How To Grow Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) In Your Home or Garden

Dracaena trifasciata Syn. Sansevieria trifasciata is commonly known as the Viper's bowstring hemp, Snake plant, and Mother-in-law's tongue.

It belongs to the Asparagaceae plant family, and is winter hardy to USDA Zone 10-12. It can be grown in containers and placed outdoors in the summer in cooler areas.

The plant is often used as a house plant. As it is an incredibly easy-to-grow plant, that will last for years without too much care. It is closely related to Dracaena marginata.

Mother-in-Law's Tongue photograph by jalexartis Photography; CC.

It prefers to be in a warm location, but needs to be protected from the full hot sun during the summer months. During the warmer months, consider moving the plant to a shady outdoor spot. Indeed, the plant performs well as an house plant in darker rooms.

Be careful when watering, because too much water will cause it to rot. Also, do not water the rosette directly. Be sure to test the soil for dryness before adding water.

During the winter months, they will not require much water, if any.

Ideally, use clay pots that are wider than they are high, to prevent the plant from falling over.

Dracaena trifasciata prefers a loose, well-drained soil. An all-purpose cactus potting soil will serve the plant well. During the growing season, feed the plant a mild cactus fertilizer.

The plant can grow to between two to four feet (60 to 120 cm) in height, but indoor plants will reach closer to two feet (60 cm).

The sword-shaped, stiff leaves are dark green with horizontal lighter green accent stripes.

In the spring, the plant naturally carry small, fragrant flowers. These are followed by tiny orange berries.

Blooming and fruiting does not commonly occur in plants grown indoors.

Dracaena trifasciata plants are easily divided, and can be repotted in the spring. Any new shoots can be planted into new pots.

Dracaena trifasciata Prain picture by Dinesh Valke; CC.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Names: Dracaena trifasciata, Sansevieria trifasciata.

Common Name (s): Snake plant, Mother-in-law's tongue, Saint George's sword, Golden Birds nest, Viper's bowstring hemp, Good luck plant.

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones 10 to 12, grow in warm areas; Europe and UK H1b Outdoors in the summer only – can tolerate temperatures down to about 10°C (50°F).

Best Used For / Garden Location: Ornamental Plant, House Plant, Garden beds and Containers in warm tropical locations.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen. Succulent.

Plant Height: Typically 75 to 90 cm (30 to 36 inches), with some cultivars reaching about 2 m (7 feet).

Plant Spread: 10 to 50 cm (4 to 20 inches).

Blooms: Winter (seldom blooms as an house plant).

Flower Details: Racemes. Sticky, night fragrant, Greenish white through to cream.

Leaf Foliage: Stiff rosettes. Leathery. Fleshy. Thick. Flat. Lanceolate through Linear. Leaf Margins. Wild type are dark green with lighter green banding. Numerous cultivars available with mottled and linear white, light green, cream, and yellow variegations. From 15cm to 2 m long (6 inches to 7 feet). 3 to 8 cm (1 to 3 inches) wide.

Fruit: Small globular berry (about 8 mm/ third of an inch in diameter).

Sansevieria trifasciata photograph by jalexartis Photography; CC.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Partial shaded. Does not like areas with large amounts of light. If grown outdoors do not grow in an are that receives more than 4 or 5 hours of direct sunlight.

Suitable Soil Types: Well drained. Cactus mix. Sand, Loam.

Soil Moisture: Dry. Drought tolerant. Native to Arid areas.

Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Propagate by division from naturally occuring offspring. Repot in fresh soil. Grow under glass in cooler areas.

Care: Susceptible to root rot so do not over-water. Allow soil to dry between waterings from spring through autumn. Water once, every other month during winter. No need to prune. Does not attract pests. Ideally repot into fresh potting substrate every five years (three years for the 'Hahnii' cultivar.

Growing in pots and containers: Yes. makes a great container plant either indoors, or out (in hotter areas only). Grows well as a very low maintenance house plant, ideal for darker rooms, and only requires minimal watering.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: The common name Viper's bowstring hemp is derived from the fact that the fibers of this plant can be used to create bowstrings. Can be grown as an anti-pollutant plant to improve air quality. Considered an invasive plant in some parts of Australia.

Cultivars: Numerous cultivars and variations are available with leaf variegations. Examples include 'Golden Hahnii' (Grey to green leaves, with wide yellow stripes); 'Bantel's Sensation' (Dark green leaves, with white to cream stripes); 'laurentii' (Mottled grey to green leaves, with yellow stripes); Futura Superba (Dwarf, Yellow edged dark green leaves); 'Cylindrica' (Very long tubed leaves, plant has a fan shape);  'Silver Queen' (stunning silvery white leaves).

Family: Asparagaceae (Asparagus)

Native: Africa.

References and Further Reading: North Caroliona Extension: Snake plant guide; PennState: the Low Maintenance Snake Plant; Rutgers: Long lasting indoor plants.

Snake Plant photograph by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

Common Questions when Growing Snake Plants

Can I take cuttings from Snake plants?

You can, but it is unlikely that they will stay true to form (usually losing their leaf variation). Best results are acheived through division.

Is Dracaena a pet friendly plant?

As the leaves contain saponins (triterpene glycosides), to help prevent from predation, their digestion may lead to a mild stomach upset for dogs. Fortunately, saponins act by creating a soapy bitter taste, so your pet is most likely to leave the plant alone.

How long until my Snake Plant Dracaena trifasciata maturity and flower.

They usually take five to ten years to reach their full potential. Blooming does not usually occur if grown indoors as a house plant.

What are the benefits of growing Dracaena trifasciata?

In addition to being incredibly easy to care for, they are able to remove pollutants from the air. This can make them a good plant to grow for those who may suffer from dusty environments.

As this Arid plant uses CAM for photosynthesis, it is able to release oxygen into the air at night (keeping its stomata closed during the day, to prevent water-loss).

Do Snake Plants like sun or shade?

They prefer to have just a small amount of direct sunlight per day. A couple of hours is ideal.

Sansevieria trifasciata dwarf cultivar image by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Dracaena trifasciata. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to Grow Mung Beans, Euphorbia, Rugosa Rose, and Iris Plants.