Sansevieria (snake plants): Care, Types & Varieties, Propagation, and Watering

Sansevieria is one of the most common indoor plants. It is famous among plantsmen and newbies alike due to its amazing adaptability and beautiful features. This plant has adaptations to survive in areas with low light and little water or moisture. It is great if you’re new to the whole “green fingers” thing. Maybe you’re looking to start with something low maintenance. Sansevieria is the right choice for you. Perfect for your bedroom or living room, this plant will surely brighten and freshen up your space without a lot of hassle. You won’t have to worry about it every day.

sansevieria

What are snake plants?

We want you to delve into the world of nurturing plants seamlessly, so we carefully crafted this guide on how to care for snake plants. Read through our list of types and some important things to consider before starting your journey of tending these. By the end, you can choose which variety of Sansevieria is perfectly suited for you and your home.

Are they safe or toxic to cats and dogs?

If pets and plants are what make your heart light with joy, you must be aware that some can be harmful to your pets. Despite all their wonders and benefits, snake plants can also be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. They contain saponins, which are natural toxins they use as protection against fungi. These saponins can irritate the gastrointestinal tract when ingested. It’s due to their ability to destroy red blood cells, thereby causing diarrhea and vomiting.

When ingested in small quantities, saponins are usually harmless to both mammals and other warm-blooded animals. They’ll only produce short-term symptoms. But if consumed in moderate to large amounts, saponins will cause a range of trouble. It includes nausea and pain. It can also cause diarrhea. If you notice your pets exhibiting symptoms of poisoning and you own one of these, contact your local veterinarian. Keep them out of your pets’ reach as much as possible. And keep an eye on your pets when they go near any type to ensure their safety.

Benefits

Sansevieria plants have various benefits besides being ornamentals. It has medicinal properties and can be a source of strong elastic fibers. But the most significant benefit of having these in your home is their ability to remove indoor pollutants in the air.

two sansevierias
  • As a medicinal addition:

A study by Takariwa & Nordal (2002) summarized the medicinal uses they have. It included treatment of hemorrhoids and toothache. It also had good properties for earaches and wounds. There were even more benefits. 

  • As a source of strong elastic fibers:

The foliage is a great source of strong elastic fibers. These fibers are used to manufacture ropes and bowstrings. They can also be used for clothing.

  • As an air purifier:

Multiple studies have shown the benefits of having indoor plants in purifying the air. They were among the common indoor plants that NASA studied. Results showed that Sansevieria could remove organic pollutants like benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE). They’re also great at getting rid of formaldehyde from the air.

A study by Rajapandian et al. (2017) developed a strategy to rank indoor plants on their ability to purify the air. Snake plants ranked 5th among the 38 studied, able to efficiently remove the most dangerous indoor pollutants.

Types of Sansevieria & its Varieties

Sansevieria is native to tropical western Africa. It also thrives in other tropical and subtropical parts of the world like Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean. Consisting of about 70 species, it has a range of names associated with this species. Some of them include snake plants and mother-in-law’s tongue. Less common ones are cow tongue and devil’s tongue. You’ll also find some referring to them as bow-string hemp and good luck plant. However, the name ‘Snake Plant’ is the most commonly used one. This name is sometimes considered synonymous with almost all species of Sansevieria. Below, you will notice that the other common names usually reflect the appearance of their foliage.

  • Sansevieria trifasciata (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” or “Common Sansevieria”)

This is one of the most famous and common types of Sansevieria, with over 20 varieties being sold worldwide. Common Sansevieria’s foliage consists of dark green leaves with light gray-green cross banding. Below are some varieties that we think will suit your tastes. They have gorgeous color strokes and shapes. You’ll fall in love with their beautiful patterns.

Image source: @succsandpups 

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (“Variegated Snake Plant” or “Goldband Sansevieria”) – This cultivar is one of the most popular options. It has an eye-catching contrast between the green foliage and its golden margins.

Image source: The Sill

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ (“White Sansevieria”) – For the minimalists, this cultivar of Sansevieria is definitely for you. It has donning alternating variable patterns of white and dark green stripes on its tall thin foliage. This lush option will surely complete your aesthetic while giving you fresh air.

Image Source: foreverplanty

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Gold’ (“Black Gold Snake Plant” or “Black Gold Sansevieria”) – Like ‘Laurentii,’ the deep green leaves have light yellow- or gold-colored margins. It creates a wonderful contrast. This contrast is made more apparent by the black-green banding on its foliage. 

Image source: Hudson + Oak

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Twist’ (“Twisted Sister Snake Plant”) – This has twisted leaves, as its name suggests. With green horizontal stripes and yellow variegated edges, you’ll love it. This cultivar is a dwarf Sansevieria, growing only up to 12-15 inches. It will fit perfectly in your workspace.

