The snake plant, also known as Sansevieria or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is one of the most popular houseplants. Easy to grow and maintain, they are just as easy to propagate.
Learning how to propagate a snake plant is a useful skill for a number of reasons. Propagation can be used to rejuvenate an aging or tired specimen. It is also a great way to expand your collection for free. Many of the skills explained below can be successfully applied to a range of other specimens.
Whether you want to expand your collection, rejuvenate a tired specimen or give some young Sansevieria specimens away as gifts to fellow houseplant loving friends, learning how to propagate a snake plant is a great place to start.
Sansevieria is a popular and attractive houseplant.
There are 4 different methods that can be used to propagate a snake plant. These are:
- Rooting cuttings in water,
- Transplanting cuttings into the soil,
- Making divisions,
- Harvesting and repotting pups.
Our how to propagate a snake plant guide is designed to take you through each of the 4 different propagation methods explaining everything that you need to have and know in order to successfully grow a new specimen. Once mastered these skills can be used to propagate other houseplants as well as larger outdoor specimens.
1 Rooting Cuttings in Water
Rooting cuttings in water is one of the easiest how to propagate snake plant methods. It is as simple as sticking a healthy leaf that has been pruned away or accidentally broken from a healthy Sansevieria specimen into a jar of fresh water and waiting for fresh roots to form.
While learning how to propagate a snake plant in water is an easy process it is also a time consuming one.
You will need:
- A sharp knife or scissors,
- A heavy glass vase or jar,
- Fresh water.
You may also want to use rooting hormone. This encourages roots to emerge, speeding up the process however it is not necessary. You can learn how to propagate a snake plant without using chemical stimulants such as rooting hormone.
To propagate, use your sharp knife or scissors to cut a healthy leaf away from the snake plant. Cut the leaf as close to soil as possible. Aim to remove the leaf with one sharp, clean cut. The better the cut, the easier it is for the cutting to set out roots.
After removing the leaf from the snake plant, keep it at the same orientation as when it was in the soil. Snake plant leaves are highly polar so only produce roots at the edge of the leaf that was closest to the soil. If the leaf is placed in the water the wrong way around roots won’t emerge and your attempt at propagation will fail.
A useful how to propagate a snake plant tip is to cut a V shape at the bottom of the cut leaf. This helps to improve the root production rate by increasing the surface area of the cut edge. This gives the roots more room to emerge. It also helps to prevent the cutting from pressing against the bottom of the jar or vase. If the bottom of the cutting is pressing on the bottom of the container, roots struggle to emerge.
If you have cut a large leaf, it can be cut into sections and each section rooted in water.
Brush the cut area with rooting hormone if you have chosen to use it.
Once your cutting is ready, add water to the jar. Your chosen jar or vase should be tall or heavy. The snake plant is a top heavy specimen. A heavy jar such as a KAMOTA Mason Jar is less likely to topple over.
Place the bottom end of the cutting in the jar. The lower 25% of the leaf should be covered with water.
Place the jar in a warm room with lots of indirect light. Change the water once a week or when it starts to look cloudy.
It can take up to 2 months before roots start to emerge.
As soon as the new roots emerge, replant the cutting in the soil in a pot filled with an appropriate well draining or succulent soil. Plant the newly rooted cutting as deep as the water line on the leaf.
While the cutting is in the water small shoots may also develop, don’t worry if these are covered when planting. They soon emerge through the soil.
2 Transplanting Cuttings into the Soil
Taking cuttings and rooting them in the soil is a more conventional way to propagate a snake plant than rooting cuttings in water. Once mastered, this technique can also be applied to a number of other specimens including:
You will need:
- A sharp knife or scissors,
- Succulent soil or a light, well draining potting mixture,
- A clean pot with drainage holes.
Again, you may also want to use Garden Safe TakeRoot Rooting Hormone.
Inspect your snake plant and identify a healthy leaf that you want to propagate. Use the scissors or knife to cut the leaf away from the main body. Make your cut as close to the soil line, in one smooth action, as possible.
Large leaves can then be cut into smaller pieces and each piece rooted in the soil. Each leaf section should be a couple of inches in length.
Larger leaves can be divided into sections and each potted on.
Allow the leaves to sit undisturbed in a dry safe place, such as in a window or on a potting bench for a couple of days. During this drying out period a callus forms over the cut area. This callus prevents soil based bacteria from entering the leaf and causing it to rot.
Once the callus has formed, the leaf sections are ready to pot on. Fill a pot or pots with either light, well draining potting soil or a succulent soil.
Dip the bottom end of the leaf in rooting hormone if you are using it, before planting bottom end down in the prepared pots.
Place the pots in a moderately light position. It takes around a month for roots to emerge. New growth above the soil takes around 2 months to develop.
