Snake plants are one of those plants that I always like to keep in my arsenal of indoor plants. They are extremely hardy and difficult to kill for beginner gardeners and they divide and propagate freely. This no-frills plant doesn’t take much to keep alive. I sometimes forget about my snake plant for weeks on end and it seems to enjoy the abuse. Snake plants are also highly varied with more than 70 varieties to choose from.
Growing snake plant
While snake plants are not hard to keep alive, you are likely to see greater success growing it if you have a bit of background information on them. Here’s what you should know about the snake plant:
- Latin name: Sansevieria
- Other names: Mother-in-law’s tongue, Saint George’s sword
- Native to: Western Africa
- Invasiveness: Considered invasive
- Tenderness: Perennial
- Sun: Indirect sunlight
- Water: Infrequent
- Soil: Free draining soil
- Hardiness zone: 9-11
- Plant height: 1-4 feet tall
- Bloom period: Rare
- Container friendly: Yes
- Fertilizer: 10-10-10
- Toxicity: Mildly toxic
Snake plants make great indoor plants for people who have a ‘brown thumb’ because of how hardy and durable they are. Their hardiness makes them invasive if planted outside of their native range, so if planting outdoors, plant with care. It’s hardy to zones 9-11 and can grow 1-4 feet tall, depending on the variety. Snake plants don’t like direct sunlight, preferring shade and indirect light. They need free draining soil and generally infrequent waterings. They rare bloom and are container friendly.
Most of the health issues a snake plant will experience are tied to watering. They do not need to be watered frequently. If you water them too much or they’re left stranded in standing water, they can get root rot and begin to die. Water your snake plants only occasionally and allow the soil to dry some between waterings.
Snake plants don’t much care for direct sunlight and will be more than content living in a window with bright, indirect sunlight. Too much sunlight can burn and kill your plant.
The soil you choose for your snake plant should be free draining. Soil that stays soggy for too long can eventually damage your snake plant. A soilless potting mix should suffice.
Like watering, fertilizing should happen infrequently. You can get away with fertilizing your snake plant with a 10-10-10 all purpose organic houseplant fertilizer every spring and summer. There is no need to fertilize the plant through fall and winter.
Snake plants are considered invasive outside of their native range in no small part because of how hardy and hard to kill they are. In the right conditions, they will propagate and spread at a rapid pace and take over. If you are outside of its native range, plant with care.
Growing snake plant in containers
Snake plants are a good houseplant in part because they handle confinement in containers quite well. Up-pot your snake plant into larger pots as it grows, as some varieties can grow quite large. If your snake plant is getting a little too big, you can break it apart at the root level and propagate it in new pots. Terracotta pots are recommended.
The biggest problem that snake plant growers will encounter is root rot. This tends to happen because you’re overwatering your plant or planting it in poor draining soil. Snake plants can’t be too wet or waterlogged. The roots will wind up dying back and eventually killing your plant. Keep it in very well draining soil and water infrequently.
Propagating snake plants
Snake plants are easy to propagate. Generally, I wait until the plant is extremely well established and sending up new shoots. If you have a large clump of this plant, you can break it apart at the root level and replant in individual pots. It tolerates this kind of propagation quite well, though the process will stress it some. Don’t expect to see lots of new growth right away.
Uses for snake plants
Snake plants are said to have a purifying effect on indoor air, but research on this matter is pretty thin, so take these sorts of claims with a big grain of salt. Snake plants are not edible and in fact are mildly toxic. If consumed in larger quantities, it can cause oral numbness. Don’t eat your snake plants!
Snake plants have a rich historical tradition dating back many years. They are said to have been treasured by numerous cultures, including African, Asian, and South American cultures. In China, snake plants were planted near the entrances of homes because they believed that the Eight Gods bestowed their eight virtues on those who grew the plant. Growing a snake plant bestowed unto the grower certain virtues like strength, prosperity, a long life, intelligence, beauty, and health.
Whether you believe that your snake plant will bestow virtues on you or just looks cool in your home, it’s a solid plant to have around, especially if you have trouble keeping houseplants alive.
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