SNAKE PLANT (SANSEVIERIA)
Snake plants are a staple for your collection – period. Once you start paying attention you will notice them everywhere. Native to West Africa, they are scientifically classified as dracaena though were formerly and more commonly considered sansevieria. Often referred to as mother in law’s tongue, they add a striking vertical element to any room with their thick spiking leaves. The best thing about snake plants is that they are virtually impossible to kill.
This particular variety of snake plant is known as sansevieria trifasciata ‘laurentii’ and is characterized by beautiful bright yellow edging on each of the thick green leaves.
Snake plants thrive on neglect. They only need to be watered every two to six weeks, depending on a variety of factors. If they are in a bright spot, they will likely need to be watered more often than in a dark corner. Also, they should be watered less in the winter when they are resting. The only thing you need to be careful of is overwatering. If you are not sure if you should water your snake plant yet, stay on the safe side and wait a week to steer clear of root rot.
Sunlight and humidity
Snake plants do best in medium light but will do well from low light to bright indirect light. Avoid direct light because the leaves can burn. Note that the bright yellow variegation on the outside edges of the snake plant laurentii may slightly fade in low light.
As for humidity, these plants can handle very versatile conditions without issue.
You can propagate snake plants in multiple ways. The simplest way is by division. You unpot the plant and divide up the leaves (with their respective roots) into two or three groups and then repot them all. This method gives you attractive and mature looking plants right away. Another common method is through cuttings. You simply need to snip off the top two to five inches of a leaf and either place it directly into soil or let it sit with the bottom in water until it develops roots. It does take a matter of weeks for the cuttings to develop roots, so be patient.
Benefits and toxicity
Snake plants were named by NASA as excellent air-purifying house plants. They remove formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, chloroethylene, and toluene from the air as well as produce oxygen throughout the nighttime which few house plants do.
Snake plants are poisonous to people and animals, so make sure to keep these out of reach of any little ones or furry friends.
Cleaning and Pruning
If there is any dead or badly damaged growth you should remove it so that the plant allocates its energy elsewhere. Beyond that, pruning is optional for aesthetic adjustments.
Fertilizer and type of soil
Snake plants are not picky about soil. Any well-draining potting soil should do the job. Fertilizing should only be done about two or three times in the entire growing season with a succulent or general house plant fertilizer.
Pests and problems
Snake plants are quite pest resistant. Although it is uncommon, they can get mealybugs and spider mites. If you suspect that your plant has either pest, you can rinse off all of the leaves and then spray or wipe them down with either neem oil or a mild dish soap and water mixture. You should continue to do this until you no longer see signs of pests.
If a leaf on your snake plant begins to become brown or mushy, it likely has a disease. This is not a big deal. Use a clean pair of shears to cut off this leaf and your plant should suffer no further consequences.
Snake plants are rather fond of growing root bound so repotting is rarely a necessity. If you plant them in a much bigger pot, they will eventually grow to fill it. If you want them to stay petite, keep them in a smaller pot and cut back leaves or remove rhizomes as needed.
For these plants, I highly recommend terra cotta pots as they breathe, preventing root rot. If you use a plastic or ceramic pot, pay extra attention to how much you water (in other words, forget to water it so it has lots of time to dry out).
For a plant like this, sometimes the best thing you can do is set it and forget it for long periods on end. These plants are spectacular, unique, and easy. Every plant parent needs to have at least one.