Yes, the snake plant, or Sansevieria, or Dracaena trifasciata, is a succulent. It has long, thick leaves that can store water for the plant to use in the event of a drought.
The snake plant is one of the most popular succulents in the world, largely due to its reputation as “unkillable”; it can tolerate considerable neglect and still survive.
The unique shape of its leaves also makes the plant a great choice for both outdoor gardens or indoors as part of your home decor.
In this article, we will learn more about this fascinating succulent, so if you want to read up on it before adding it to your collection, just keep reading.
What is a snake plant?
The snake plant is a succulent native to the tropical regions of the African continent.
It is part of the Agave family and is also commonly known as the mother-in-law’s tongue.
The most noticeable physical characteristic of the snake plant is the shape of its leaves, which resemble swords; they stand straight and erect when the plant is healthy and well-hydrated.
This plant is one of the most low-maintenance succulents you can find: it can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, humidity levels, and light conditions. This makes it the perfect plant for a novice gardener to begin with.
Are snake plants succulents?
Yes, snake plants are succulents; they belong to the same family as agaves. They are able to absorb and store water in their large, fleshy leaves, for use in the event of drought – or when their owners neglect to water them for days or even weeks.
Snake plant care
As mentioned above, the snake plant is native to the tropics of Africa, which means that, despite being able to tolerate very warm climates, it grows best in bright, indirect light.
If you grow the plant outdoors under full sunlight, this can lead to sun damage.
If you notice parts of the leaves turning yellow or brown and becoming dry or even crispy, this could mean that the plant is getting a little too much light and you may need to transfer it to another spot where it can get more shade.
If you are keeping the plant indoors, keep it next to north- or east-facing window, because those windows let in weaker light.
If the only windows available in your home are south- or west-facing windows, the plant might get light that is a bit too harsh. You can still place your snake plant next to these windows, but you will need to place a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the light.
On average, the snake plant should be watered once every month, or every four weeks.
The important thing to remember, if you are ever unsure as to whether the plant needs water, is to check the dryness of the soil in the pot. You can do this by first checking the top layers of soil from the top, and then check the soil in the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes.
If the soil looks and feels dry, water all of it thoroughly until you can see excess water start to drain out of the holes at the bottom of the pot.
If there is a saucer below the pot that catches the dripping water, make sure you empty the saucer after every watering. If you leave water in the saucer, it can lead to signs of overwatering in the plant.
Because the snake plant is succulent, it is more susceptible to overwatering than underwatering. The damage incurred from getting too much water is incomparable to the minimal damage caused by underwatering.
An overwatered snake plant’s leaves will become yellow, then brown, and they will also become soft and mushy to the touch.
The leaves will absorb more and more water because of all the excess water in the soil; this will make them heavier, and they will start to droop from all the weight.
If you are unable to resolve the overwatering problem in its early stages, the plant may develop root rot. This is a condition caused by prolonged exposure of the roots to waterlogged soil, leaving them unable to dry out properly between waterings. The roots will drown and die, and will start to rot. They will also become vulnerable to fungi and bacteria living in the soil, which will make the rot spread more aggressively to the rest of the plant. Eventually, the rot can even kill the plant.
If you think your snake plant is overwatered, stop watering it immediately and let the soil dry out completely. Place it in a spot where it gets lots of light, so the light and warmth can also help to dry the soil out.
If you want to check for root rot, you will need to remove the plant from the pot so you can inspect the roots. Wash off as much soil as you can from the roots; be gentle about it, because the roots will be fragile in this state.
Inspect all of the roots and for sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will need to be removed. Use a sterile knife or pair of scissors to prune them away until only healthy, white roots remain.
Lay the plant on a dry surface and let the roots air-dry for a few hours.
Prepare a new pot, with drainage holes, by filling it two-thirds of the way with fresh succulent potting mix. Place the plant in the middle of the pot, cover the roots with soil, and place it in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light.
Avoid both underwatering and overwatering by developing good watering habits and adjusting them according to changes in the weather, season, and climate.
