Houseplant Girl

The Snake Plant: Sansevieriea trifasciata


snake plantIf you have a history of killing plants, completely lack the skills of keeping anything green alive, detest it when people say you should own a plant before owning a pet (pets are so much easier!), then the snake plant is for you.

This is a great entryway into the world of green and living things and the best part is it reciprocates the love. Also known as the mother in law’s tongue, it’s able to take care of itself, yet care for you at the same time. Mother’s in law really do care!

Snake_Plant_(Sansevieria_trifasciata_'Laurentii')_2NASA Approved

This is one of the several house plants studied by NASA which famously filter our air. The Clean Air Study, completed in 1989, looked at several plants abilities for removing toxic chemicals from our air such as benzene and formaldehyde. The snake plant accomplished this goal and sits on the list as one of NASA’s clean air plants. Gold star!

If you want the full effects of this plant, keep it in your bedroom—due to its ability to convert CO2 into Oxygen at night, it will help you sleep better into the wee hours.


Not only will the snake plant clean your air for you but it’s also very patient and tough. It can take the neglect usually seen with novice gardeners and allow you to grasp the learning curve before you kill it off. They want you to succeed and you will!


Lighting: This plant is tolerant of low levels of light, even though it would prefer more light. An east, west or south facing window will suffice but don’t worry if you only have northern exposure. Like I said, the snake plant is tolerant of all levels of light. Whenever you do see sunlight, make sure to give the snake its time in the sun, for it will grow faster if given the time.

Water: Tolerant of irregular watering this is the greatest for anyone in California right now (kidding, kidding).The snake plant is actually a succulent, which means the leaves retain lots of water. And during the winter it only needs watering every couple of months. It will get root rot easily if overwatered, so be more careful on the overwatering than the under-watering.

Fertilizer: You can feed the plant a smidge of all purpose plant food in the growing seasons (spring and summer) as this is the time for the plant to increase in size and grow its wings.

Basically, the only way to kill a snake plant is by overwatering the poor thing. So let it sit for a few weeks at a time with no water. It will do just fine! 

 Common Snake Plant Problems

Okay, so you read the article and bought the snake plant. You put it on your window sill made sure to do all the things mentioned in the article above. However, it still died! What do you do?

  • You overwatered it! Sorry, I know. Annoying, right. You absolutely made sure you DIDN’T overwater it. However, it still may have been too much water. You can go weeks (especially in the winter) or even more than a month between waterings. If the plant had waterlogged soil and it wasn’t in a well-draining pot then it is quite possible it drowned and rotted away. Next time, find well-draining pots like these and find soil for cacti here. These will help prevent the plant from sitting in wet and soggy soil. Keep an eye out on the leaves of the plant, too. Are they bright and green? Good, you are doing great! Are they a bit dull and kind of sad looking? THEN you need more water.
  • Too Much Cold: If your windows are drafty or your plant got too much exposure to temperatures below 55 degrees, then it may have gotten cold damage. Leaving a snake plant outside when it’s below 55 may kill it. Only bring it outside if it is warmer than 60 degrees during daytime and nighttime above 55.
  • Insects: You read that right. Nasty bugs. This plant is prone to bugs wanting to suck its delicious sap, which weaken the poor thing and causes it to shed its leaves. Sad. If your plant is infested, better to dump it and try again. If there are only several bugs, try hand picking them off or dabbing alcohol on top.
  • Fungus Problem: Uh Oh, not the fungus! Yes, plants can suffer from fungal problems just like us. You can tell by its leaves if there are reddish-brown or white web like growth which eventually turn brown and harden. Avoid this by not overwatering, keeping the leaves dry, and having well-drained soil.



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After finishing her masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Michelle wanted to share her love of plants and all things medicinal. With her knowledge of Chinese herbs and household plants, she decided to create a site sharing her love of indoor plants.

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