Horticulture Magazine

Dracaena Trifasciata ‘Snake Plant’ Care & Growing Tips

Dracaena trifasciata plants

Snake Plant Overview

Official Plant NameDracaena Trifasciata
Common Name(s)Snake Plant, Mother in Law’s Tongue
Plant TypeHouseplant
Native AreaWest Africa
Hardiness RatingH1B
ToxicityNone
FoliageEvergreen
FlowersSpikes of small greenish flowers
When To SowYear-Round (Indoors)
Flowering MonthsApril, May
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
0.5 – 1M

Spread
0.1 – 0.5M

Bloom Time
April – May

Soil

Preferred
Loam, sand

Moisture
Well drained

pH
Neutral / Alkaline

If you’re looking for a stylish houseplant that’s easy to take care of, let us introduce you to the snake plant.

Each of this plant’s striking leaves – dark green with a bold yellow border – pierces proudly upward, bringing to mind a pouncing snake or, as the plant’s other names allude to, maybe a sword or similarly sharp-edged implement.

white background and dragon plants in two indoor pots
Just the kind of plant you’d expect to see in an Ikea display

This plant is renowned for being sturdy, and can thrive even in the care of the most laissez-faire gardener. If this is you, then this plant could be just what you need to bring some natural tones to your home. Rather than requiring plenty of tending and delicate care, the snake plant is happy to be bunged on a windowsill and pretty much forgotten about. In this guide, we’ll outline how best to take care of your plant.

What is a snake plant?

Dracaena Trifasciata, as it’s formally known, goes by many other names, too. Some of these include ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ and ‘George’s sword’, both reportedly referring to its sharp edges. With such chauvinistic undertones, it’s easy to see why the name ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ is fading into obscurity. ‘Snake plant’ captures the aesthetic and vibe of the plant nicely, though, and doesn’t cause any offence while doing so.

The plant originally hails from tropical regions of West Africa, ranging from Nigeria to the Congo. Thanks to growing up in these tough conditions, the plant is incredibly hardy, and can easily hold its own inside a temperate living room.

Why grow a snake plant?

One of the most compelling reasons to grow a snake plant is to bring a little bit of nature into your home, without the requirement of putting in much effort. Houseplants can transform a room, and many people favour those which don’t need much looking after. Just the occasional drink of water, and enough vigilance to ensure the plant isn’t left to bake above a hot radiator, for example.

The snake plant is a popular choice for house plants thanks for its hardiness. It’s also visually distinctive, offering something a little different from the succulents and rubber plants so many of us have dotted around the house.

Snake plant care & growing tips

While it doesn’t require much special care, here’s what you need to know to keep your snake plant healthy.

How to grow a snake plant

You can grow snake plant from seed, although seeds are harder to come by and less reliably easy to grow cuttings.

Growing from a cutting is simple. Just whack the cutting in a container with a shallow layer of water covering about a quarter of it. Then leave this in full sun, changing the water every two days, and wait until roots appear. Once the roots have been visible for a few days, gently transfer the cutting into a pot with soil, and you should be good to go.

Where to grow it

Thanks to its tropical origins, this plant prefers full sun and a south- or east-facing aspect. It prefers loamy or sandy soil, and it’s paramount that the soil is able to drain well. Your snake plant won’t thrive in soggy soil!

You’re looking for soil that drains fully every few days. A soil mix designed for succulents should provide the ideal conditions for your snake plant.

Watering

During the summer months, your snake plant will be a very thirsty customer. Expect to water it weekly, gradually dialling back to monthly (or maybe even less frequently) as winter sets in. A good rule of thumb is to push your finger into the soil. If it’s dry at about an inch below the surface, it’s time to add water.

(It should be called a rule of finger, really, shouldn’t it?)

Fertilising

It may not be necessary to fertilise your snake plant, as it’s a fairly rugged specimen. If you notice your plant looking unhealthy, or you’re aware that it’s been a particularly long time since it was fed, though, you can give it a top up.

This plant needs the nutrients found in a cactus or succulent fertiliser. During the peak growing season you can apply fertiliser monthly. Dilute the succulent fertiliser mix so it’s about half mix and half water, and this should satisfy the nutritional needs of your snake plant.

Propagating

While it’s tricky to grow from seed, snake plants are very easy to propagate. In fact, you have three methods. One of which – propagating a cutting in water – we covered earlier. Here are the other two options –

Dividing the roots

If you’ve got access to a mature snake plant, especially one that’s beginning to outgrow the pot it lives in, then division may be your best bet. Here you remove the plant from the soil, gently brush away as much soil from the roots as possible, then look for places where you can tease apart the root system into two or more plants.

multiple snake plants in red plastic pots
Propagate enough times and this could be you

There’s a bit of a knack to this, and it can feel like you’re destroying the plant rather than propagating it, but if you’re gentle and take care to ensure that each new plant has a sufficient number of roots to allow it to grow, you should be OK.

Once you’ve teased apart the root system into two or more plants, just plant each back into its own pot, and wait to see whether they take hold.

Growing a cutting straight into the soil

If you’ve got a cutting, you don’t have to put it in water and wait for roots to appear. Instead, you can simply wait until the site where you removed the cutting from the main plant has ‘healed’, then plant the cutting callous-down into some soil. After a few weeks, it should begin to take root.

One of the drawbacks of this method is that you have to trust the roots will appear, rather than being able to see them before planting.

Whichever option you go for, bear in mind that baby snake plants make fantastic gifts. And because you can take cuttings over and over again, this plant really can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Troubleshooting common problems

Snake plants are generally trouble-free, but they do appeal to a certain type of critter who wants nothing less than to feast on the tasty flesh…

Vine weevils

While famed most for their penchant of taking up residence in sacks of flour aboard pirate ships, weevils are more often found nowadays eating plants and generally making a nuisance of themselves in gardens.

magnified view of a vine weevil sat on a leaf
A vine weevil preparing to wreak havoc on a leaf

Adulty vine weevils like to eat leaves lay eggs, with the resulting grubs then moving on to eat the roots of your plant. All in all, it’s a visit you could do without. Because weevils are quite commonplace in the UK, and because most people grow snake plants indoors where predators can’t keep them in check, you may well find a few.

The first step is to stay vigilant, and to manually remove any weevils from the plant. Check for grubs as well as grown ups. You can then place sticky barriers around the perimeter of your plant, as a means to stop their advancement. If these two methods don’t work, however, you’ll most likely need to move onto pesticides: Products designed specifically to discourage pests (or kill them, depending which potency you go for).

Snakes on a plane in your garden

Samuel L Jackson once proclaimed that he had “had it with these god damn snakes on this god damn plane.” While we can definitely relate, we assure you that you won’t grow tired of these snakes in your lovely home.

Their deep green leaves with strikingly yellow edges will make a fantastic contribution to your interior design, whether working alone, or as part of a troupe of houseplants dotted about the place.

And, because they’re so easy to care for, you’ll get to bask in their aesthetic glory while barely having to lift a finger to ensure their continued survival. Just water occasionally, keep an eye out for weevils, and crack on.

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