If you are able to collect rainwater, that is the cheapest and most ideal type of water to give your snake plant. If not, try to use distilled or filtered water so that none of the minerals present in tap water make their way into the plant’s soil. The effects of the minerals in tap water may not be immediately noticeable, but over time the minerals will accumulate and this can lead to a salt build-up that is harmful to the plant’s roots.
If you only have tap water at your disposal, fill a large container with it and let the water stand for two days. This way, the fluoride and chlorine will dissipate and the water will be safe to use on the plant.
Make sure the temperature of the water is lukewarm. If you give the plant water that is too hot or too cold, it can get shocked which can lead to other problems.
The preferred temperature range for the snake plant is 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you keep it indoors, it should be able to tolerate any temperature in the house.
As long as you do not keep the plant outdoors in frost and cold below 50 degrees, it will be fine. The moment you notice the weather outside getting cold, make sure you take the plant indoors and only bring it back outside when spring arrives.
The perfect humidity level for the snake plant is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent.
The plant can tolerate a little dryness in the air around it, but it will also do just fine in humid rooms such as the kitchen or the bathroom.
As we mentioned earlier, this plant can endure a lot, and slight changes to the humidity will not have much of a negative effect on it.
Fertilizing this plant once a month during its active growing phase in the spring and summer is enough for it.
Use a balanced liquid fertilizer at half-strength; preferably one that is low in nitrogen.
Refrain from feeding the plant in the winter because it does not need many nutrients or minerals in the winter when it is not actively growing. Also do not feed it when it has been recently repotted, because the fresh soil will still have plenty of nutrients for the plant to use.
Using too much fertilizer can cause soil toxicity, which can damage the roots. This can lead to the plant’s leaves drooping and falling off.
Snake plant growth
Snake plants can grow to heights of up to 12 feet tall, but this will depend on the variety you are growing. Some varieties can only reach an average height of five to six feet.
Snake plant propagation using leaf cuttings
The most common and easiest way to propagate your snake plant is by using leaf cuttings.
First, choose healthy leaves on the parent plant to use for the process. The parent plant has to be fully mature and the leaves that you plan on cutting should be thick ones.
Using sterile pruning shears or scissors, cut the leaf about one inch above the ground at a 45-degree angle.
Lay the leaf on a flat surface so you can measure it and cut it into one- to three-inch sections. Make sure you mark which end of each section is the top and which end is the bottom.
Leave the sections on a dry surface with good air circulation and leave them for five to seven days so that they callus over.
After this time, check for white nodules on each section. The presence of these nodules indicates root production.
Place some succulent potting mix into a large plastic pot. If you want the mix to be more well-draining, you can also add coarse sand or perlite to it.
Pour five cups of water into the soil in the pot and let any excess water drain out through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Place the cuttings into the pot, making sure one-third of each cutting’s length is beneath the soil.
Do not crowd the cuttings close to one another; there should be a few inches of space between each cutting.
Place the container near a window where it can get lots of bright, indirect light and good air circulation.
Water the cuttings once a week and make sure that the top inch of the soil is moist.
Do not overwater them because this can promote fungal growth and even root rot.
After one month, check the progress of the roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If you feel resistance, that means that the roots are coming along nicely.
Once the roots are well-developed, you can transfer the cuttings to their own pots and care for the new plants as you would a mature snake plant.
The snake plant, or Sansevieria, is a succulent that belongs to the Agave family. It has long, sword-shaped leaves that grow to an average height of six feet. These leaves are thick and fleshy and can absorb and store water for use in the event of drought.
The snake plant is one of the most resilient, low-maintenance houseplants in the world, which makes it a great choice for novice gardeners.
It only needs to be watered once a month and prefers bright, indirect light. It does not really need lots of humidity and can adapt to most humidity conditions without a problem. As long as the plant is taken indoors when the temperature gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be fine.
Fertilize the plant once a month in the spring and summer when it is actively growing, and propagate it using leaf cuttings.
Image: istockphoto.com / JackF