Plant Sheet: Snake Plant (Dracaena – formerly Sansevieria – trifasciata)

The Snake Plant is a plant everyone has seen before in some public buildings, hospitals, offices, massage studios, and many other places. It makes for a great eye-catcher in any corner, given its tall and upright leaves and overall very modern, calming looks.

In its natural habitat, the Snake Plant (Dracaena – formerly Sansevieria – trifasciata) grows in arid, rocky areas in the tropical and subtropical climates of Western Africa. Overall, it is a very undemanding plant with low water requirements. It prefers bright indirect light but can also do with shade.

If you are looking for an easy-to-care-for houseplant and you like consistency, the Snake Plant is a good choice for you. Read on to learn more about the specific traits of this plant type.

Important Note: The botanical classification of the Snake Plant was changed in 2017. It is no longer regarded as part of the Sansevieria family but rather of the Dracaena one. As I got so used to calling it Sansevieria and most people know her by that name, I will keep referring to it by that name in this article. But botanically speaking, we should be calling it Dracaena from now on!

Origin and Natural Habitat of Sansevieria trifasciata

The Snake Plant, also called the Viper’s Bowstring Hemp, is native to Western Africa and grows in dry, tropical climates. In its natural habitat, it likes dry wastelands, rocky coastal regions, as well as the margins of forests where it gets partial shade from the trees.

Sansevierias grow out of a web-like rhizome underground and they have sword-like stiff and evergreen leaves with a banded pattern that grow tall and bolt upright.

Brighten Up Sansevieria’s Day: Light and Water Requirements

The Snake Plant likes bright spots with lots of indirect light and it can even take some direct sunlight. It can also do in shadier spots but just won’t grow much without light. What you certainly should avoid (as with any plant, really) is moving it from a dark into a bright spot all of a sudden. Let it adapt step-by-step to different light conditions.

As for the water requirements, the Snake Plant is an arid plant and does not need much water at all. Do only water it whenever the soil is completely dried out.

A Sansevieria’s Guide to Happiness: Care Tips

The Snake Plant is a true low-maintenance plant, it doesn’t take much care. It prefers to be left alone most of the time. It grows better when we “forget” about it for some time because usually, most plant owners tend to give it too much water.

  • Do not overwater: This plant naturally grows on very dry landscapes and is used to periods of drought. Too much water will cause root rot very fast, so try to minimize watering and only give it a good rinse once the soil has completely dried out.
  • Do not pour water over the center of the rosette: The rosette (the very middle of the plant) is very sensitive. Instead, water the soil around the plant.
  • Do not fertilize too much: This plant is naturally a slow grower. Please do not give it as much fertilizer as you would other houseplants. A couple of times per year is already enough.
  • Plant it in a wide pot: Preferably pot it in a low and wide pot rather than a high and narrow one to prevent it from toppling over as its leaves grow taller.

How to Propagate Sansevieria trifasciata

You can divide the plant as soon as it produces offsets. The offsets can easily be taken apart and put in water or soil to take root. You can also take leave cuttings and let them take root. Both methods work fine.

Compared to other houseplants, the Snake Plant takes its time to root well. It can take 1-4 months for cuttings and offsets to root. If you have a big plant, a faster way to propagate it would be to divide up the mother plant into separate plants.

Sansevieria Superpowers

Sansevierias bring along high drought resistance skills. Being a succulent, Snake Plants can store enough water in their leaves to keep hydrated for 2-3 weeks in summer and even more than a month in the cooler wintertime.

Another superpower this plant has is that, contrary to most plants, it does not release CO2 at night but instead, it releases oxygen at night. This is thanks to a metabolic process that succulents have developed due to the very arid and hot climates they inhabit. This process is called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) or CAM photosynthesis.

Plants evaporate water and exchange gases through their stomata during photosynthesis activity. However, in hot and arid regions, a plant would lose way too much water by opening its stomata during the daytime. That’s why such plants developed CAM photosynthesis with which they can exchange gases at nighttime when it is cooler, and store CO2 in their cells until daytime when they can do photosynthesis with the sunlight.

It’s kind of like doing photosynthesis but the other way around. This makes the Snake Plant a great plant to have in your bedroom!

Related Questions

What Is the Best Soil for Indoor Plants?

Arid plants like the Snake Plants prefer to have well-draining soil when kept indoors as they do not tolerate sitting in water very well. For most indoor plants, a mix of humus and well-draining matter makes for good soil for them. Find out how to make your own soil mix suitable for most indoor plants right here!

How to Water Your Houseplants?

Especially for arid plants such as the Snake Plant, overwatering is the number one enemy. Learn more about what common watering mistakes you should avoid and how you water your houseplants the right way!

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