If you want to grow houseplants, but you don’t get much sunlight in your home, snake plant is a perfect choice. This handsome foliage plant grows naturally in the dense shade of West African tropical forests, so it’s well- adapted to low-light conditions. And it requires little water or fertilizer, making it almost indestructible!
Snake plant grows as an expanding clump of stiff, narrow, erect leaves that are richly patterned with shades of green. It produces spikes of small greenish flowers followed by orange berries—though flowering is fairly rare when it’s grown as a houseplant.
With its strong upright form, snake plant makes a dramatic but easy-care accent almost anywhere in your house.
Common name: Snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue or viper's bowstring hemp
Botanical name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Plant type: Evergreen tropical perennial
Zones: Anywhere as houseplant; outdoors in Zone 11 or warmer
Height: 24 to 36 inches
• Sun: Low to moderate light indoors; shade outdoors
• Soil: Well-drained, coarse- textured, low to moderate fertility
• Moisture: Water minimally, especially in winter.
• Mulch: None
• Pruning: None
• Fertilizer: Diluted soluble fertilizer
• Leaf cuttings
Pests and diseases
• ‘Laurentii’ has yellow leaf margins and is the most widely grown cultivar of snake plant.
• ‘Hahnii’ has a shorter, bird’s nest form, a 6-inch high rosette of marbled green leaves.
• ‘Golden Hahnii’ has the same compact form as ‘Hahnii’ but with wide, yellow leaf margins.
• Grow multiple snake plants in a long, narrow planter for a dramatic effect. Large, elongated containers planted with snake plants can be used as room dividers.
• Be sure to use a well-draining potting mix (cactus mix works well) to prevent overly wet root conditions, which can lead to rot.
• Snake plants tend to be top heavy, so use a heavy clay pot or cache pot to keep them upright.
All in the family
• Snake plant is a member of the agave family (Agavaceae). Some taxonomists have lumped Agavaceae into the much larger Asparagaceae family, but others still treat it as a separate family.
• Other houseplants in the agave family include dracaenas and spider plant.
Where to buy
• Glasshouse Works, glasshouseworks.com
• Stokes Tropicals, stokestropicals.plants.com
Photos by Forest & Kim Starr and Peter A. Mansfeld