How to propagate a snake plant tip: variegated specimens, such as the dark edged Moonshine or the yellow striped Gold Flame, are amongst the most attractive types of Sansevieria. This makes them particularly desirable for propagation. However if you successfully propagate a variegated type by taking leaf cuttings the leaves of the new specimens almost always revert to being entirely green. If you want to learn how to propagate a variegated cultivar you are advised to master the making divisions method explained below.
Attractive variegated varieties often lose their color if you learn how to propagate by leaf cuttings.
3 Making Divisions
Put simply, making divisions is the process of separating a single Mother-in-Law’s Tongue specimen to create two or more smaller specimens.
Like learning how to propagate a snake plant by rooting cuttings in the soil, learning how to make divisions of larger, more established specimens is a useful skill that can be applied to a range of different specimens. Other specimens that you can learn how to proapgate by division include:
You will need:
- A sharp knife, shears or handsaw,
- Newspaper or space outside,
- Clean pots,
- Succulent appropriate or well draining potting soil.
Of all the how to propagate snake plant methods described here, making divisions is one of the quickest ways to get lots of new specimens.
Remove the Sansevieria from its pot. Laying the pot on its side can make this easier. To avoid making too much of a mess you can either do this outside or on some sheets of newspaper.
Carefully brush away any excess dirt and inspect the roots. You should notice rhizomes. Different to the root, the rhizome is a stem that grows horizontally underground. Once you have identified the rhizomes, work out where tomake your divisions.
Each section should have at least 3 rhizomes and one good healthy leaf. It should also have some roots. If there are no roots then the specimen is not yet ready to divide. Return it to its pot and allow it to grow for another year or two. This gives the roots and rhizomes time to develop.
As a rule of thumb, smaller specimens are best divided in half. Larger specimens can be divided into 3 to 5 similar sized sections.
Once you have identified where to cut, use the sharp knife or handsaw to make the divisions. Aim to make your cuts as cleanly as possible. Any diseased or damaged sections can also be cut away at this point and disposed of.
After dividing, repot your sections into separate pots filled with fresh succulent soil. Water the divisions slightly after planting but do not overwater. There is no need to water the soil again until it has dried out.
4 Harvesting and Repotting Pups
As noted above,the Sensiveria produces a rhizome or stem that grows horizontally underground. These produce new shoots called pups. One way to learn how to propagate a snake plant is by learning how to separate and pot on these pups. With a little care they soon grow into healthy specimens.
You will need:
- A sharp knife or shears,
- Clean pots,
- Succulent or well draining potting soil,
- Newspaper if you are working indoors.
Begin by removing the snake plant from its pot. This is made easier by placing the pot on its side. If you are working inside, remember to lay down some old sheets of newspaper first. After removing your snake plant, brush away any excess dirt from the roots and then look for the rhizomes. If you are unsure, these are white stems that can resemble garlic cloves.
Once you have found some healthy rhizomes, use the sharp knife or shears to cut them cleanly away from the base of the plant. Be careful not to damage the surrounding roots as you do this.
Place the separated rhizomes in a dry, safe place to dry out for a few days. Once a callus has formed over the cut area they can be potted on. Moisten the soil before planting.
Don’t worry if new growth is slow to appear, Mother-in-Law Tongue can take a while to settle and set out roots before producing any visible, above soil growth.
The Ideal How to Propagate a Snake Plant Conditions
A key part of learning how to propagate a snake plant is knowing how to care for them. This helps to ensure that the cuttings or offsets take and that process is a success.To do this you need to provide favorable conditions for your young specimens. These include:
- Lots of bright, indirect light,
- Clean pot,
- Clean tools,
- Well draining or succulent soil.
How to Get the Right Light Levels
Established Sansevieria specimens are forgiving houseplants, capable of tolerating a range of conditions. Younger specimens, particularly those you are attempting to propagate, are a little more delicate. One of their main requirements is exposure to the right amount of light. Too much direct light can cause the young specimens to dry out and fail.
Place your cuttings and divisions in a bright indirect light position. This encourages fast growth and root production.
Try not to place the young specimens in too dark a position. Too little light slows down development. If you struggle to provide enough natural light, grow lights can be used.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue thrives in a bright, indirect light position.
How to Choose the Right Pot
Whatever type of succulent you are growing, a terracotta pot is best. These are more porous than plastic pots, enabling the soil to dry out more quickly. Remember, many types of succulents are prone to developing root rot and other issues when allowed to sit in wet soil for too long.
Your chosen pot should have at least one drainage hole in the bottom.
Finally, try to select a heavy pot. While heavy pots can be more difficult to move, as the snake plant grows it tends to become top heavy. A heavy pot balances this out, preventing the specimen from falling over.
