Learn how to care for the gorgeous moonshine sansevieria trifasciata plant! Moonshine snake plant care is a lot like caring for other snake plants with a few exceptions. Learn how to keep its light color and what to do if your moonshine snake starts turning a darker green.
How do you care for a moonshine snake plant?
Today we’re talking moonshine snake plants! I am up to two in my collection, and it’s rare that I let myself have two of the same plant. (If I had more space, I’d have 100 of each plant, but alas—townhouse life.)
This post is all about moonshine snake plant care and propagation. Although its care is similar to other snake plants in that it is super low-maintenance and super easy, there are a few things to know about growing this gorgeous variety. Including how to keep its color from darkening.
Moonshine snake plant/sansevieria trifasciata origins
Let’s talk about snake plants in general first. The snake plant’s full name is dracaena trifasciata, but it was known as sansevieria trifasciata until 2017 when it was realigned to the dracaena genus.
However, old habits die hard. You can pry the name sansevieria out of my cold, dead, fear-of-change hands. Any who…you will most often see and hear it grouped with the sansevieria genus.
Snake plants are evergreen perennials that originally come from tropical West Africa. They flower, but the flowers aren’t really why you buy snake plants. You buy them for the tall, upright leaves with dramatic colors and patterns.
There are about 70 different snake plant species, and moonshine is one of them. Sansevieria trifasciata is the most common snake plant you’ll find, and moonshine is a type of trifasciata.
However, instead of the normal trifasciata’s tall deep green leaves that have silver/gray markings on them, the moonshine’s leaves are a gorgeous light minty green. Sometimes with hints of silver if you’re really lucky.
Is Moonshine snake plant rare?
I wouldn’t call moonshine snake plants rare, but I would call them harder to find than some of the more common varieties, including the trifasciata. (I have a rundown of 18 different snake plant varieties in my snake plant care post.)
I got my first snake plant pup from someone off of a Facebook plant buy/sell/trade group, and I hadn’t seen them many places before that. I saw them for the first time in a big box nursery in June 2021.
Before that, I had only seen them at local nurseries—and that was somewhat rare. When I did see them, the price point was generally a bit higher than regular ol’ sansevieria trifasciata. I think prices are dropping as the plant become more popular, though.
What is the ideal light for a moonshine snake plant?
Like other snake plants, the sansevieria moonshine tolerates a variety of lighting conditions. Snake plants are famous for tolerating low light. However, the moonshine is less forgiving than its darker green relatives. Bright indirect light is best, and that’s how moonshine snake plant care differs a bit from other snakes.
It will continue to grow in low light, but it will not grow as quickly. It will also lose the gorgeous super light mint-green color it’s famous for. The leaves will gradually begin to darken to more of a medium green, making it look more like other snake plants.
I have experienced this firsthand. And once the leaves darken, they will not lighten again. I noticed the two main leaves on my little pup plant were beginning to darken. I didn’t notice the change as it happened—one day I just realized, woah. This plant is not as light as it used to be.
So I moved it from on top of my Ikea greenhouse cabinet where I keep most of my snake plants and put it in front of a bright window. I later moved it inside of the greenhouse right under one of the grow lights.
This has made a huge difference—the new growth coming up from the center of the plant is noticeably lighter. Eventually I’ll likely prune off the darker exterior leaves when the plant produces enough new growth.
That’s because once the leaves darken, you cannot lighten them again. Seems unfair—but that’s science in this case 🙂 They are still beautiful even if they aren’t light mint green, though.
Moonshine snake plant growth rate
Moonshine snake plants can grow to be a little over 2 feet tall. Snake plants in general are famous for being slow growers, but I have to say…some of my snakes have had some pretty impressive growth rates!
I think that people generally think snake plants are slow growers because they are often thought of as low-light plants, meaning people will not give them a ton of light. While they survive, they don’t thrive. They just kind of chug along, not really growing that much.
However, give your snake plant bright indirect light and it will thrive! Snake plants can even stand direct light. Just make sure to work them up to direct light so you don’t shock them and cause leaf burn.
And remember that light is key to keeping the moonshine snake plant’s gorgeous minty green color.
Moonshine snake plant care: Water and soil needs
As a succulent plant, sansevierias in general are hardy and drought tolerant. The quickest way to kill a snake plant is to overwater it, and that’s certainly the case for the moonshine.
Water your moonshine snake plant when the soil dries out. For me, this is about once a month in the spring and summer, once every two weeks or so in the fall and winter. I have even dropped down to watering every 3–4 weeks in the winter out of sheer laziness.
One way to help with proper water drainage is to plant your moonshine snake plant in a well-draining soil. Any succulent or cactus soil will do just fine. I have most of mine in succulent/cactus mixes.
When I recently repotted my bigger moonshine snake plant, I used a regular indoor well-draining potting soil. To help enhance drainage, I threw in a few extra handfuls of perlite. Read more about the soil additives I like to keep on hand for more.
Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom is also helpful. Though I will be honest—I have some of my snake plants in pots without drainage holes. I am just very careful not to overwater them. Be warned 🙂
Should I fertilize my moonshine snake plant?
I don’t fertilize any of my snake plants, but that’s mostly because I am lazy about fertilizing. I mix in worm castings to my soil mixtures to provide extra nutrients. That way I don’t risk over-fertilizing and burning the plants, which I’ve done.
If you want to fertilize your moonshine snake plant, just pick up a cactus/succulent or indoor houseplant fertilizer at your local garden center and follow the directions for the brand.
Snake plants will die if left outdoors in areas that get very cold. I leave my snake plants outdoors until the temperature drops below about 60 degrees at night. Though they have survived a few cold snaps below that.
I have read that sansevieria plants will survive in any outdoor location above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (freezing). But I’ve yet to test it…I don’t want to kill my plants 🙂 It gets way colder than that here, though, so they come indoors along with everything else.
Are moonshine snake plants toxic to pets?
UNfortunately yes, all snake plants contain saponins in the leaves. Saponins are somewhat toxic to pets as well as humans and may lead to gastrointestinal issues or irritation in the mouth and vomiting.
Needless to say, these plants are not meant to be ingested. I am fine having my moonshine snake plant around my cats, though, because they don’t bother them at all. One has no teeth and the other prefers to grass and throw it up <eye roll>
You know your pets best, though—if your cats or dogs (or kids) are exceptionally curious and nibbly, you should keep the moonshine snake plant out of reach. Also check out my post about 16 plants that aren’t toxic to pets.
Moonshine snake plant issues
These plants are incredibly low maintenance, so there isn’t much else to worry about. However, there are a few things to keep on your radar.
Moonshine snake plants are not very vulnerable to pests. I have never had any serious pest issues with any snake plants, though spider mites, mealybugs, fungal infections aren’t unheard of.
I have a post all about how to get rid of spider mites on houseplants. I don’t have a post about mealybugs yet, but I can tell you that they are nasty little cotton-looking things. If you see clear sap residue or ants around your plant, check for mealys and treat with a houseplant insecticide.
Root rot and yellowing leaves
Moonshine snake plants are also vulnerable to issues that stem from overwatering. Overwatering will lead to root rot, which is pretty much the fastest way to kill a snake plant. Follow the directions in the watering and soil section of this post to avoid it.
If you suspect your snake plant has root rot, take it out of the soil, trim off dead or dying (usually yellowing) leaves, trim off any mushy dark roots, let dry for an hour or so to air out, and then repot with fresh well-draining soil.
How to propagate a moonshine snake plant
I have a super popular post all about the many ways to propagate a snake plant. I’ve tried them all! Definitely check that post out, but here’s a rundown of the best ways to propagate a moonshine snake plant.
Propagate a moonshine snake plant by division
Propagating a moonshine snake plant by division is basically just cutting a piece of a plant off of the main plant to make two plants. So it’s kind of the cheater propagation way…but it’s immediate!
- Remove the plant from the soil and look at the rhizome structure. (Rhizomes are the large white root systems that connect the different parts of the snake plant under the soil.)
- Use a clean knife to cut a rhizome in half, severing a baby (or offshoot) from the mother plant. Let that baby callus over for a day or so on a table.
- Plant in well-draining soil and keep moist for a few weeks. When you tug the plant and are met with resistance, drop watering down to normal snake plant levels.
Propagate a moonshine snake plant by leaf cuttings
You can also propagate snake plants using a single leaf. It takes forever, but it’s pretty incredible! Here’s how to do it.
- Cut a single leaf into 2–3 inch long pieces. Make sure to remember which way was up!
- Plant in well-draining soil. Keep moist.
- Roots will eventually form and a new plant will sprout.
Propagating in LECA…
You could also take a single leaf cutting and put it in water or LECA (clay balls). Change water every 1–2 weeks. Once the leaf develops some nice roots (several months usually), you can plant it.
I have not propagated a ton of snake plant cuttings in LECA, but I will tell you this: my whale fin snake plant leaf cutting sat in water forever and didn’t do a thing. When I transferred it to LECA, it exploded with growth! See my post all about how to root plant cuttings in LECA for more.
Moonshine vs. night owl snake plant
The hahnii night owl snake plant is often confused with the moonshine. But since it’s a hahnii (whereas the moonshine is a trifasciata), it’s a totally different type of plant. Hahnii snake plants tend to be short and stout, spreading out instead of growing up. The night owl also has a light color, but unlike the moonshine, it has a yellowish border.
Moonshine vs. gray lady snake plant
“Gray lady” is another sansevieria variety that moonshine is often confused with. Gray lady has narrow light greenish gray leaves. However, from what I’ve seen online, it appears the leaves are a bit thinner and it has some more distinct gray banding.