Snake Plant Care at Home (Dracaena trifasciata)

The snake plant is one of the most popular household plants, famed for its low-maintenance upkeep and tall, vibrant leaves. Otherwise known as Dracaena trifasciata, or until 2017, Sansevieria trifasciata, the snake plant has become a staple member of any indoor plant collection. Whether you’re a beginner or an avid plant lover, this spiky, green species will make an excellent addition to your home. In this guide, I’ll share how I care for my snake plants at home, including potting, soil types, watering, fertilizing, and ideal light conditions for healthy growth.

Ultimate Guide to Snake Plant Care (Dracaena trifasciata)

What to do Before Planting

Here are a few steps I take before bringing home your new snake plant.

  • Have a terracotta pot and saucer on hand for repotting your snake plant.
  • Ensure you have the correct soil and tools for repotting your plant once you bring it home. These are listed in detail below.
  • Clear a nice space to keep your plant so you can put it there once you’ve repotted.
  • At the store, choose a plant with dark green leaves. This is a sign that the plant is healthy.

How to Plant

My personal preference for snake plants is to use Terracotta pots. This material absorbs moisture quickly, preventing excess water from gathering in the soil. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole, as this plant is prone to root rot. 

The ideal pot size will depend on the size of your snake plant. I choose a pot that is about one size bigger than the container your plant comes in.

Best Soil Types

I find that the best type of soil to use for snake plants is a free-draining soil mix. In my experience, they do well in blends used for cacti, as these usually drain well and prevent excess moisture from accumulating.

I also like to make up my own potting mix at home combining equal parts sand, perlite, or peat moss to aid with drainage. This is cost-effective, provides excellent drainage, and a stable base for my plants to grow.,

Growth Expectations

As there are around 70 varieties of snake plants, they vary significantly in size. Dwarf varieties can be as small as eight inches, while larger snake plants can reach six feet or higher. Research your snake plant variety to learn how tall it may grow.

Light Preferences

A snake plant growing in a dark room indoors

My snake plants do well in various lighting environments, including direct sunlight and low light. However, they prefer bright indirect light where possible.

This hardy plant can thrive in any room (including bedrooms) with nearly any type of lighting. But, since they act as air purifiers, snake plants make a great addition to a bedroom or home office.

Watering Preferences

Simply put, your snake plant does not need much water. I typically water mine every three weeks or so throughout the year.

This will depend on the humidity of your home and the time of year. I recommend only watering your plant if the top two or three inches of soil has completely dried out since its last watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Snake plants are renowned for their resilience and adaptability. Here’s an overview of snake plant temperature and humidity tolerances indoors:

Temperature Tolerance

  • Ideal Range: Snake plants prefer temperatures between 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C), which is within the typical range for indoor environments.
  • Minimum Tolerance: They can tolerate cooler temperatures down to about 50°F (10°C) for short periods, but prolonged exposure to cold can lead to damage or stunted growth. It’s best to avoid placing them in drafty areas or near entryways where cold drafts might occur in winter.
  • Heat Tolerance: Snake plants can also withstand higher temperatures, but they should be protected from direct sunlight, which can scorch their leaves, especially in hot conditions.

Humidity Tolerance

  • General Tolerance: I find that snake plants are not particularly demanding regarding humidity levels, making them very adaptable to typical indoor environments. They can thrive in low to moderate humidity levels typical in most homes.
  • Low Humidity: They can tolerate low humidity levels, which is why they do well in indoor settings where humidity might be lower than in more tropical environments.
  • High Humidity: While they can also adapt to higher humidity, it’s crucial to ensure that their soil does not remain soggy, as this can lead to root rot. Good drainage is key.

Tips for Maintaining Ideal Conditions

  • Avoid Cold Drafts and Direct Heat Sources: Keep snake plants away from windows that might be opened in colder weather and from heating vents or radiators that can dry them out or overheat them.
  • Use a Well-Draining Soil: To prevent waterlogging, especially in more humid conditions, ensure your snake plant is potted in a well-draining soil mix, like those formulated for cacti or succulents.
  • Monitor Sun Exposure: While they can tolerate some direct sunlight, especially in the morning or late afternoon, it’s best to protect them from the harsh midday sun to prevent leaf burn.

Fertilizing

My snake plants definitely don’t need feeding very often. At max, I’ll feed mine once or twice during the spring and summer if I feel their growth rate is looking a little slow or leggy.

When I do fertilize my plant, I use a standard, water-soluable houseplant feed, diluted to half-strength and apply directly to the soil.

