Plant Spotlight: Snake Plant


Photo by Jonathan Borba // Unsplash

This laidback plant is a staple of indoor greenery for good reason. It's one of the easiest plants to take care of. Bright light? Low light? Forgetful or too busy to water? No problem. The snake plant is all chill. Its official name was sansevieria trifasciata until 2017 when it was re-classified as dracaena trifasciata due to new discoveries in their DNA. Colloquially across the world, it has many other names, such as Saint George's sword, viper's bowstring hemp, or (most hilariously) mother-in-law's tongue. While it is native to the tropics of West Africa, from Nigeria to the Congo, it is more of an arid plant, making it highly tolerant of bright light and dry, drought-prone conditions.



LIGHT

The snake plant's adaptability to light is one of the reasons it is so easy to care for. It is an arid plant, so it will prefer as much bright light as possible. The more light it can get, the larger and faster it will grow. However, it is also wonderfully tolerant of low light conditions, making it a common decor choice to spruce up dark corners and dim offices. This does not mean it can survive with zero light, but as long as it has access to some amount of sunlight at some point during the day, it will happily be the green addition to your space. For more tips on giving your plants the proper amount of light, check out my lighting guide.



WATER AND SOIL

Because of its preference for dry conditions, over-watering is one of the snake plant's only weaknesses and makes it the perfect plant for those who are too busy or tend to forget to water. A simple way to help prevent root rot in a snake plant is by waiting until its soil is completely dry before watering. As an extremely hardy plant, it can go days and days with super dry soil. I highly recommend using a moisture meter for accurate moisture level readings, rather than just using a finger and guessing, especially because while the top layer of soil may appear to be dry, the lower levels (where the roots are) may still hold a decent amount of water. Additionally, use a well-draining soil mix that contains ingredients that help the water drain through rather than retain it, such as perlite, orchid bark, etc. For more tips on properly watering your plants, check out my watering guide.


HUMIDITY

Again, the snake plant prefers dry conditions, so it is unnecessary to give it extra humidity. Normal household levels are perfectly fine.


Photo by Leonardo Iheme // Unsplash

VARIETIES

The snake plant has the advantage of coming in many different colors, shapes and sizes. Common varieties tend to be tall and strappy, like the zeylanica with its dark and sultry stripes or the laurentii with its striking gold edges. If you have less space to work with, there are short and compact snake plants, like the robusta or gold hahnii. For those looking for more quirky shapes, there are varieties with thin and/or sprawling leaves, like the cylindrica, the patens and the twist. One of the most trendy varieties that has exploded in popularity within the past couple years is the aptly-named whale fin snake plant. There are so many different kinds, you are sure to find one that speaks to you!


My snakey // November 2, 2020

MY EXPERIENCE

My snake plant was one of the first houseplants that I ever owned. While it isn't the fullest, prettiest specimen and has never really been a highlight of my collection, it continues to be a stress-free joy to keep in my space. I originally wanted to use it to spruce up my bedroom, where it tends to be a bit darker. It sat right in front of a morning-lit window with the shades always closed, so the light tended to be weak. It never showed any sign of begrudging that light, but didn't really show any signs of growth either. It simply existed there.


I eventually felt a bit guilty for it, and when I brought it into my nice and bright living room, its growth exploded. It grew so tall in such a short amount of time, that it started to lean a bit too dangerously within its highly shatter-able (is that even a word?) ceramic pot. I didn't think it was ready yet for a larger pot - snake plants tend to like being root-bound and large pots also facilitate more water retention, which is of course a no-no for snake plants. Instead, I made the tough decision to snip off a bit of the top to keep it from falling over. I planted the cutting right back into the soil to propagate, and while it sadly didn't root, I was just happy that my snakey was happy. This happened over a year ago, and since then it has of course continued to grow. I've moved it into a larger, taller pot to accommodate its various new pups and its even larger height.


Photo by Kara Eads // Unsplash

While I don't think that snake plants in general have the popularity of, say, monsteras, I think that they are super special in making indoor plants highly accessible. They are a great way to ease beginners into the world of cultivating an indoor garden, and for that, they have my utmost respect. Maybe one day I'll pick up a moonshine?