This post shares my top tips about how to take care of a snake plant (otherwise known as a Sansevieria trifasciata or a mother-in-law’s tongue plant), as well as a photo list of 18 sansevieria varieties to help you identify what type of snake plant you have! The snake plant is an easy-to-grow plant. Follow these simple snake plant care tips, and your plant will thrive.
How to take care of a snake plant & IDs on 18 snake plant varieties!
Hey guys, today I’m talking all about how to take care of a snake plant! Otherwise known as dracaena trifasciata or mother-in-law’s tongue (who really calls it that, though?), the snake plant has been a houseplant staple for a long time.
Thanks to houseplant chic and the millennial obsession with plants, it’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Oh, and it’s super easy to take care of, which doesn’t hurt. It’s a striking plant with a variety of different patterns and color variations.
And it’s incredibly easy to find at your local nursery or online. Plus, it’s probably one of the absolute easiest plants to care for. So let’s chat about what your snake plant needs to thrive, as well as a few snake plant care tips!
Where does the snake plant come from?
The snake plant’s full name is dracaena trifasciata, but it was known as sansevieria trifasciata for a very long time until 2017. So although it was realigned to the dracaena genus, you will most often see and hear it grouped with the sansevieria genus.
I have seen a zillion snake plants in nurseries, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one labeled “dracaena.” Plant people are a stubborn lot, aren’t we? Both the pros and the hobbyists.
Snake plants are evergreen perennial plants that originally come from tropical West Africa. They are gorgeous upright plants that are cultivated for their leaves more than anything else. They flower, but the leaves are the real show! They are tall, stiff, and pointy—looking like swords.
What are the different snake plant varieties? Here are 18 with photos!
There are many different snake plant species—about 70, in fact. Some snake plants are dark green with whitish stripes—both vertical and horizontal—while others have yellow edges or a red tint. Some are lighter green, while others are quite dark. “Twist” varieties have twisted leaves.
Depending on the variety, snake plants can grow up to several feet tall. I prefer the darker varieties of snake plants for that reason. The yellow-edge, red-tinted, and twisted varieties tend to not grow as tall. Here are a few different snake plant varieties you’ll likely encounter at your local nursery or big box hardware store.
1. Sansevieria trifasciata variety ID pics
The regular ol’ trifasciata variety is what you’re most likely to find when you’re out and about. It has dark green leaves with a lighter green or even gray-whiteish variegation on the leaves. The leaves are tall and thin, and the plants can get pretty large. Check out a few trifasciata plants I’ve got in my house.
2. Trifasciata robusta variety ID pics
Trifasciata also has a “robusta” variety. This type of snake plant has pretty much the same markings as the regular trifasciata, but its leaves are larger. They are wider and chunkier—I love the look.
3. Trifasciata Laurentii variety ID pics
Trifasciata Laurentii is another variety you’ll likely find pretty easily. You’ll know it because it looks a lot like the regular trifasciata, but it has yellow edges. It also grows tall and thin, and the leaves aren’t wide like the trifasciata robusta variety.
4. Trifasciata black coral variety ID pics
Trifasciata black coral is a gorgeous variety I’ve been trying to get my hands on for a while! I saw this one at a local nursery, but it was too big for me to take home (and a bit pricey). This variety grows to about 3 feet tall, and the dark green leaves have grayish-white horizontal “stripes.”
5. Trifasciata Whitney variety ID pics
I was super lucky to find a trifasciata Whitney at a local Lowe’s. The Whitney stays a bit smaller and has solid deep green leaves. The borders of the plant are a variegated light greenish-gray. A lot like the Laurentii variety, but not yellow. And it also stays a bit smaller. I found this for $10!
6. Trifasciata zeylanica variety ID pics
Zeylanica is another somewhat rare variety that I don’t see too often. It looks a lot like the trifasciata. I’ve read a lot about zeylanica and think that a lot of them are probably mis-marked and are really trifasciata. Here’s one I saw labeled at a nursery in northern Virginia.
7. Trifasciata moonshine variety ID pics
I am absolutely obsessed with my trifasciata moonshine! I originally bought the cutting below off of Facebook for $10, but I have been seeing these pop up in nurseries over the last year. This variety has a gorgeous mint green color with very little variegation. The better the light on the plant, the lighter the color gets. Just stunning!