Image source: Cellar Door Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ (“Birdnest Sansevieria” or “Bird’s Nest Snake Plant”) – This has short funnel-shaped dark green glossy leaves. Despite the lack of bloom of this cultivar, its vase-shaped rosette foliage never fails to look good anywhere.

Image source: White Flower Farm

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’ — ‘Futura Superba’ resembles the cultivar ‘Laurentii,’ but its leaves are shorter and broader. The leaves have narrower yellow or gold margins, and each rosette contains more leaves compared to Black Gold. This cultivar is perfect for you if ‘Laurentii’ is your favorite type, but you want something smaller.

Image source: Costa Farms

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Robusta’ (“Robust Sansevieria”) – ‘Robusta’ resembles ‘Futura Superba’ because you can get the former upon propagating the cuttings of the latter cultivar. ‘Futura Superba’ has yellow margins, while this variety has silvery green leaves with dark green cross-bands. Both cultivars have broad leaves and a robust growth habit. 

Image Source: Pigment

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’ (“Golden Bird’s Nest Sansevieria” or “Golden Hahnii Snake Plant”) – This compact rosette cultivar grows only up to six inches tall. It has light green leaves with thick gold margins. 

Image Source:  suculentas.com

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Hahnii’ (“Silver Birdnest Sansevieria”) – Another compact cultivar, growing only up to ten inches tall. It has silvery gray-green leaves with dark green margins, all arranged in rosettes. 

Image source: In Succulent Love

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Queen’ (“Silver Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” ) – The young leaves of this cultivar are silvery gray-green in color with dark green margins. As it matures, the leaves darken. The silver-gray foliage is narrow and grows upright, with a vase rosette formation.

Image Source: Exotic Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ (“Black Coral Sansevieria”) – This elegant cultivar has silvery gray-green variegated foliage that can grow up to 36 inches in height. Like the other cultivars, this type forms a basal rosette. 

Image Source: Garden Goods Direct

  • Sansevieria Francisii – This rare variety is a compact and herbaceous option, with its spike-like leaves spirally arranged. Its foliage has dark green vertical lines and a slightly rough texture.

Image Source: Greenery Unlimited

  • Sansevieria ‘Cleopatra’ – This is a rare hybrid, a gorgeous hard-to-find type that many collectors aim to add to their collection. It has a beautiful intricate pattern on its leaves, and its leaf margins are burgundy to brown in color. Its foliage forms a rosette, giving it a lush look.

Image Source: Sobesuccs

  • Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel’ (“Starfish”) – This is another rare, hard-to-find succulent. Its leaves are short and cylindrical. They are fleshy and grey-green in color. Dark green concentric circles up to the pointed tips will catch your attention. The foliage is spread out like a fan that resembles a starfish.

Image Source: AYANAS

  • Sansevieria zeylanica (“Bowstring Hemp” or “Ceylon Bowstring Hemp”) – The dark-green leaves of Bowstring Hemp are sword-shaped with pointed tips and are adorned with light gray-green bands. This closely resembles S. trifasciata. It’s the reason some mistakenly sell Common Sansevieria as Bowstring Hemp.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria ehrenbergii ‘Samurai’ (“Samurai Dwarf”) – This hard-to-find compact cultivar is a favorite of many. It has a short stature that only grows up to 4-6 inches tall. It has V-shaped leaves with a reddish tint along the margins. This dwarf plant is the perfect ornament for small spaces like your office table.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria Stuckyi or Dracaena Stuckyi – It has stiff, upright cylindrical leaves. They are dull green in color and adorned with dark green bands. It can grow up to 2 meters tall.

Image Source: mentor100.blogsot.com

  • Sansevieria Masoniana (“Whale Fin,” “Shark’s Fin,” or “Mason’s Congo”) – It is named after the leaves’ unique shape. The leaves are dark green in color with light green spots and reddish tinted margins. It can grow up to 4 feet long and 10 inches wide.

Image Source: Plant Circle

  • Sansevieria Pinguicula (“Walking Sansevieria”) – The common name came from the behavior of its leaves when it matures. The leaves elongate and migrate to the distichous. Its leaves are thick and fleshy and blue-green in color. They are concave-angular from base to apex, with reddish-brown margins. They are arranged in a rosette.

Image Source: Charlotsy on Reddit

  • Sansevieria ‘Fernwood’ (“Fernwood Sansevieria”) – A rare hybrid option, ‘Fernwood’ is perfect for tabletops or countertops. Its foliage consists of dark green narrow cylindrical leaves with light green banding. T new ‘Fernwood Mikado’ hybrid has a more elegant look with its mature leaves arching slightly outwards. It results in foliage that resembles the shape of a fountain.

