The snake plant, or Mother-in-law’s tongue, is a dramatic stately succulent houseplant that’s easy to grow and lends an artistic flair to any room. It grows out from rhizomes which mass together and multiply as the plant gets older. Snake plants can grow from 3 to 8 feet (0.9 to 2.4 m) tall in the right conditions. The plant features sword-shaped leaves that are smooth and almost waxy. The easy nature of snake plant care makes it perfect for almost any interior environment, and it’s a visually striking and tenacious specimen.
Snake plants are perfect gifts to share with the garden-challenged, because they can survive a certain amount of neglect. You can learn how to easily increase your snake plant collection through cuttings, seeds or division. Snake plant cuttings take many weeks to grow, but division will quickly establish a new plant. Seeds, on the other hand, can take years before growing into a mature plant.
In this article we will be covering snake plant seed propagation, snake plant division, snake plant cutting propagation, as well as snake plant water propagation and soil propagation.
Snake Plant Propagation Methods
The snake plant has recently been reclassified into the genus Dracaena, but was formerly known as Sansevieria trifasciata. It’s been in commercial production in the U.S. since the 1920’s. The most common species of this popular foliage plant are Dracaena trifasciata “Hahnii,” and Dracaena trifasciata. They both bear thick, fleshy, sword shaped leaves, the Dracaena trifasciata being the taller of the two. The foliage is marked with bands of darker green bordered by yellow. They are thought to be one of the best plants for cleaning indoor air.
Snake plants can be propagated through seed, but the process is difficult. Seeds are reluctant to germinate and can take up to 6 weeks, even in optimum conditions. Another way to grow this plant is by rooting a frond in water. Snake plant propagation in water is a very easy method, but results in less root growth than rooting its cuttings in soil or other types of media.
The most common and possibly the most successful method of propagation is by division of plantlets that the snake plant naturally produces at maturity.
A quick way to propagate Mother-in law’s tongue is through plant division. Here are some tips on how to divide a snake plant.
Rhizomes house the energy for the plant’s leaf and stem growth. Pull the plant from its pot and use sharp shears or a hand saw to cut the base apart into sections. Usually just cut it in half unless the plant is really old and has masses of rhizomes. A good rule of thumb is at least three rhizomes plus one healthy leaf per new plant.
Like many succulents snake plants produce pups or plantlets – small, genetically identical plants that grow from the same root system A plantlet can be cleaved away from the parent plant once it has grown sufficient roots of its own.
When the larger snake plant is re-potted, it’s a good time to remove some pups from the parent plant. The plantlet can be potted up in its own smaller container, using the same original growing medium. Water the new little plant lightly and avoid fertilizing until it has established itself in the container. This method results in an instant plant that’s identical to the parent.
Growing snake plants from seeds can be finicky. Since snake plants grow slowly, starting a plant from seed requires some extra patience.
The dark brown seeds have a hard, wrinkly exterior and need to be soaked for a day prior to planting. Some growers advise wrapping the seeds in moist paper towels inside a closed plastic bag. If you choose this method, place the bag in a bright location where temperatures are between 65-80 degrees F (18-26 C). After the seed sprouts it can be planted.
As an alternative, soak the seed for a day and then immediately plant it in a cactus or other low-soil, moistened medium. Water it once a week or when the top inch (2.5 cm) of medium is dry.
How To Propagate Snake Plant Cuttings
Most fleshy-leaved plants can be propagated through the leaves, and snake plants are no exception. In early spring, cut a 4-8 inch (10-20 cm) section of leaf with a clean, sharp knife. Some growers suggest dipping the cutting into rooting hormone, but professional growers simply plant the basal end into a soilless medium. A 3 to 1 mixture of sphagnum moss and coarse sand is the preferred medium in commercial growing.
Lightly moisten the medium prior to planting, keeping it moderately moist but not wet. If kept too wet, the cutting may become infected with bacterial root rot. Keep the planted cutting in a warm place and roots will develop in 4-6 weeks. You can expect new leaves in 4-6 months.
How to Propagate Snake Plants in Water
Can I propagate snake plant in water? Absolutely. In fact, many houseplants will easily root in a glass of water. While this is one of the most basic propagation methods, a few steps should be observed. Tap water is one option, but you may see a better result with filtered or distilled water, since purified waters reduce the introduction of pathogens.
Select a healthy leaf that’s not too old and use clean, sharp shears to cut it off. Insert the basal, cut end into just enough water to cover the bottom of the leaf. Place the cutting in bright indirect light. Every week, change the water and rinse the glass. Once a full complement of roots is visible, pot the new plant in a soilless medium.
Propagating Snake Plants in Soil
Regular potting soil holds too much moisture and is too compact for the snake plant to form roots. A mixture of perlite, sand, vermiculite, coarse sand, sphagnum or peat moss, or any combination of these provide a better environment for propagating.
If you use flats for rooting snake plants in a mixture of the media noted above, they should be around 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) deep, with sections of 4 inches (10 cm) of snake plant leaf inserted into the moistened medium. Provide the cuttings with 4-5 hours of bright light in temperatures of at least 65 degrees F (18 C). Some growers increase the humidity in the tray by covering it entirely. If you decide to use this method, remove the cover once each day to allow excess moisture to escape.
Snake Plant Care
The snake plant is somewhat flexible about lighting and humidity but is quite fussy about the amount of water it gets. About the only thing that will kill a mother-in-law tongue is overwatering. It thrives best in small pots with crowded rhizomes, and has few pest or disease problems.
It’s not necessary to fertilize, but if you feel like doing something nice for the plant, use a half dilution of houseplant food once a month during the growing season.
These invaluable plants clean the air and enhance the home with tropical beauty. Spread the love by propagating snake plants and give your friends and neighbors a special treat.
Note: Snake plants contain saponin toxins which are harmful to pets.