8. Trifasciata jaboa variety ID pics
The trifasciata jaboa is big and beautiful. Its leaves are tall, wide, and thick. They have a bit of an orangey-red tint to the borders, and they are highly variegated with a grayish-white and medium green. I saw this one for about 100 bucks at a nursery, and a friend of mine snagged a huge one at Home Depot recently for under $50.
9. Trifasciata hahnii robusta variety ID pics
Now let’s talk about some hahnii varieties. Hahnii snake plants are also referred to as “birds nest” snake plants because they are shorter, stout, and grow more in clumps. The clumps are often very crowded together as you can see below.
The hahnii robusta, pictured below, is basically a lot like the trifasciata and trifasciata robusta, except is has the short, stout, and highly clumped “hahnii” characteristics.
10. Trifasciata “golden hahnii” variety ID pics
The “golden hahnii” is very similar to the robusta hahnii in its inner appearance. Appropriately named—when it’s mature, it is often more yellow than even green. But most of these plants are a mixture of yellow and green.
11. Trifasciata hahnii black gold variety ID pics
“Black gold” hahnii snake plants look very similar to “golden hahnii” varieties. The black gold variety, however, has a deep green interior—almost black sometimes. The borders are a golden yellow.
12. Trifasciata hahnii jade variety ID pics
The jade variety has a a deep coloring as the leaves mature. I have even seen the plant labeled as “black” since it can get very dark. This one does not have variegation, but it can have some color fading from dark to light as the plant grows.
13. Trifasciata hahnii night owl variety ID pics
The hahnii night owl is often confused with the moonshine. But since it’s a hahnii, it’s a totally different type of plant. The night owl also has a much lighter color, but unlike the moonshine, it has a border. The border has a big of a yellowish color, so it isn’t as true of a mint green as the moonshine is.
14. Trifasciata Bantel’s Sensation variety ID pics
Now onto a couple more rare and interesting varieties of snake plants before we move on to take stuff. The Bantel’s Sensation variety has tall, very thin leaves. The leaves are a mixture of the normal snake plant variegation and tall, thin stripes. Bantel’s Sensation is a grayish-silver and deep green. Truly stunning.
15. Trifasciata cylindrica variety ID pics
Cylindrica varieties look a lot like other snake plants in terms of their coloring and variegation. But the leaves are shaped like…you guessed it…cylinders. The cylinders have a pointy tip, and they have a somewhat rough surface. Here are a few different types of trifasciata cylindrica plants. I will be honest, not my favorite—but to each their own!
16. Hyacinthoides “grandis” variety ID pics
There are three more varieties of snake plants I want to spotlight that aren’t trifasciata. They are sansevierias (or dracaenas, or whatever), and the first is sansevieria hyacinthoides “grandis.” I bought mine at a local nursery and have found it’s a bit on the rare side. I bought it hoping it was a whale fin snake plant, but alas—just another big variety!
The leaves have a reddish-orange border, much like the jaboa variety (see above in this post). I loved seeing the two babies sprout up from this mother plant. It took almost a year, so it was all the more rewarding!
17. Sansevieria masoniana “whale fin” variety ID pics
The second non-trifasciata variety I want to spotlight is the sansevieria masoniana, aka the “whale fin snake plant.” Wanna know why they call it that? Because it’s freaking huge, like a whale’s fin. Here’s a huge one for $200 at a local nursery…and then below that, my little guy I got from a local person.
I also have a post all about how to care for a propagate whale fin snake plants specifically. I just love them that much 🙂
18. Sansevieria ehrenbergii “Samurai” variety ID pics
Here’s the last of the non-trifasciata varieties I want to spotlight: Sansevieria ehrenbergii, aka Samurai. These look a lot like cylindrical snake plants in some ways, but the unique shape give them a different feel. As the leaves grow, they create a fan shape. This is a very slow grower. But worth the wait—isn’t this cool looking?
How much light do snake plants need?
So I’ve outlined snake plant origins and a bunch of different varieties you can snag, but they all have pretty much the same care requirements. First let’s talk about how much light snake plants need. I have a snake plant in almost every room in my house because it tolerates and can even thrive in a variety of different conditions.
