Snake plants, or sansevieria trifasciata, are flowering plants that are extremely hardy. They are able to survive circumstances that would quickly kill many other plants, including low light conditions.
They make wonderful indoor plants not only because of their durability but also because they help purify the air by removing harmful toxins (even NASA has studied them for this benefit).
Did you know? They're also called mother-in-law’s tongue, and have long, sword-shaped leaves.
Snake plant propagation is the best way to grow snake plants. Through this process, new snake plants are started from leaf cuttings or root division. You may have seen gardeners do it with succulents.
Let’s look at the proper way to propagate snake plants and why you need to do it in the first place. We’ll finish up with some interesting questions.
- How to Propagate a Snake Plant
- Why Propagate Your Snake Plant?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How long does it take to propagate a snake plant?
- Do snake plants have babies?
- How do you know when your snake plant needs water?
- What do I do with broken snake plant leaves?
- How can I make my snake plant grow faster?
- Do snake plants like to be crowded?
- Can you trim a snake plant?
- Do snake plants need sun?
How to Propagate a Snake Plant
There are a few different ways to propagate sansevieria. Keep in mind as well that there are different types of sansevieria, including the sansevieria cylindrica, or the African Spear Plant, which can also be propagated.
Let’s take a look at three of the simplest and most popular methods. We’ll also touch on the pros and cons of each method.
1. Rooting in Water
Water propagation is one of the easiest ways to propagate snake plants, particularly if yours grow indoors. That way, you don’t have to worry about messy dirt inside your home. The biggest downside is that there is a higher chance of failure than with other methods, especially if the leaf cutting starts to rot.
Cut the leaf
Essentially, you’re going to take a healthy leaf cutting and put it in water. Give the leaf time, and it will grow roots that you can then transfer into a pot or soil.
First, select a healthy leaf from your existing sansevieria. Choose carefully; the leaf should be free from any visible damage. It should also be a decently large leaf. Aim for about five inches from the tip. Use sharp, clean shears and cut it off. Don’t worry; this won’t harm your existing plant.
Let it heal
Next, let the cut end heal for a day or two by leaving it to dry. Make sure that it’s protected from too much sunlight and other elements.
Time to propagate
Now you’re going to put your snake plant cutting into a vase or a glass. Make sure that it is tall enough to support the leaf. Fill it with enough water to submerge only the bottom inch of the leaf.
Leave it in a spot that gets some indirect sunlight and change the water twice a day. In addition, be sure to either change or wash the glass once a week, or whenever it starts to appear dirty.
Let it rest
After a few weeks, you should begin to see substantial root growth. Continue to change the water, and once the roots have grown to about two inches long, transplant your new sansevieria plant to a pot with potting mix and perlite or plant it in peat moss.
2. Cuttings in Soil
Water propagation isn’t the only method for snake plant propagation, though. You can also do it in potting soil, which is a more popular method.
Cut your leaf
For the soil propagation method, you will once again need a very healthy leaf from the main plant. This time, you might want to select a leaf that is a little larger and completely free from any visible problems.
Once you have found your leaf, cut it off of the mother plant about one inch above where it first appears out of the soil. Next, you’re going to cut this leaf into several pieces, about two to three inches long each.
Pro Tip: Make sure that you mark or otherwise identify which part of the leaf cutting was closest to the root since that is the end you must plant. The best way to do this is to cut a V-shape on the bottom.
Let it dry
Allow the leaf to dry out for 24-48 hours, which helps prevent root rot.
Plant the leaves
When they’re ready to plant, fill small pots (succulent pots should do the trick) with cactus potting soil or succulent soil and water it well. Take your leaf cutting, dip the root end in water, and then dip it into a rooting hormone. Insert it into the soil about half an inch.
Take care of the pots
Water the soil frequently (although not too frequently as you don’t want the soil to become saturated) -- at least every couple of days -- and leave the pots where they will receive bright indirect light.
Keep in mind that propagating snake plants are pretty slow growers, so it will take at least a couple of weeks before you see any real growth.
Once you have your new snake plant ready, you can either repot it in fresh soil and keep it as a lovely houseplant or plant it outdoors in good, relatively dry soil. Use caution when repotting.
Warning! Bear in mind that the ASPCA lists snake plants as toxic to dogs and cats.
3. Dividing Into Segments
The last method for plant propagation of a snake plant is dividing it into segments. This is the most labor-intensive of our three methods, but it is also the fastest, since you don’t have to wait for the plant to grow new roots and rhizomes.
Dig it up
Wearing garden gloves, gently pull the sansevieria up from the pot or ground (this is much easier to do from a pot!); use caution not to damage the leaves or roots. You may need to use a trowel to loosen the soil, especially if the root ball is tangled. You’ll see what looks like a tangled mess of rhizomes.
