Snake Plant Care

a moonshine snake plant in a white pot on a white background
Snake plants are well established as perfect beginner plants that can tolerate low light and little watering. For good reason! These members of the Asparagus family that were formerly classified in the genus Sansevieria, but are now in the genus Dracaena. There are several diverse species of snake plants including the most popular, Dracaena trifasciata, as well as Dracaena angolensi (Sansevieria cylindrica), Dracaena patens, Dracaena pethera (Sansevieria kirkii), and more. Most of the snake plants that are easily available in most garden centers are varieties of Dracaena trifasciata. All of these species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southern Asia, and portions of Europe. But what is the best way to care for them in our homes?


     Snake plants can tolerate moderately low light, but they do need to some light to survive, just like all photosynthetic plants. Keeping this plant in low light areas will cause them to grow slower. The most ideal light for these plants is bright, indirect light. Direct sun, especially outdoors, will cause these plants to burn. Once a leaf has sunburn, it will remain for the life of the leaf. If there is too little light, the leaves will become thin and long, eventually they will become unable to support themselves. If they are being kept in an area that is too dim, a supplemental grow light will be beneficial. Just be sure the light source is at least 15" away from the plant.

A Dracaena angolensis sitting on a round table in a terra cotta pot


     Snake plants are tolerant of many different soil types, so regular potting soil will work just fine. The soil they come in from the nursery is more than suitable until they outgrow the pot. A cactus mix will also work well, or a mix of both! When a snake plant needs a new pot, be sure to choose a pot that is sturdy, as they can easily break out of thinner, plastic pots. Ceramic and terra cotta pots work well.


    As mentioned before, these plants tolerate drought well. The soil should be allowed to dry completely before they are watered again. If you are unsure, wait a bit before watering again. While too little water is possible for these plants, too much water will cause harm much more quickly and is harder for the plant to recover from. Always check the soil before watering to help avoid overwatering.

     When it is time to water, don't give a small amount. Provide enough water to saturate the soil. Remember, overwatering isn't the quantity of water, it is the frequency. If watering from above, keep adding water until the excess drains from the bottom. It may be beneficial to continue adding water for a bit, as dry soils take longer to saturate again. As long as the excess is draining, the plant will be fine. If watering from the bottom, allow the plant to soak until the top of the soil appears damp. Depending on the size of the pot, this could take anywhere from minutes to hours. Allowing your snake plant to sit in the water for an entire day will not cause harm, so long as you are sure the soil is dry before you water it again. If your plant is in terra cotta, be sure to saturate the pot, as well. The clay from the terra cotta will absorb water from the soil, causing it to dry faster. If you choose not to soak the terra cotta pots, watering will be required more frequently.

Common Problems

     Snake plants are one of the easiest plants to care for out there, no matter if you have years of experience or are just starting out. Going along with this, they also are fairly disease resistant, but that doesn't mean they can't get sick. Here are a few of the most common problems when it comes to snake plants.

Root Rot

     This is caused by overwatering. Roots can die off either because they have been infected with a fungus or the roots were not allowed to dry completely, thus unable to perform gas exchange, and suffocated. Yes, roots breathe just like leaves do! Signs include yellowing leaves unable to support themselves when they previously stood straight up, and drooping leaves. Often the drooping leaves are confused with wilting. Snake plants don't often wilt when they need water, though their leaves will become more flexible. If root rot is suspected, checking the root ball is the easiest way to confirm. Trim unhealthy portions of the roots off and reduce watering, always checking to see that the soil is dry before watering again. If the problem persists, a fungicide may be beneficial.


    Mealybugs feed on many different types of plants. They are small, fuzzy looking, white insects that feed on the sap in the plant and produce honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold if left on the leaves. For more detailed treatment and identification, check out the article on mealybugs.


     Scale are also sap sucking insects that produce honeydew. It is best to remove these insects when you find them and dispose of them. They can be tough to remove on their own, so insecticidal soap or a systemic pesticide may be necessary.

Spider Mites

     Spider mites are tiny, spin webs, and feed on the sap of many houseplants. Often, you will find their webs or see the damage they cause before you see the spider mites themselves. Washing the leaves and increasing humidity will help to decrease and eliminate the population. Insecticidal soap and systemic pesticides may also be needed if the infestation is severe.

A starfish snake plant with a small pup

Snake plants are truly some of the easiest plants to take care of. They come in so many fun colors and forms it can be hard to say no to a new one! As always, if you are worried about your plant in any way, please feel free to reach out.

Happy Growing!

<3 Gina