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Dracaena trifasciata

Snake Plant

Also known as the mother-in-law's tongue, this common houseplant is resilient and easy to care for, making it a popular choice for indoor plants.

Snake Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Snake Plant on a windowsill

Other names for this plant...

Mother-in-law's tongue Saint George's sword Viper's bowstring hemp

About Snake Plant

The snake plant has become increasingly popular for indoor use over the years, and with good reason. Recognized by its sword-shaped dark green leaves, the plant is aesthetically pleasing and a great addition to any indoor space. However, there's more to it than meets the eye.

The snake plant has several benefits besides the ambiance it brings. Some of these benefits include:

  • Filtering the air indoors

  • Removing pollutants

  • Limiting allergens

  • Improving mental health

  • Boosting the "energy" of a space (according to feng shui)

It's no wonder this low-maintenance beauty has become so popular for indoor use in recent years!

Snake Plant
Photo: IndoorPlants.comSnake plants have sword-like variegated leaves.

Botanical Name

The snake plant is part of the Dracaena trifasciata genus (formerly Sansevieria trifasciata) and is in the Asparagacea (Asparagus) family.

Plant Type

Snake plants are tracheophytes, vascular plants that can grow larger than non-vascular plants. These vascular systems contained in tracheophytes consist of xylem, mainly concerned with the conduction of water and other dissolved minerals, and phloem, which is focused on the conduction of food.

The name tracheophyte means "tracheid plant," which refers to water-conducting cells. These are known as tracheids or tracheary elements and bear a resemblance to the spiral bands in the walls of the trachea of insects.


Snake plants grow natively in the tropical, rocky, and dry habitats of Africa and Asia.


The snake plant is known for its erect, sword-like leaves, though several different types of these houseplants have differing looks. Some cylindrical snake plants have dimensionally round, tube-like leaves. There are also dwarf snake plants and "corkscrew" variations whose leaves tend to twist and turn.

Snake Plant
Photo: IndoorPlants.comThe Snake plant's dark green leaves can also vary, some boasting white vertical stripes, others with bright yellow outlines.

The dark green leaves can also vary, some boasting white vertical stripes, others with bright yellow outlines, and even some that appear almost black.

Types Of Snake Plants

There are over 70 varieties of snake plants, but some of the most popular types for indoor houseplants include:

  • Bird's nest snake plant (Sansevieria hahnii)

  • Twisted sister

  • Black gold

  • Black dragon

  • Bantel's sensation

  • Sansevieria cylindrica (African spear)

  • Dwarf sansevieria

  • Star sansevieria

  • Mason's congo

  • Bowstring hemp (Sansevieria laurentii)

Snake Plant Styling 

Because snake plants are so easy to care for, they make excellent indoor plants. They do best in spacious pots placed in an area with indirect sunlight. They pair well with other large, tropical houseplants, such as Monstera (Swiss cheese plant), ZZ plant, and calathea (prayer plant).

Some styling ideas for snake plants are:

  • On a corner stand

  • In elegant pots

  • Placed on the floor in the corner of a room

  • Next to large windows

  • In a pot hung with macrame

  • Groupings of different-sized snake plants

  • In a corner of the bedroom

  • On a staircase

  • Grouped with succulents and other small plants

  • On the front or back porch, or in a sunroom


These plants do well indoors because they thrive in partial sun. Indirect light is best, but they are so resilient that they can grow in dark corners, low-light areas, or in a window with indirect, bright light. However, the leaves may become floppy and dull if the plant is completely shaded.

Try to avoid direct sunlight, though direct morning sun will usually be okay. If you have your plant in a spot with little light, consider moving it to somewhere with more sunlight for a few hours once a week.


It is important to avoid overwatering. If you give your snake plant too much water, it can cause root rot. A general rule of thumb is to water your plants every two weeks, but you want to ensure that the top two inches of soil are dry before watering.


It is ideal to keep your snake plant in a warm place, ideally above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They are native to warm climates, so anything below this may stunt their growth.


Snake plants are native to dry climates, but they aren't picky about humidity levels due to their hardiness.


These household plants do best with a free-draining potting mix. This ensures that the water does not get trapped in the soil and cause root rot.

Snake plants prefer to be a bit root bound, so repotting is rarely necessary. If you have a fast-growing plant that produces new growth several times throughout the year, you may want to repot every 2-5 years.


Pruning isn’t a part of regular snake plant care. However, if you feel like it is getting too big, you can trim it back using a sharp, clean blade to cut off the leaves at the base. You can also do this for damaged or dead leaves. Make sure to cut it as close to the soil as possible.


Fertilizer isn't necessary, but to enhance growth in these slow growers, you may want to consider feeding your plant with a liquid fertilizer once a month.

Height & Growth

Because there are more than 70 variations in the genus, the size varies quite a lot. Depending on the growing conditions, some snake plants may not grow more than a foot tall, while others could get up to 12 feet tall.

Typically, the snake plant will remain around 1-2 feet tall when grown indoors. Some smaller snake plants top out under a foot tall.


Snake plants are low toxicity to people unless very large quantities are ingested.


The snake plant is toxic to cats and dogs and should be kept out of their reach if they tend to be plant chewers. 

Common Problems 

  • Rot: As mentioned, overwatering or allowing the plant to sit in water can cause the roots to rot, eventually killing your plant.

  • Over-exposure to direct sunlight: This can cause damage to your plant's leaves, causing them to be brown or curl up and fold.

  • Over-watering: This can cause several issues, such as leaves yellowing or browning and eventually falling off, as well as root rot.

  • Too much fertilizer: This can cause brown spots on leaves or tips of leaves.

  • Leaves splitting: This can be caused by dehydration or physical damage to the plant. Cut the damaged leaf off as close to the base as possible.

  • Mealybugs or spider mites: Snake plants are susceptible to both pests, which can cause stunted growth. Quarantine the plant and treat it with a pesticide.

  • Not enough light: When a snake plant does not get enough sunlight, its leaves will grow longer and thinner, reaching for a light source.

How To Propagate Snake Plants

Proper propagation of snake plants is relatively simple. All you have to do is cut off a healthy leaf at the base, making an upside-down V-cut at the bottom. Place the leaf cuttings in a clean jar of water, with the water level just slightly above the V cut. After 3-5 weeks, roots will have started to form, and you can transfer the leaf to the soil.

Make sure to keep the water clean and change it out frequently. Also, when you are cutting the leaf, make sure the cutting tool you are using is sterile and clean.

You can also propagate a snake plant by separating the baby rhizomes from the mother plant at the roots. These should already have an established root system and can be planted directly into the soil.

Snake Plant on a windowsill
Photo: IndoorPlants.comSnake plants can live in a variety of light conditions, I keep mine on my home office window sill.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a snake plant do for your house? 

A snake plant filters indoor air, removing toxins and many allergens and creating a clean environment. What is unique about this houseplant is that it can convert carbon dioxide to oxygen at night, making for a great bedroom plant since it can help regulate healthy airflow.

Can snake plants live without soil?

These plants are very resilient and do not necessarily need soil to grow. They can thrive in water, pebbles, and potting mixes.

Are snake plants poisonous?

Snake plants are toxic to animals and should be kept in a safe place if you have household pets.

Do snake plants like the sun or shade?

Snake plants are very low-maintenance and can thrive in many conditions. Ideally, they would receive indirect sunlight, but they can also survive in brightly lit and low-light areas.

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The Sill say’s...

The Snake Plant Laurentii, or Sansevieria trifasciata, is popular for its incredibly easy-going nature (it can tolerate low light and drought) and its air-purifying capabilities.

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