Cut it in half
Use a saw to cut apart the base. Unless it is a very large plant, we don’t recommend dividing it more than in half.
Repot or replant
Next, repot or replant the two new sansevieria separate from each other in good soil. It should also be noted that this is the only propagation technique that preserves variegated snake plant leaves; with the other two methods, the new leaves will be solid green.
In time, both will grow many new leaves and you’ll have twice the snake plant as you started with!
Why Propagate Your Snake Plant?
There are a few reasons to propagate your snake plants, just as there are several reasons to propagate a spider plant, succulent, or other plants that can be grown with these methods.
The first and most obvious is to cultivate a new plant without any costs. These make sweet housewarming gifts for new neighbors, or a lovely item to give to a hostess.
In addition, there are some practical reasons. Let’s take a look.
While it is best to propagate sansevieria from healthy leaves (you’ll have the most luck that way), snake plant propagation is one way to “save” a damaged or dying snake plant leaf. Just as with succulents, you can use a fallen leaf by sticking it in the soil, and eventually a new plant may grow.
Overwatering is one of the few things that snake plants are finicky about: snake plant care is simple, but overwatering can quickly kill or harm sansevieria. When overwatered, the crowded rhizomes can develop root rot.
Cutting away and then using plant propagation for a few of the healthier leaves is a wonderful way to salvage the plant if this happens. In general, don’t saturate the soil: better soil that is on the dry side than too wet.
Pro tip: perlite in your pots can help with drainage, which should eliminate some effects of overwatering.
While sansevieria plants are slow growers, they are very durable and will become quite large. If you plant them outside, they may even spread to a larger area than you intended.
Propagating plants by removing some of the healthy leaves and stem cuttings is an eco-friendly and efficient way to trim your plant without wasting any of the clippings.
Instead of throwing them away or composting them, use one of the methods above. Once the plant is ready, you have a bunch of options for what to do with it: plant it somewhere else in your yard, bring it inside and make it a houseplant, give it to a friend, bring it to work to brighten up your desk, and so many more.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you can't find an answer to your question below, get in touch and we'll be happy to help.
How long does it take to propagate a snake plant?
Longer than you might think. Allow at least six to eight weeks to see any sansevieria growth from plant propagation. Proper plant care may help it along.
Do snake plants have babies?
It sort of seems like that, but in scientific terms, no; snake plants (like all plants) do not have babies. What is more, human propagating is not natural or independent reproduction for the plant, since no pollination took place. That said, you will often hear horticulturists and gardeners refer to the “mother plant” (as we do above) or the “parent plant” as the plant from which a leaf was taken to propagate a new snake plant.
How do you know when your snake plant needs water?
Snake plants should be watered whenever their soil is dry or nearly dry. Remember that overwatering a snake plant is a great way to kill or harm it. You’re better off skipping a day of watering and letting it get a little dry than watering too often. If you’re propagating a sansevieria in water, you should be changing the water twice daily; your new plant should not need more than that.
What do I do with broken snake plant leaves?
Propagate them! The only caveat is that you need to know which end was closest to the roots when the leaf was still attached to the plant. Follow one of the first two methods described above.
How can I make my snake plant grow faster?
Use a rooting hormone. Snake plants are slow to grow, much slower than many other plants. Sometimes it can even be misleading: you might think they have died when, in fact, the roots and rhizomes are just beginning to form. A rooting hormone stimulates this growth and can help you propagate snake plants faster.
Do snake plants like to be crowded?
They don’t hate it. Unlike many other plants, snake plants do not need a lot of space for their roots. In fact, spacing them out can be harmful as the plant relies on a cluster of rhizomes under the surface of the earth. That said, pay attention to any signs that your pot is too small, including cracks in the exterior. As long as your plant continues to grow, you’ll need to re-pot every five years or so.
Can you trim a snake plant?
Yes! You can cut off healthy sansevieria leaves and propagate a snake plant with them. You should also remove unhealthy or dead leaves from the stalk before they infect the rest of the plant. They require pruning just the same as any other houseplant.
Do snake plants need sun?
Nearly all plants need sun, and snake plants are no exception, especially growing snake plants. However, they do not need ample direct sunlight to grow and will survive in low light, which is one reason why they make good houseplants. They will grow much slower in very low light, though. At the same time, too much direct sun can give snake plants a “sunburn,” so be sure to be careful of how much sun your plant gets.
Snake plants are spectacular additions to your home, home garden, or any other indoor or outdoor space in which you cultivate them. They are durable, can weather all sorts of conditions, and help purify the air around them.
One of the neatest things about sansevieria is that you can easily and very inexpensively reproduce them through snake plant propagation. There are three main methods for doing so: in water, in soil, and by division.
All are simple and doing so regularly will make sure that you have plenty of snake plants for yourself and others for years to come. Start cultivating and propagating your snake plant now!