Image Source: (L to R) Plantscapers & Hortology

Growing: Care and Propagation

Since they are xerophytes (Gr. xeros “dry,” phuton “plant”), they have adaptations that allow them to survive in dry environments. They thrive in deserts. These adaptations make them highly resilient. It is why these are the perfect options for people who are too busy or do not want to tend to a plant frequently. Leaving them alone for a week in their preferred environment would do them little to no harm. Some may even thrive better since these are sensitive to overwatering.

You have to remember three things when it comes to growing one. They want less water. Give them indirect sunlight. Make sure they have an adequate temperature. Read further to know more about how fast they grow and the environmental conditions best suited for growth. You’ll find out how to propagate it if you want to expand your plant collection.

How fast do they grow? 

If your Sansevieria isn’t growing noticeably, you don’t have to panic. They are one of the slowest-growing ones you can find. They might be easy to grow, requiring minimal effort in terms of watering and propagating. It doesn’t mean the process will be fast. If you placed it in a moderate to low light place, the growth rate would be slow compared to the ones grown outdoors. If you want to boost its growth, you can put it in a well sun-lit place. 

The final height and width would depend on its species or cultivar. S. trifaciata ‘Laurentii’ grows to up to 1-3 feet, depending on its environmental conditions. And as expected, compact or dwarf cultivars can only grow up to a few inches high. Examples include such as the Samurai Dwarf, which can only grow up to 6 inches tall.

sansevieria on a plastic container

If yours is not a dwarf or compact variety, there are ways to stunt its growth if you want it to fit in a small area. The first thing to do is to limit the pot’s size. They will be root-bound and prevent growth away from the base. Another way is to cut the tip of the leaves to limit the growth in their height.

You may have found a pretty snake plant and brought it home without a clue about its species. In that case, we can help you figure out what type it is.

Time needed: 5 minutes.

How do I know what kind of snake plant I have?

  1. Check the border of leaves.

    If the leaves’ ends are yellow or golden-like, your snake plant is likely sansevieria trifasciata.

  2. Check the color

    If the color of the snake plant is grayish-green, you might have the sansevieria “Futura robusta” species.

  3. Check the size and shape.

    If the leaves are long and distorted, you may have a twisted sister sansevieria on your hands. If the leaves are small compared to most snake plants and the leaves are yellow and green, you may have a ‘golden hahnii’ or Birds Nest.

  4. Check the height

    Suppose the height of the snake plant stands out for you. It may be a Sansevieria Laurentii, one of the most popular varieties of snake plants.

How do I grow and take care of them?

Depending on the environmental conditions, it can either thrive or die. Luckily for everyone, they can survive in moderate to low light environments. If you want to boost its growth, it would be best to place your plant in well-lit rooms. It allows it to receive bright and steady indirect or filtered light. Some types can produce flowers. If you want to stimulate the production of its inflorescence, you can expose it to direct sunlight.

Although they are resilient, it is important to transition gently from one setup to another. Íf you plan to transfer it from a dim room to outdoors, first place it in an area where it can receive steady indirect light. This should be done for a few weeks before transferring it outdoors.

transplant fertilizer

Water and the best soil

The amount of water is significantly less than other options that may need daily watering. It ranges from once a week to once a month. Watering frequency depends on the temperature or the area they are placed in. Less water is needed for ones situated indoors or in shaded areas. It is especially the case if the temperature is cool and the soil used is moisture retentive. The simplest way to know if it is time to water is to check dry soil. Underwatering would do little harm, but overwatering is a sure way to kill it.   

This is why we prefer to put ours on a shelf, situated in a well-lit room where they can receive sufficient indirect light. Placing them outdoors where rain can reach them is not ideal. Maybe you’re worried about mold or fungi infestation on your shelves due to the chances of it getting wet while watering the plants. I suggest you use a shelf made up of a material that won’t allow fungus growth that easily. One example is this marine-grade plywood which can survive repeated contact with water. It is made up of high-quality wood that is cross-laminated and held together by waterproof glue. While we’re on the topic of making shelves, you might be interested in checking out wide belt sanders. They can make woodworking much easier.

Soil

They grow better in a fast-draining potting mix because snake plants are sensitive to water and are prone to root rot. A sandier mix of potting soil would be ideal to allow drainage. You can buy commercially available all-purpose cactus or succulent potting soil. It is perfect for water-sensitive plants. Suppose you’re worried about soil-borne diseases and carrying harmful microorganisms into your home. You can opt for a soilless potting mix instead. Just make sure that the mix allows proper water drainage.

