Snake plant: varieties & cultivation


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

Favourite fruit: strawberries and gooseberries
Favourite vegetable: courgettes

The snake plant is a popular houseplant. Here you will learn everything you need to know about planting, care, and flowering of the snake plant.

Snake plant in a pot
The snake plant is one of the most popular houseplants [Photo: Aquarius Studio/]

The snake plant (Sansevieria) is an air purifier and style object in offices, bedrooms and homes. The versatile survival artist shows himself in the most beautiful shades. Here you will find all the important information about snake plants.

Although you may not believe it at first glance, this low-maintenance houseplant belongs to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and is even related to the Dracaena genus. It is a succulent plant that requires little water. Popular make it especially elegant growth and air purifying effect. Since it also produces oxygen at night due to its succulent metabolism, the snake plant is the optimal plant for the bedroom. In our dedicated article you will find an overview of the best air-purifying plants.

Snake plant: origin and characteristics

Dry desert and savannah landscapes are its home. Originally, the robust snake plant comes from various regions of Africa and Asia. Its succulent leaves are supported by woody fibres that gave it its German name. These fibres were used for the production of ropes and textiles, similar to the fibres of sisal and just hemp. Allegedly, the hemp-like fibres of the tropical to subtropical plant, sansevieria, were even used as bowstrings.

The snake plant is characterised by its skyward succulent leaves that sprout from the ground singly or in rosettes. A height of 1.5 metres, depending on the species, is not uncommon. However, until the plant reaches this size, a lot of time passes. As a low-maintenance houseplant, the Sansevieria was discovered early on and so it exists in a wide variety of cultivars.

Native dry land of the snake plant in Tanzania
Snake plants grow in barren and dry areas such as here in northern Tanzania [Photo: Rene Holtslag/]

Snake plant flowers: Does the plant also bloom here?

Getting to see the bloom of your own snake plant is special and not a very common occurrence. Each individual shoot of the plant blooms only once in its life. To do this, the plant must be very comfortable and a little older. However, with proper care and patience, you have a good chance to experience the flowering. Mainly this happens in March. The whitish, greenish, yellowish, or even pink flowers are arranged in erect flowerheads and are intensely fragrant. Since the small flowers produce quite a bit of nectar, to be on the safe side, place an old newspaper or something similar under the pot to prevent a mess.

However, in order for seeds to develop after flowering, a Pollination by moths necessary. In the privacy of your own home, this is probably rather not possible, but maybe it will work if you use a brush a bit help and thus play the pollinator.

Snake plant species

Over sixty species of snake plants are now known. But only a few of them have made it in the most diverse breeding forms as varieties in our houses managed. Some of the main species and their varieties we have listed below:

  • Sansevieria trifasciata: The best known and most popular species as a houseplant is undoubtedly the species Sansevieria trifasciata, which originates from tropical Africa. Its broad leaves are marbled in light green, dark green and grey-green colours. Surely you will have encountered the variety ‘Laurentii’. It is similar to the wild form, but its leaves have a very decorative yellow-green edge.
Sansevieria tifasciata plants
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ is excellent for arranging as a room divider in the house[Photo: SNAB/]
  • Sansevieria cylindrica: Originating from the dry savannahs south of the Sahara, this species is now beginning its triumphant advance into our interiors. Sansevieria cylindrica has cylindrical shaped leaves according to its name. These tend to be light green to greenish grey with dark green horizontal stripes. Similar to the wild form, but a little more greenish-yellow, is the variety ‘Variegata’. The leaves of the cultivar ‘Boncel’ do not grow upward in a straight line as is typical of Sansevieria cylindrica, but spread out to the side in a fan shape. This species in particular is offered in the market very different and diverse: Vertical side by side leaf cuttings, intertwined, with colourful caps and much more. However, all these arrangements are not species or varieties, but merely creative ideas of marketing experts.
  • Sansevieria francisii: Also these Species has rather cylindrical leaves, but they are almost stem-shaped grow upwards one after the other. If the trunk-like structures are longer and longer and it becomes more difficult to keep them upright, then the Plant and continues to grow while lying down.

Growing snake plants

Snake plants originate from dry and sunny-hot semi-deserts. The soil there is sandy, stony, hard, and poor in nutrients to boot. This is what you should be sure to consider when planting. So as a substrate, you can use, firstly, cactus soil. You can also make a half-and-half mix of commercial peat-free garden soil – for example, our sustainable Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost – and sand. It is important that the substrate has good permeability to water and is rather low in nutrients. Alternatively, you can keep your snake plant in hydroponics with clay granules. The pot should have a drainage hole so that excess water can drain away. You can also place a few shards of clay at the bottom of the pot for additional drainage.

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Since the snake plant tends to be one of the slow growers, you only need to repot it every few years. The optimum time is in the early spring. To do this, choose a pot that is only slightly larger than the old one.

Summary: Growing snake plants

  • Repot only every few years in the spring
  • Cactus soil or a garden soil-sand mixture as a Use substrate
  • Pot with drain hole and possibly Drainage layer from clay shards
Repotting of the snake plant
Snake plant only needs to be repotted every few years [Photo: Pixel-Shot/]

The right location

The snake plant likes the extreme: a lot of sun, a lot of heat, a lot of drought. If possible, give him a bright and warm place. Although it can get by with a little less light, it grows faster and more colourful in the sun. Direct sunlight does not bother him at all and even with little humidity he gets along well. In summer, it is also very happy to have a little fresh air outside in a sunny and dry location. Snake plants, as other plants, must be slowly accustomed to direct sunlight, so as not to get a sunburn. However, in late summer, you should bring him back indoors in time. Make sure that in the winter he never has to endure less than 10 °C. Even better, he has it nice and warm at over 15 °C.

Snake plant care

With the snake plant you get a low-maintenance roommate in the house. He is used to dry periods from his home country and so he prefers it to be too dry than too wet. It also prefers to be fertilised less than more. It takes a lot to kill a snake plant. However, if it is to come into bloom, then it should not only be alive, but also thrive. You can learn more about caring for snake plants here.

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Propagating Sansevieria

Propagating the snake plant is not difficult. While growing from seed is rare due to infrequent flowering and seed formation, the plant can also be propagated via leaf cuttings and division. You can find out how exactly to propagate snake plants in this dedicated article.

Snake plant propagate
Propagation of snake plant is very simple [Photo: TippyTortue/]

Is the snake plant poisonous?

As an inhabitant of a barren landscape, the snake plant is exposed to many a hungry animal. No wonder, then, that this plant produces a feeding poison that is effective not only against wild animals, but also against cats, dogs and humans. But no need to panic. Although uncomfortable side effects occur when consumed, neither you nor your cat will die. For rats and mice, however, the snake plant can be deadly.

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