Snake plants are tough, require minimal care, and are fun to grow. In this post, I’ll tell you all you need to know in order to take care of your mother-in-law’s tongue plant.
There are few plants better for beginners to grow than the snake plant. They’re low maintenance, don’t require much attention, and are beautiful indoors or outside.
These stunning specimens look amazing as the focal plant in mixed containers or garden beds, and are equally stunning on their own.
In this snake plant care guide you’ll learn how to provide the best soil, water, and light to keep them thriving.
I’ll also give you tips for repotting, propagating, and troubleshooting any problems you might have.
Snake Plant Quick Care Overview
|Common names:||Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue|
|Flowers:||White/cream blooms mid-summer|
|Light:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Water:||Allow soil to dry between waterings, do not overwater|
|Humidity:||Little to none|
|Fertilizer:||General purpose plant food in spring and summer|
|Soil:||Fast-draining, sandy soil|
|Common pests:||Fungus gnats, scale, spider mites, mealybugs|
Information About Snake Plants
Snake plants, or Sansevieria, are tropical succulent-type specimens that are native to Africa. The thick, green foliage grows upward from rhizomes under the soil.
The wide leaves narrow to a taper at the top. This sharp shape is how they got their nickname ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’.
They’re forgiving and can bounce back from a lot of neglect, which makes them ideal for newbies.
Though you can often find small snake plants at garden centers, in the right conditions they can grow very tall – with some types reaching up to 8’.
Different Snake Plant Varieties
There are dozens of varieties of Sansevieria you can grow, and all feature unique coloring or markings on the leaves.
Some of the more popular types include ‘Moonshine’, which has pale silvery leaves that form in a circular crown.
The ‘Twist’ variety has variegated deep and light green leaves that almost coil as they grow upward.
But perhaps the most popular is the ‘Laventii’ or ‘Gold Band’ variety whose leaves have grey/green marbling along the center, and yellow borders.
No matter if you choose only one or several of these, all types of snake plants require the exact same care.
Snake Plant Benefits
There are many benefits to growing a snake plant in your home. They’re fairly hands-off, adapt to different light levels, and are tolerant of drought conditions.
They’re also fairly fast growers in the right conditions, quickly creating a striking vertical point of interest in any room.
But they’re also a great air purifying plant. So even if you ignore them, they’ll be helping to keep your home’s air clean.
Believe it or not, snake plants can flower when given the proper care. The blossoms form on tall stalks, each containing clusters of small, white, fragrant flowers with thin petals that curl back from the central stamens.
It’s very uncommon for them to flower indoors. Even outdoors only mature specimens will bloom.
According to the ASPCA website, snake plants can be toxic to both pets and humans when ingested.
So if you’re concerned, it’s best to keep them out of reach of cats, dogs, and small children that may try to snack on them.
How To Grow Mother-In-Law’s Tongue
Before we talk about the specifics of snake plant care, first I’ll help you pick the best place to grow them. Choosing a good spot will keep them thriving for a long time.
Mother-in-law’s tongues are very sensitive to cold, so they can only be grown outside year-round in zones 10+.
If your region experiences temperatures below 50°F, bring them indoors for winter to prevent frost damage. Prolonged cold exposure will eventually lead to death.
Where To Grow Snake Plants
For gardeners who can grow Sansevieria outdoors all year, plant them in sandy, well-draining soil in a shaded area.
Though some varieties can take the heat and direct sun, most do best in a spot where they’ll be protected from the hot afternoon rays.
For the rest of us, they do very well in containers, and can handle a wide range of indoor conditions.
Indoors, place them in a location where they will get bright, indirect sunlight, in a pot that has well-draining soil, and adequate drainage holes.
Once the temperatures are above 60°F at night in the spring, you can move them outside for the summer if you’d like.
Snake Plant Care & Growing Instructions
With the perfect spot in mind, it’s time to learn exactly how to care for your snake plant. Follow the instructions below for the best results.
One of the many benefits of mother-in-law’s tongue is that they can live happily in either low or bright light conditions.
In dim settings, they may experience slower growth, and the colors can start fading. This is especially true for variegated varieties, or those with yellow leaves.
To prevent these problems, give them bright, indirect sun, or use a grow light indoors. They can tolerate some direct sun during the morning or evening hours, but the leaves may burn in the hot afternoon rays.
Beginners love snake plants because they don’t need a lot of water. In fact, overwatering can lead to root rot.
You’ll only need to water when the soil is dry a few inches down.
In the spring and summer water deeply until it runs out of the bottom, and drain off any excess. In the fall and winter, wait until it’s completely dry.
An inexpensive moisture gauge is a useful tool for anybody who struggles to give their plants the proper amount.
The best temperature for growing Sansevieria is between 55-85°F. When it falls below 50°F, they can start to suffer.
Frost can cause severe damage to the leaves, and below freezing temps will eventually kill the plant.
They can tolerate the heat fairly well. But they’ll need some protection from the intense afternoon sun to prevent burning, and may also need more frequent watering.
Apply it once a month in the spring and summer, then stop completely in the fall in winter.
