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Snake Plant Care (Dracaena trifasciata) – GIY Plants

Two potted snake plants on table by window

The Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata; previously known as Sansevieria trifasciata) is an incredibly hardy plant. Known for its long (up to 3-4 ft. or 1 m. tall), succulent, sword-like leaves with bright yellow edges.

Snake plants belong to the Asparagus family (Asparagaceae). Which includes recognizable relatives such as the asparagus, agave, hyacinths, yucca, and spider plants.

Other common names for the plant include “mother-in-law’s tongue,” “viper’s bowstring hemp,” and “Saint George’s Sword.”

There are over 70 species of snake plants originating from central and western Africa. With such wide variations in height, form, and color. This versatile plant is perfect for any home or office.

Dracaena trifasciata Care

WIth its various common names referring to dangerous things, this plant wants you to leave it alone.

Snake plants can survive in any light condition other than no light. Of course, more light will ensure more consistent growth.

Well adapted to drought-like conditions, the snake plant’s thick tuberous roots serve as water reservoirs. Allowing the plant to go for a month without needing water.

However, its ease of care shouldn’t condemn it to a dark corner. The snake plant’s compact growth and diverse variations give it great architectural and decorative elegance.


This plant thrives best in aerated, loamy, and fast-draining soil. Like sandy cacti or succulent soil mixes.


As with other succulents, let the topsoil of your plant dry out between waterings. Low temperatures, low-light, and excessive moisture will cause root rot.

Check soil every 7-10 days in the summer and every 14-20 days in the winter.


Snake plants thrive in any light condition except complete darkness.

However, in bright light, it will grow more consistently. Place within 3-4 ft. (1 m) from a north-facing window or within 7 ft. (2 m) of an east-, west-, or south-facing window.

Humidity & Temperature

Drought-tolerant, snake plants do best in low to average humidity and temperatures between 55-85°F (13-29°C). Avoid frost and temperatures below 50°F (10°C).


These plants are not heavy feeders, so there’s no need for frequent fertilization. Use a mild, well-balanced, diluted cactus fertilizer monthly during the spring or summer.


Snake plants propagate easiest via leaf cuttings. Cut a leaf into 3-4 inch sections and insert each section (bottom-end first) into a rooting medium such as water. New roots and leaves will form in ~3 months at the base and can be transplanted.

Other popular ways to propagate include root division or via seeds (though this is a lot slower). [1]

Diseases & Pests

Soft rot (Erwinia carotovora) can occur at the lower end of a cutting, causing a fishy, rotten odor.

This can be controlled by eliminating water on the leaves. For cuttings, make sure to follow strict sanitization or apply a little preventative streptomycin sulfate (Agri-Strep 21.2%).

Other common fungal problems include red leaf spot (Fusarium moniliforme), which causes reddish-brown spots with yellow borders.

Southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii) also causes dark-brown spots to develop on the leaves.

To treat both, prune infected leaves, re-pot, keep plants dry, and apply a fungicide if necessary.

Common pests include nematodes, caterpillars or worms, mealy bugs, spider mites, and thrips. [1]


Snake plants contain saponins, a mild toxin for dogs and cats.

Dracaena trifasciata vs Sansevieria trifasciata

Is Dracaena trifasciata the same as Sansevieria? Yes, historically snake plants were classified under the genus Sansevieria, but recent advancement in genetic research has reclassified and grouped it under the genus Dracaena due to molecular and evolutionary reasons. [2]

Types of Snake Plants

There are over 70 varieties or cultivars of snake plants, with a few of the most popular and unique types described below:

  • “Black Gold” – The black gold variety is known for its wide leaves that are dark emerald green colors contrasted beautifully with bright yellow edges.
  • “Cylindrica” – This unique variety has cylindrical, light green, and round-shaped leaves that shoot up like spears.
  • “Rhino” – This unique variety has short fat leaves shaped like rhino-horns.
  • “Laurentii” – This variegated version of the snake plant is popular for its dark green leaves with repeating horizontal white stripes and yellow edging.
  • “Silbersee or Moonshine” – A cultivar known for its sword-like silver gray leaves that resemble the color of moonlight.
  • “Twisted Sister” – This dwarf cultivar’s leaves grow twisted around each other rather than flat, creating a striking swirly visual from above.
  • “Golden Hahnii” – Patented by a botanist known only as Hahnh in 1941, this dwarf cultivar is known for its yellow leaves with vertical green stripes and bird-nest shape.
  • “Bantel’s Sensation” – Developed by Gustav Bantel in 1948, this cultivar is distinct for being taller and narrower with striking vertical white striping.

Common Problems with Snake Plant

Although they are low-maintenance, snake plants still require checking in on, and may show some common symptoms:

  • Yellow or brown, drooping leaves – This is the number one problem occuring from overwatering.

Poor drainage, using peaty soils, or too small a pot may cause water to accumulate, inviting fungus and turning roots brown, mushy, and smelly.

To control, re-pot plants and prune rotting leaves. Treat fungal infections with neem oil or fungicides.

  • Dull Leaves and stress – Healthy plants will have perky bright green leaves. Thirsty, under-watered plants will show a dull color and less shine, eventually leading to dry brown tips. Check soil every 3 weeks to ensure enough moisture is present. In bright light, under-watered snake plants may also flower in a last ditch effort to survive.
  • Slow Growth – Snake plants don’t mind shades, but this will cause them to grow slowly. Gradually transition low-light plants to bright light to avoid shock and encourage perkier growth. Dust gathered on the leaves will also block light, so dust every once in a while.
  • Deformed, Stunted, or Falling Leaves – This is usually a sign of pest infestation. Mealybugs and spider mites infect close to the soil or on leaves, sucking away at the plant’s juices causing leaves to die. Wipe with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol or use insecticides.


[1] Henley, R.W., et. al. (nd). Sansevieria Production Guide. University of Florida, IFAS. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/foliage/folnotes/sansevie.htm.

[2] Lu, P. L., & Morden, C. W. (2014). Phylogenetic Relationships among Dracaenoid Genera (Asparagaceae: Nolinoideae) Inferred from Chloroplast DNA Loci. Systematic Botany, 39(1), 90–104. https://doi.org/10.1600/036364414×678035. Retrieved on October 28, 2022 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263338444_Phylogenetic_Relationships_among_Dracaenoid_Genera_Asparagaceae_Nolinoideae_Inferred_from_Chloroplast_DNA_Loci/citation/download.

[3] Wolverton, B. C. (1989, September 15). Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement – NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930073077.

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