Our past successes or failures with indoor plants can lead to two distinct identities—the green-thumb who feels they are able to maintain an abundance of plant babies with seemingly minimal effort, and the not-so-green-thumb who suspects that there is a high likelihood that any potted thing they touch is doomed.
Of course there are many who fall somewhere in-between—those who have some basic ideas about how to care for plants, but then end up with one that is just a bit too high maintenance, or is simply a poor match for their desired level of involvement or environmental conditions.
But what if I told you that there was a plant that was beautiful and easy to take care of…a plant that could add structural interest or drama to your space and ask almost nothing from you in return? Enter the snake plant!
How To Care For A Snake Plant
The snake plant, previously known as Sansevieria and now classified under the genus Dracaena is native to tropical areas of Africa and Asia. It’s become a bit of an “it” plant in the last few years, its structural beauty showcased in home staging, design posts on Instagram, and in architectural magazines.
They just might be the perfect gift for housewarming/hosting or for the kid who’s just moved into their first apartment; they can spruce up a desk space in the office, add a tropical spa-vibe when placed by the bathtub, and even work as natural air filters (a NASA study showed the snake plant to be effective at removing certain pollutants from the air.)
There are also dozens of varietals to choose from (source), so whether you’re looking for one or a whole snake plant community, you can allow your own preferences for height (ranging from half a foot to 12 feet!), shade, and leaf shapes to guide you.
Here’s a quick run-down of everything you need to know about the snake plant to get you started:
Of course even the most low-maintenance plants are going to need water from time to time, but if you are neglectful, or travel a lot and worry about how your plants will fare while you’re away, this might be your perfect match. Snake plants are used to dry conditions, but when they are watered, it should replicate a heavy rain as per their natural environment.
Wait for the soil to feel completely dry when you press your finger into the soil (the bottom of the plant should be pretty dry as well), and then take it to your sink and give the soil a heavy watering, allowing all of the excess water to run through. Never leave your snake plant sitting in water.
You can dust the leaves or wipe with a damp cloth, but the leaves shouldn’t be misted. In the hot tropics, any water that would come into contact with the leaves would evaporate quickly, which doesn’t happen in the home.
One of the best perks of the snake plant is that it can handle life in pretty much any level of light. Its ideal situation is in a place with bright, indirect sunlight, and it will thrive in those conditions; however, if you live in a place with lower light, it will do okay and simply grow much slower.
On the other end of the spectrum, it can also handle plenty of full sun. A plant should never be suddenly moved from one light extreme to the other, so to avoid shocking it, gradually adjust the amount of light if you need to move it around.
As with light and water, once again the snake plant doesn’t ask for much. With an indoor temperature of at least 55 up to around 85, it’ll do just fine (source).
If you’re looking for a happy, faster-growing plant, the warmer end of the spectrum is best. Keep it away from direct heat sources such as radiators, but also from drafts, especially doors and old windows in the winter as the temperature fluctuation can be intense.
The snake plant likes an environment with average humidity, which means that you’ll only need to consider this variable if you live in a very dry or humid place. If you live in an arid environment (or a northern winter, when running the heaters is very drying), you can place a pan of water near your plant so that the water can evaporate in proximity to it without adding too much moisture which can happen if you were to mist the leaves.
On the flip side, if you’re in a very humid environment, you’ll really have to be cautious about how much you water your plant. If it isn’t able to dry out fully, it could lead to root rot and other complications.
As with most indoor house plants, follow a seasonal feeding schedule. Allow it to rest in dormancy in the fall and winter months, and lightly feed it with an all-purpose fertilizer once in the spring and maybe once in the summer if there’s been a lot of growth.
6. Pruning, propagation, and potting
Like other house plants, it’s best to repot your snake plant in the spring. Use a well-draining, all-purpose potting soil, and be sure that the pot is elevated within its overflow dish so that it’s never left sitting in pooled water.
I like to add a few pebbles into the dish before I set the pot in. During growing season, you can prune your snake plant by cutting off old or damaged leaves at the soil line. They are also very easy to propagate, so if you’d like to turn one into a little family, check out this helpful guide.
7. Pet safety
If you have any pets who like to munch on plants, you’ll need to set this one out of reach as it’s been shown to be toxic to animals, especially to dogs and cats, when ingested (source).
Most issues that could arise with your snake plant would likely have to do with overwatering. If this is the case, you might notice the leaves yellowing, dropping prematurely or drooping, or the soil may smell sour or like mildew.
Fungus, bacteria, and insects can become an issue in overwatering situations as well, as they are more drawn towards moist plants that are beginning to weaken and rot. Be sure the soil is left to dry out completely before you water, and if you suspect your plant is suffering from root rot, check out this care guide for more information.
Whether you’re looking to add an element of structural greenery to your interior design, could use a strong vertical compliment to your current roster of plants, are looking for a way to purify the air naturally, or would just really like to have some fuss-free greenery (finally!), the snake plant really is the one to beat.1