Sansevieria trifasciata, also known as the snake plant, has become one of the most popular house plants in recent years due to its easy care, beauty, and varieties of cultivars coming in many shapes, sizes and colors. The genus Sansevieria includes around 70 species which are native to Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia. Swedish botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg named the genus after Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero.
The snake plant is a stemless, evergreen perennial that spreads through its creeping rhizome (similar to bamboo), which grows in the tropics of Nigeria, east through the Congo where they can grow to over 5 feet tall, but typically remain around 2-3 feet tall when kept indoors. Known for its beautiful striped and banded foliage, the snake plant also produces fragrant, small greenish-white flowers on a long stalk which become red berries once pollinated. Not just an ornamental, S. trifasciata provides fibers which are incredibly strong and have been used for many generations to make bowstrings. Although they prefer and thrive in bright light, they’re incredibly tolerant of low light conditions, making them a perfect indoor plant for almost any space. In addition, they’re able to withstand irregular watering which is great for the inexperienced plant parent. Many people look for plants that are helpful in removing toxins from the air and snake plants are one of the best at this. The NASA Clean Air Study was conducted by NASA in 1989 and their study proved Sansevieria removed most toxins that were tested. These included benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. It was also one of the few plants studied that will remove carbon dioxide at night.
Caring for your snake plant is relatively simple. They prefer warm, bright areas but are also tolerant of lower light. Their soil should be well-draining and can be amended with sand to help it drain more quickly. Most Sansevieria are much more tolerant of a drought then overwatering or having soggy soil so always make sure to let their soil dry out slightly between watering. When watering, make sure to never pour water directly into the center of each rosette (group of spiraling leaves) as this can most certainly rot the plant. During the winter months, water even more sparingly. Allow your plant to become root bound before repotting. Snake plants thrive with crowded roots and it can even help induce flowering. Once you’re ready to repot, move your snake plant into a new pot 1”-2” larger. You can repot any time of the year, but spring is always best. When fertilizing, use a general purpose fertilizer diluted to half-strength once every three to four weeks. Because of its large leaves, it’s a good idea to wipe them down when watering to remove any dust that they’ve collected. Propagating snake plants is as simple as pruning off a leaf, cutting it into 3”-4” sections and pushing them into wet soil. Propagation by division is a great way to get a head start on larger plants by cutting off an entire section of the plant, rhizome included, and planting it into a new container.
LIGHT - bright, indirect but tolerant of low light
TEMP - warm, 65-80
FERTILIZER - summer, every three to four weeks, diluted by half
WATER - thoroughly water and allow to dry between. Water even less in winter
SOIL - well draining, amended w/sand
REPOT - in spring when root bound, up 1”-2”