Temperature

Snakes don’t like the cold, and neither do these plants. Xerophytes are native to Africa and thrive in tropical and subtropical areas. They fare terribly at a temperature below 50 ℉, especially in freezing temperatures. The ideal temperature is around 70-90 ℉. Make sure to never leave them outdoor during winter. They’ll surely die after a few hours of exposure to freezing temperatures.

Of course, this temperature rule extends to the water you use for them. Even if they cannot nag at you when you give them cold water, you’ll surely see the effects of exposing them to the cold. After a few days, you’ll see things such as browning and mushy leaves. Take that extra step towards the faucet that can give you warm water. Let that tap run until you get the right temperature so that it won’t suffer during watering. If you want to remove the shortage of hot water in your home, install a good hot water recirculating pump system

How do I repot it?

They grow slowly. If you expose them to ample sunlight, they might grow more rapidly. The first thing to consider when repotting is the sturdiness of your pot and the presence of drainage holes. Choose a material that would be sturdy enough to handle strong roots and cramped space. This is because they prefer to be root-bound, unlike other succulents. In simpler words, they were potted in a cramped space. You’ll only need to report it if you notice overgrowth signs like roots sticking out of the drainage hole.

To repot, fill the new pot with a fresh succulent potting mix or soil up until only a third of the pot isn’t filled. Get your snake plant from the old pot gently by holding a hand on top of the soil and then gently turning the pot upside down. If it does not pop out of the pot, tap the sides or water the soil for a bit to loosen it up. Place it in the freshly filled pot, ensuring that it isn’t above the pot’s rim. Adjust the level by adding or removing the soil. Situating it an inch or two below the rim would be ideal. Lastly, let it adjust to the new environment and establish its roots before watering it.  

How do I propagate it?

Propagating them is pretty straightforward. You can either divide by cutting yours in half, or you can use cuttings or rhizome cuttings. Maybe you want to preserve the variegation. The former will give you your desired result compared to leaf or rhizome cuttings. 

Propagating via division

It’s important to use a sharp knife when cutting your plant in half for a clean and swift cut. Cut yours in half right down the middle. Then pot each half separately. Do not water or add anything to the newly potted plants. Wait for a few days until it establishes roots.

Propagating leaf cuttings

With a sharp knife or garden shears, cut a leaf. Make sure that your cut is close to the base. Cut the leaf into different sections. Mark the part of each section closest to the base since this is where the roots will take form. Let the cuttings dry out for a few days.

Fiskar shears

Next, ready your pot with fresh succulent soil and plant the cuttings. Make sure that the marked bottom is the one touching the soil. Let your cuttings grow into a new snake plant in an area with steady indirect sunlight. For cuttings, you do not need to wait for the roots to establish before misting the cuttings. Mist it once a day to keep it moist but not wet. Only water as usual once it grows larger, about the same size as the baby plants sold in gardens.

Propagating rhizome cuttings

This process is essentially the same as using leaf cuttings. Spot a rhizome that has already sprouted a leaf. Do not use rhizomes that have not sprouted yet. Use a sharp knife to cut it as close as possible to the bottom. Let the cutting dry out for a few days. Plant it in a newly filled pot, with the cut facing the soil. Like leaf cuttings, only mist the newly potted rhizome cuttings. Only water once it matures enough to handle the water.

Suppose you’re someone who’d like to make your fresh produce in your very own apartment. You might want to know a few more things that can help you propagate them. Propagating large amounts with different water and soil requirements can get taxing. Hydroponic farming eliminates the need for soil and allows you to utilize vertical gardens. It gives you the freedom to grow them in small areas like your apartment in the middle of the city. For someone who owns a business doing it, you might want to check out these fuel transfer tanks. You can use them to store not only fuel but also water and fertilizer.

How many types of snake plants are there?

This snake plant is also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue. It is a great survivor of any weather, even without sun or water. There are around 70 types of snake plants, give or take. Some examples are Sansevieria Gracilis, Sansevieria patens, Sansevieria Cylindrica, etc.

Which variety of snake plants is best?

Since they absorb formaldehyde and benzene, snake plants make for great air purifiers. Sansevieria cylindrica and moonshine snake plants are some of the most beautiful and well-known snake plant varieties. Mason’s congo is also a beauty. Sansevieria Laurentii is the best air purifying plant out of all.

How often do you water sansevieria?

Snake plants are tough survivors and can last without water for several days. It’s a good idea to water them at least every 2-3 days. You can also check the soil for dryness and water accordingly.

Is sansevieria an indoor plant?

As sansevieria grows best in filtered sunlight, it can flourish in any corner of your home. Even in the darkest and most unexpected corners, a snake plant will grow just fine.