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How to Propagate Snake Plants: 3 Methods for Success

Jan 29, 2024 | Guides/How-to's, Houseplants

Photo credit: Lukáš Mižoch / Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Lukáš Mižoch / Wikimedia Commons

I got my first snake plant, Sansevieria, in 2017 when I needed a tall and narrow plant to put next to our television. It fit perfectly into that space and thrived on my neglect. But I really fell in love with it when it flowered 2 years later after spending the summer on our deck.

Sansevierias are the perfect plant for everyone, including black thumbs! They are originally from the desert areas of Africa so they can take plenty of direct sunlight and very little watering. Yet, they can also survive in the low light spots in our homes making them one of the most versatile houseplants.

Where does the name “snake plant” come from?

There seem to be two theories for the origin of the name “snake plant.” The most common story is that the plant has the same shape and markings as snakes. But I have also heard that they are called snake plants because when planted near a house, their dense growth would prevent snakes from hiding there.

Photo credit: Maureen Gilmer/Special To The Desert Sun

In any case, snake plants are an easy plant to propagate provided you have some patience!

What is propagation?

The propagation process is simply making new plants from a parent plant; in other words, cloning the mother plant. It is a cost effective way of multiplying the number of plants you have and being able to share with other gardeners.

List of materials

You will need:

  • scissors, pruning shears, or a sharp knife

  • a parent plant

  • a glass jar of water (if using water propagation)

  • new pot (if using soil propagation or division)

  • potting soil

How to propagate snake plant

1. Water propagation

The first method for propagating snake plants is to take a cutting and root it in water before transplanting into soil. This is often the method chosen by gardeners new to propagation because it can be fun and reassuring to see your tiny roots form. However, there is an adaptation period when you transplant the cutting as it transitions from growing in water to growing in a soil (more on that later).

Simply cut a leaf at the base and place it in a glass of water. If you want to get fancy, you can do an upside down V cut on the original leaf, shown below. This allows for more surface area for new roots to form, but it is not necessary for the success of your propagation. You will also notice that the baby plant will grow from the centre of the V and will be closer to the surface of the water.

Change the water every couple of days to keep your leaf cuttings healthy. Fresh water provides oxygen to the cutting and prevents algae from forming.

When the roots are about 2 inches long, you can transfer your leaf into a pot with fresh potting soil. I like to keep the soil moist, for the first few days to help the plant adapt to dryer conditions.

2.Soil propagation

With soil propagation, you can take multiple sansevieria cuttings from just one healthy leaf.

Choose a small pot with a drainage hole and a well draining soil mix for best results.

Just like with water propagation, cut the leaf at the base of the original plant. You can either plant the whole leaf or cut it into several pieces and plant them all in the same pot. It is extremely important to make sure your cuttings are oriented properly. Cuttings will only grow roots on the side that was closer to the soil so plant them in the same direction they were previously growing. You can dip your cuttings in rooting hormone to help your leaf cuttings develop a root system quicker.

In a few months, you should see a little snake plant leaf emerging from the soil line!

3. Division

This is perhaps the easiest method: just dig up your plants and cut them in half!

As you can see in the photo below, each cutting grew a rhizome (the thick orange root) that produced a new plant. Take a sharp knife and cut right between the two sansevieria plants. To prevent rot and diseases, leave the rhizome cutting exposed to air for a couple days until a callous forms. Then transplant into fresh potting soil and patiently wait for new growth to appear.

Check out our video for the complete propagation process:

Caring for your new snake plant cuttings

Give your new plants the same care as you would your mother plant. They do very well in bright indirect light and let the soil dry out before watering again; this will help prevent root rot.

Be careful with different snake plant varieties

The “standard” upright snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) come in many different colour variations (including the common one with yellow stripes on the sides of the leaves). These variations are actually mutations. So depending on the propagation process you choose, the new growth may not have the same colour as the mother plant. To ensure that the new snake plant retains the same variagation, only propagate by division. That said, it could be beautiful and unique to propagate your snake plant using different methods and end up with pot full of mixed colours!

Tips for success

Make sure that your equipment is clean before starting to prevent spreading disease to your new cuttings.

Choose healthy leaves that are free of pests and diseases to prevent spreading them to your new snake plants. It’s fine to use damaged leaves that have been broken or bent if they are otherwise healthy.

Be patient! Snake plants are slow growing and it can take a few weeks to a month for snake plant cutting to develop roots. I once had a cutting that took almost a year to grow a new pup!

If you can, place your plants outside during the summer. The extra light helps speed up growth and may be just what your sluggish cutting needs to produce a new snake plant.

I always add Seafeed Plant Formulation (certified organic seaweed) to my soil when transplanting or propagating. The amino acids in the seaweed help with root growth and make my plant babies grow faster.

Sansevierias like to be crowded in a pot, so choose a new pot that is on the smaller side with good drainage holes. And when I say they like to be crowded, I mean root bound, the pot almost exploding, evidence below. This was my largest snake plant (before I chopped it into multiple cuttings) standing at 4ft tall!

In conclusion

Don’t be afraid to experiment with snake plant propagation and see what method works best for you. These plants are resilient and given enough time, will recover and produce new growth.

If you want for fun facts about snake plants, head over to this page of the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens website, and check out our social media (instagram, facebook) for more houseplant tips!