They vary in size from a small tabletop plant to a large plant that is about 4 feet tall from its roots (my pride and joy!). Snake plants tolerate everything from low to high light. You’ll sometimes see them indoors in doctors offices (much like the pothos, learn how to propagate pothos from cuttings).
You’ll also see it outside in areas that get a lot of sun all year round, like Florida. While I find that my snake plants in high-light areas grow the fastest, my snake plants in low-light areas also do very well. I have snake plants in our bedroom, Ramona’s nursery, and the living room—all spots that get great light.
But I also have them in lower light areas like the kitchen and dining space, as well as in the basement (see the beautiful planter I made for the snake in our basement!).
How often do you water a snake plant?
Watering is a critical thing to cover when learning how to take care of a snake plant. The only thing snake plants are picky about is water. I generally water mine once every week and a half-ish. During periods that are cold and dry (my winter here in Maryland), you only need to water about once a month. Let the soil dry out completely between watering.
Over-watering can lead to root rot and can kill a snake plant. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. I’d even go so far as to say a snake plant would prefer neglect over over-watering. If you typically forget to water your plants, snake plants are perfect for you!
Also keep in mind that if you have your snake plant in a low-light area, that will also affect the amount of water it needs. It will be growing slower with less light, so it will probably need less water than snake plants that get a lot of light.
If you have your snake plants outdoors, bright indirect light is best. I had one of my snake plants outdoors last summer under our covered patio, and it produced babies like crazy! But you can acclimate them to direct light by giving them sunlight for increasing amounts of time every day.
How to take care of a snake plant indoors: Temperature and humidity
Snake plants also do well in a variety of humidity conditions and temperatures. However, they are best suited for an environment that stays above about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t tolerate frost well. Cold temperatures can lead to scarring on their leaves, which cannot be reversed.
Should I mist my snake plant?
Misting your plants is one way to keep humidity levels up indoors. Since snake plants do well in lower humidity levels, you don’t need to mist them. I do not recommend misting snake plants because the increased moisture on the surface of the soil could lead to mold growth. Why risk it if you don’t need it? These guys are hardy!
Snake plants and common houseplant pests
Snakes plants are vulnerable to the run-of-the-mill houseplant pests: mealybugs, spider mites, and fungus gnats. You can simply wipe off spider mites and treat with neem oil spray. And treat mealybugs with rubbing alcohol. Fungus gnats are a bit trickier.
Years ago I had a bad infestation of fungus gnats in one of my snake plants (due to over-watering). I got rid of them by doing the following, and the plant is now healthier than ever (I now have a whole post on how to get rid of fungus gnats you can check out, too):
- Removing the plant from the pot, taking it outside, and laying it on its side.
- Gently removing as much soil as possible from the roots and rhizomes.
- Pouring a concentrated solution of dish soap and water over the roots, rhizomes, and bottom quarter of the plant.
- Letting it dry for a few hours.
- Cleaning out the pot and letting it dry, then replacing it with fresh, well-draining soil and replanting.
What is the best soil for indoor snake plants?
Any well-draining cactus or succulent soil will do just fine. (See a recipe for well-draining succulent soil.) I also use a lightweight houseplant soil with some perlite and coco coir added to it. You can buy both of those separately. Remember that snake plants are succulents, so they do not like heavy soil.
What is the best pot for a snake plant?
Because snake plants prefer well-draining soil and are prone to root rot, having a planter with a hole and drainage saucer is best. However, my experience proves that snake plants can thrive in pretty much any planter. I have them in a variety of planters without holes in them.
For those planters, I simple add a layer of perlite or pebbles to the bottom of the pot (bigger pots get a thicker layer). This ensures the roots aren’t sitting in a puddle of water. (See my full post about how to plant in pots without drainage holes.) However, not having a drainage hole always means you run the risk of overwatering, so water with a light hand!
How to take care of a snake plant: Growth rate & fertilizer
Snake plants can grow anywhere from a foot to several (even 7!) feet tall depending on the variety. The most popular varieties you’re likely to find in stores grow to be around 2 feet, with some surpassing 3 feet. (Some of mine are definitely past 3 feet!)
The Sansevieria cylindrica (or cylindrical snake plant) is the one that can grow up to 7 feet, but this is in ideal growing conditions. Generally snake plants grow slowly indoors. However, if you give them a good amount of sunlight, that can help them grow faster.