If you would like to learn more about choosing the right pot for a succulent, our 10 best succulent pots article has lots of useful tips and information.
A key part of learning how to propagate a snake plant is making sure that you use the right type of soil.
Remember, these are succulents. They do not like to be overwatered or allowed to sit in wet soil. Either of these can cause rot and mushiness to develop in both the leaves and roots.
Always use well draining soil. You can also use or make your own cactus or succulent soil mix. This is done by combining perlite, vermiculite, coarse sand and a little sphagnum peat moss.
Always Use Clean Tools
Whether you are pruning or propagating, cutting leaves, stems and branches opens up wounds that can let bacteria and fungi into a plant. Cleaning your tools before and after use helps to prevent accidental transfer of disease or infestation from one specimen to another.
When to Water
Knowing how to water succulents is one of the most important aspects of succulent care.
As we have already noted, overwatering your succulents is more problematic than underwatering them. Overwatering causes rot, mushiness and fungi to develop in both leaves and roots. Too little water causes leaves to shrivel up or wither.
Once established, these are drought tolerant specimens that thrive on neglect. Younger specimens, such as rooted cuttings and divisions, require a little more water than a larger snake plant.
Wait until the top 2 to 3 inches of soil feels dry before watering. Water the soil until excess water starts to run out of the drainage holes. Do not water again until the soil is dry.
If you are building a collection of moisture sensitive specimens, a soil moisture sensor is a worthwhile investment.
Sansevieria is a tropical specimen that does not tolerate frost or freezing temperatures. It does best if the temperature is consistently between 60 and 80 ℉.
If exposed to temperatures below 50 ℉, the snake plant may yellow and die. Another sign that the temperature is too low are the leaves browning at the edges and on the tip. A VIVOSUN Digital Indoor Thermometer is a useful investment which helps you to keep the ideal temperature around more sensitive houseplants.
In all but the warmest areas, Sansevieria is best grown indoors as a houseplant.
Common How to Propagate a Snake Plant Problems
It doesn’t matter how much care you take when learning how to propagate a snake plant, sometimes it just doesn’t work. This is why it is always a good idea to take more cuttings or make more divisions than you need.
Succulent propagation can fail for a number of reasons. Sansevieria, whilst easy to grow, are susceptible to a number of diseases and pests. Always propagate from healthy, problem free specimens.
Two of the most common pests are spider mites and mealybugs. If allowed to live on your Sansevieria for an extended amount of time they harm and weaken the plant. Wash away spider mites with water. Mealybugs can be picked from the leaves by hand and disposed of.
Fungal diseases are typically caused by too much humidity. The easiest way to prevent this is to not overwater the soil and keep the leaves dry when watering.
Rotting and root rot are common problems identified by leaves with wet spots. This slowly spreads to the entire leaf. Sometimes the cutting can recover and continue to grow but it is often fatal.
Rot is commonly caused by overwatering. As with mature specimens, allow the soil to fully dry out between waterings. If root rot does develop, remove the cutting or offshoot from the soil. Cut away any rotting or mushy parts of the root, stem and leaf before replating in fresh, dry soil. Allow the cutting to settle before watering again.
The leaves tell you how healthy your Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is.
What To Do if There is No Growth
Don’t panic. Learning how to propagate a snake plant is a slow process.
Just because there is no visible growth doesn’t mean that your cutting or division has failed. Sansevierias often become dormant after taking cuttings or transplanting. This dormancy can last for a few months. Continue to care for the cutting and, in time, new growth should appear.
When learning how to proapgate a snake plant, you should only worry if the leaves of the cutting turn yellow. This is an indication of either mushy leaves or roots, often caused by overwatering. Whilst you can cut away any surviving green parts and pot on, the cutting is unlikely to succeed.
Sometimes when no growth is visible the cutting is simply developing roots under the soil. Sansevieria cuttings like to establish a healthy root system before producing any above soil growth. If you have been waiting for several months and there are still no visible signs such as new leaves, check for root growth.
In most cases it can take between 6 and 8 weeks, in favorable conditions for root growth to begin. It can take up to 3 months for a proper root system to form and a further 8 weeks before any growth above the soil line develops.
In short, Sansevieria are slow growing specimens. It is not uncommon for there to be no visible growth for a few months. Continue to care for them correctly and new growth should emerge.
Young shoots can take a long time to develop.
Attractive and elegant, learning how to propagate a snake plant is a great way to expand your Sansevieria collection. A useful transferable skill, the methods outlined above can be applied to a number of other succulents and flowers. A rewarding process, propagation is a particularly enjoyable process for children who enjoy watching a new life develop.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.