If you use a water soluble type, be sure not to overwater in the process. You can also use slow-release granules a few times during the spring and summer months.
Whatever type you choose, I always recommend using all-natural products over chemical fertilizers, which can actually damage or burn the plant.
Snake plants are not picky about acidity. Anything from moderately alkaline to acidic is fine, but they do prefer it to be fast draining.
Learn all about the best type of soil to use for them here, and get my recipe to make your own too.
How often you repot mother-in-law’s tongue depends on how quickly it grows.
In ideal conditions, it may need to be done annually. But those kept indoors or in low light conditions won’t need it as often.
You’ll know it’s time when the roots are coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
Choose a pot just 1-2” bigger than the current one, and always bury the rootball at the same depth it was at before. Get the full step by step instructions here.
If you’re happy with the height of your snake plant, there’s no need to prune it as a regular part of your care routine. However, you can trim it back as needed to reduce the size, or to remove dead or damaged leaves.
Use a sharp, sterile pair of precision pruners, and hold the top of the leaf. Then cut horizontally across the bottom as close to the soil line as possible.
It’s best to work from the outside in to maintain the appearance, but you can also target the tallest leaves to reduce height. In that case, cut them at the same angle as the leaf tips to maintain their natural shape.
Pest Control Tips
When given the proper care, healthy snake plants rarely have any issues with pests. But on occasion fungus gnats, scale, spider mites, and mealybugs can become a problem.
Mother-In-Law’s Tongue Propagation Tips
Sansevieria propagation is easy with either leaf cuttings or by dividing the rhizomes. This can be a great way to manage one that is rapidly filling its container.
Keep it warm and in a bright location. Either wait for new growth, or repot when the roots are long and hardy. Get the full step by step instructions here.
To divide, use a sharp knife to slice through the rootball. Separate the rhizomes that have roots and at least one leaf. Pot in well-draining soil, and keep it slightly damp until you see new leaves forming.
Troubleshooting Common Snake Plant Problems
Mother-in-law’s tongue is very tolerant, and can recover well from most issues. But to keep them thriving, below are my best tips for fixing some of the more common problems.
Leaves Falling Over
Leaves falling over can be caused by a few different things. If several are falling, it can be either overwatering or lighting extremes.
Let the soil dry out several inches down, then water deeply, and dump all of the excess from the tray. A moisture gauge is a really helpful tool for this.
They’re tolerant of low and bright light. But a lack of light for too long, or too much direct sun can also cause leaves to fall.
If however, it’s just one or two occasionally, there’s nothing to worry about. The weight of heavy leaves can sometimes cause them to bend or crease, and fall. Prune them to maintain the size, and get them standing upright again.
Brown spots on a snake plant are most commonly from fungal disease, pest problems, over or under watering, cold exposure, or chemical buildup in the soil.
Keep the temperature above 60°F, and try to use filtered, distilled or rainwater to prevent build up of salts and chemicals from tap water.
Also make sure you’re watering deeply, but only when the top inch or so of soil has dried out completely.
Brown tips on the other hand are an indication of too much sunlight, fertilizer burn, dehydration, or low humidity.
Keep them out of direct sun, and increase how often you water if the soil is bone dry. If the air in your home is very dry, consider running a humidifier or misting occasionally.
For fertilizer buildup, flush the soil by running water through the container for 2-3 minutes, and letting the excess run off completely.
Yellowing leaves on your mother-in-law’s tongue is usually a sign of overwatering. But it could also be caused by inconsistent watering or bugs.
Trim off any damaged leaves, and allow the soil to dry several inches down before watering again.
However, try not to go for very long periods without any moisture, or allow the soil to become bone dry, as that can be stressful for them.
FAQs About Snake Plant Care
Here I’ve answered the most commonly asked questions about Sansevieria care. But if you don’t see yours, please add it to the comments section below.
Why is it called mother-in-law’s tongue plant?
It’s called mother-in-law’s tongue plant because the long, pointed leaves of the snake plant are said to resemble the sharp tongue of a mother-in-law.
Do snake plants grow fast?
Snake plants can grow fairly fast when given the proper care, including the best light, water, and soil conditions.
How can I make my snake plant grow faster?
You can make your snake plant to grow faster by putting it into bright, indirect light, watering deeply when the soil is dry, and keeping it in a fast draining mix. Occasional feedings with a natural fertilizer will also help.
Should I mist my snake plant?
You don’t need to mist your snake plant, they tolerate low humidity levels very well. However, if it’s extremely arid, they will enjoy occasional misting. Just make sure the leaves never stay wet for long periods of time.
Can you put a mother-in-law’s tongue outside?
You can put your mother-in-law’s tongue outside when it is above 60°F at night. Protect it from the intense afternoon sun, and bring it back inside before it gets too cold.
A Sansevieria is the perfect introductory houseplant for beginners because it requires little care to flourish. With the growing tips in this snake plant care guide, you’ll know how to set yours up to thrive for a long time.
If you’re want to learn how to grow thriving houseplants all year round, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is essential. It will show you all you need to know in order to care for any type of houseplant you have. Download your copy today!
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Share your snake plant care tips in the comments section below.