Definitely don’t over-feed these plants as this can often lead to salt build-up in the soil and other issues that may impact future growth and plant healthy.

Propagation Tips

Propagating snake plants from a leaf cutting is an excellent option if you’re looking to expand your collection or create a plant gift for a friend.

Since the plant grows more vigorously in the warmer months, this is the ideal time for plant propagation. Here’s what I do to grow new baby snake plants:

1. Propagation by Leaf Cuttings

  • Cut: Use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to cut a healthy leaf near the base of the plant.
  • Dry: Allow the cut end of the leaf to callous over for a day or two to prevent rotting.
  • Rooting Hormone (Optional): Dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder to encourage root growth.
  • Plant: Insert the cut end into a pot filled with a well-draining potting mix, such as a mix intended for cacti and succulents.
  • Water: Keep the soil lightly moist but not waterlogged. Too much water can cause the cutting to rot.
  • Wait: It may take a few weeks to a few months for roots and new shoots to appear.

2. Propagation by Division

This method works best when repotting a snake plant that has outgrown its container.

  • Unpot: Gently remove the snake plant from its pot and shake off excess soil to expose the roots and rhizomes.
  • Divide: Carefully separate the plant into smaller sections, making sure each section has at least one healthy root and one leaf.
  • Repot: Plant each section in its own pot with well-draining soil and water lightly.

3. Propagation in Water

You can also propagate snake plant cuttings in water, which allows you to watch the roots develop.

  • Cut and Dry: Follow the same initial steps as leaf-cutting propagation.
  • Place in Water: Put the cut end of the leaf into a jar or glass of water, ensuring only the bottom part of the leaf is submerged.
  • Change Water: Replace the water every few weeks to keep it fresh and reduce the risk of rot.
  • Transplant: Once the roots are a few inches long, you can transplant the cutting into the soil.

Tips for Success

  • Light: Keep your propagating snake plant in indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves.
  • Patience: Snake plant propagation is not a quick process. Roots can take weeks to months to appear, and new shoots can take even longer to grow.
  • Healthy Start: Always use healthy leaves or plant sections for propagation to increase the chances of success.
  • Watering: Overwatering is a common mistake. Allow the soil to dry out somewhat between waterings.

Repotting

Although the plant enjoys a crowded root system, I find it grows best when it is upsized to a new container every 3 to 4 years.

If your snake plant’s roots have begun to grow through its pot’s drainage hole, you know it is time to repot. Here are a few things to keep in mind when repotting your snake plant.

  • Repot your plant in the winter or early spring. It is best to repot the plant when it is not actively growing. 
  • If you turn your plant over and it doesn’t budge from the soil, it is time to repot.
  • When repotting, use a pot that is one or two inches bigger than your current container.
  • If your plant has grown much taller, you should consider repotting in a broader pot to ensure it doesn’t become too top-heavy.
  • Repot the plant by removing it gently from its current pot, making sure not to harm the root ball. 
  • If you see any places where root rot has formed, gently cut them away with a sharp knife.

Pest and Disease Considerations

I’m yet to have any major pest or diseases issues with my snake plants indoors. Common pests that can damage your plant include insect infestations, such as vine weevil or scale. If you notice an infestation, remove the infected leaf, larvae, and affected mulch or soil.

Fungi, such as red leaf spot or southern blight, could result from overwatering. If you notice them, reduce the plant’s watering schedule, try treating the soil with heat, and cut away any dying leaves.

For more, see our essential guide to dealing with common snake plant pests, bugs, and diseases at home.

Toxicity

A colorful single leaf of a snake plant

Unfortunately, your snake plant does have one flaw. Snake plants are considered toxic to both humans and pets if ingested. The plant can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if any part is consumed. Always keep your snake plant out of reach of your children and furry friends, including dogs, cats, and rabbits. 

Essential Tools

Since your snake plant is so easygoing, it does not require any special tools for maintenance. Let’s review some of the items you will need throughout the plant’s life.

  • A terra-cotta pot
  • A terracotta saucer to place beneath the container for drainage
  • Free-draining soil mix
  • Sharp shears for pruning and propagating
  • Stake and twine for supporting propagated leaves
  • Larger pots for repotting at the plant grows

This plant is excellent for new plant owners who don’t have many tools. As long as you have a nice pot and a good soil mix, you’re ready to bring your new plant home.

The Final Word

Snake plants make an excellent household companion for green thumbs and novice plant owners alike. Buying one is a great way to test out your plant-owning skills. Simply find a beautiful space for your new houseplant and breathe in the fresh, purified oxygen it has to offer. 

Further reading: Discover the best types of snake plants to grow at home.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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