Even my snake plant in our basement is actually doing really well and showing the most new growth! I theorize it’s because I don’t tend to it too much like I do the plants on my main level. I swear these plants thrive on neglect.
As for snake plant fertilizer, I generally give all of my snake plants a bit of the indoor houseplant fertilizer I’m using on my other plants. I fertilize every few months—I don’t have a strict schedule. As for a brand, I usually just use concentrated drops from a local nursery. My plants seem to love it.
But honestly any houseplant fertilizer will do. However, it isn’t necessary to fertilize them—I just like giving all of the gang a little love. Next growing season, I’m going to switch to worm castings (aka worm poop) mixed into soil instead and see how that goes.
How to repot a snake plant
Unlike a lot of houseplants, snake plants love to be pot bound, so they don’t necessarily need to be repotted frequently. Have you ever taken a plant out of a pot and seen that the roots have totally taken over the soil, leading to what seems like more roots than soil? That’s a pot bound plant.
I don’t repot my snake plants until they look way too big for the pot they’re in. I also repot when I am dividing my snake plants. Since they can grow quickly under the right conditions, you may need to divide your snake plants every few years or so.
As far as how to repot a snake plant—it’s just like any other plant. In fact, I think it’s easy because the leaves are so much thicker and sturdier. Simply take the plant out of its existing pot and gently knock off all of the loose dirt. Then just put a layer of soil down, set the plant in, and add fresh well-draining soil all around the plant, covering the roots.
I like to plant my snakes a bit deeper than my other plants so the taller leaves have a lot of support. And since snake plants like to be pot bound, I’d recommend repotting to a plant that is only a bit bigger.
How to clean snake plant leaves
Repotting time is also a good time to clean your plant’s leaves. I am a bit lazy and don’t clean my plant leaves nearly as often as I should, but the big, thick snake plant leaves are serious dust magnets! I have a post about how I clean houseplant leaves, but here are the basics:
- Dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth with water; squeeze out the excess
- Spray the towel with a very heavily diluted neem oil spray; you only want a little bit.
- Wipe down a few leaves until your cloth needs cleaned. Rinse and repeat!
How to propagate a snake plant
I mentioned that I usually only repot my snake plants when I divide them. Snake plants can actually be propagated in a number of ways: by division, by cuttings that form new growth, and by putting snake plant leaves in water. This is a post in itself, and you can read all about how to propagate snake plants here. Here’s a quick overview, though.
1. Propagate a snake plant by division
Snake plants grow by producing baby plants. The mother snake plant shoots out white rhizomes under the surface of the soil, and you can simply chop these in two and have two snake plants! Let the cut area callus over for a day or so before you replant to help with water intake.
2. Propagate a snake plant by leaf cuttings in soil
You can also cut a single leaf off of a snake plant, cut that into pieces, and pop them into soil. Keep the soil moist and have patience—this takes a while. Eventually the cuttings will begin to root and sprout new plants. Here’s a peek!
Let these grow until the new baby plants sprout from the surface and root. Once you have a new plant, you can chop off the old leaf and plant the propagated snake in a new pot.
3. Propagate snake plant leaf cuttings in water or LECA
You can also cut a single snake plant leaf and root it in water. This can be hit or miss, though, because the cutting can rot. You can lessen the chance of the cutting rotting by letting it callus over for a few days before you put it in a vase. Once you get roots, you can plant the cutting.
If this doesn’t work, you can try to roof your leaf cutting in LECA. I had great success with this method after a near failure rooting a whale fin cutting in water. Check out my post about how to root plants in LECA for instructions on this!
Are snake plants toxic to cats and dogs?
Ok, you know how to take care of a snake plant, but is it safe to have them around pets? Well, all snake plant varieties are poisonous to pets. However, my cats don’t bother them, and I’m able to keep most of them out of reach, so I don’t worry about having them in the house.
One cat has no teeth, while the other goes after exceptionally leafy plants like ferns and grass. 🙂 It’s always best to know your cat and speak to your vet about your personal threshold, though.
Love houseplants? Check out my post of 15 of my DIY planters to help you decorate with plants, my hanging stainless steel bowl planter DIY, my indoor hanging garden DIY, and my top indoor succulent care tips!