snake Plant Toxic?
When ingested, the leaves of the snake plant can upset the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, if you have any children or pets, it would be wise to keep them away from the snake plant.
Where to Buy a Snake Plant
There are many places to buy a snake plant! Here’s a few:
If you’re thinking of growing plants indoors and getting into succulents, the snake plant is just the perfect plant to start with. They’re low-maintenance and don’t require much care to thrive. They also compliment every type of home decor.