Sansevieria Care Guide
By Ophi Hodgman
Commonly known as the Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law's Tongue, St. George's Sword and Viper's Bowstring Hemp, Sansevierias* are among the most common and easy-care houseplants available on the market today and a genus of over seventy different species within the Asparagaceae family. These plants are often marketed as low light-loving, set and neglect plants, but we are here to discuss some of the intricacies of this plant's care needs - and debunk a myth or two!
* Note: Sansevieria was reclassified to Dracaena in 2014 by scientists Pei-Luen Lu and Clifford Morden after a phylogenetic analysis of the genera Dracaena, Sansevieria and Pleomele.
These plants are at the top of our list for easy care and versatile light requirements, but a plant is only easy when you know when and when NOT to give them attention. One of the most important aspects to this plant is their water requirements.
Considered a succulent in nature, their watering requirements are very low due to their ability to store water within the foliage. It is important to only water your Sansevieria when the soil is bone dry and/or when the plant appears wrinkled or depleted. Native to tropical West Africa and Nigeria, these plants have adapted to prolonged bright, dry climates and require a soil with little water retention.
In the home, watering will depend on how much light the plant is receiving. The rule of thumb is to pay attention to the physical signs your plant is displaying and water 1-3 times a month, and only when the soil is very dry. Do not allow the plant to sit in standing water. The worst thing you can do is to over water a Sansevieria. This will lead to bacterial issues, root rot, and worse case scenario, plant fatality.
These plants are often advertised as "low light-loving," but this simply isn't true. While they will tolerate a lower light setting, they will likely not thrive, let alone put out new growth in such conditions. Bright indirect light with a few hours of direct morning or late afternoon sunshine will promote faster, healthier growth - and even flowering in rare cases!
These plants are very adaptable, but make sure to slowly acclimate them to outdoor environments if you are planning on leaving them out in the elements for the warm months.
Snake Plants require a good quality, well-draining substrate with very little water retentive ingredients. The optimal soil formula is as follows:
- 1/4 Basic Indoor Potting Mix
- 1/4 Pumice
- 1/4 Perlite
- 1/4 Orchid Bark
To easily feed your plant, add Osmocote to the potting mix! If you don't want to create your own custom mix, any basic indoor potting mix will be good for transplanting your Sansevieria. Consider mixing in a little Espoma Organic Cactus Mix for better quality drainage.
This plant is incredibly adaptable to many temperatures. The ideal range is 60-85° Fahrenheit. They will also tolerate temperature fluctuations if necessary.
Sansevieria are able to handle a wide range of humidity levels, but average household humidity is ideal.
Sansevieria has been classified as toxic to dogs and cats by the ASPCA. Please visit their website for more information.
Snake Plants love to be fertilized, but not often. Fertilize once a month or every other watering during the growing season with 1/4 strength liquid fertilizer or simply add Osmocote into the soil mix at the beginning of spring!
Sansevieria can be propagated by leaf or root division. The primary plant will tend to produce pups that can then be separated and potted up as a whole other plant! If you want to propagate by leaf, be sure to allow enough time for your cutting to callus over before sticking it in a vessel of water. Within 3-6 weeks, you should see root growth coming in!