The snake plant is often described as the ideal beginner plant. Easy to care for and incredibly resilient, growing a snake plant, or Sansevieria, requires no specialist knowledge. Many specific care aspects, such as repotting, may seem daunting but, as this guide demonstrates, are also largely straightforward.
As well as explaining everything you need to know about repotting Sansevieria, this guide will also share some general care and maintenance tips.
Warning, Sansevieria is toxic to both cats and dogs. If you are growing this houseplant, be sure to place it out of reach of your pets.
Sansevieria is a good beginner houseplant.
What is Sansevieria?
A good beginner houseplant, Sansevieria is famously difficult to kill. Tolerant of a range of conditions, it doesn’t matter if you occasionally forget to water it.
Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11, Sansevieria is usually grown as a houseplant. Native to West Africa, Sansevieria is part of the Asparagaceae family.
This evergreen perennial is popular for its sword-like foliage, which can grow to a height of between 6 inches and 8 ft. In ideal conditions, white flowers emerge in the spring. Most varieties of snake plant produce rich green foliage with yellow edges.
As well as being hardy and resilient, these are largely problem-free specimens. In fact, many of the problems that do arrive tend to develop when the snake plant is in need of repotting.
The foliage is the main attraction.
These resilient specimens don’t mind being overcrowded in a pot but do eventually need repotting. Even if your Sansevieria hasn’t outgrown its pot, repotting every few years is still a good idea. This helps to keep Sansevieria happy and healthy.
This guide to repotting a snake plant explains exactly how and when you should repot your Sansevieria.
When Should I Repot Sansevieria?
Repotting is best done in the spring, just as your Sansevieria emerges from its winter dormancy.
In general, this is a slow-growing pot. After repotting, you won’t need to repot again for a few years.
How quickly your Sansevieria grows depends on its position and how much sunlight it receives. In light positions, new leaves can grow between 3 and 6 ft a year.
In shade, growth is slower. Be careful not to put your Sansevieria in too shady a position. Too little light exposure can cause the foliage to become pale. It can also make your Sansevieria more prone to disease.
As Sansevieria grows, soil quality diminishes.
Signs That Your Snake Plant Needs Repotting
Repotting a snake plant, or any potted plant, can cause it stress. For this reason, you should only repot when necessary. The following are some of the easiest to spot signs that it is time to consider repotting your Sansevieria.
Roots Sticking Out of Drainage Holes
Roots growing out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot is the most obvious sign that a houseplant needs repotting. Roots emerging from drainage holes mean that they have already taken up most of the room in the pot and have nowhere else to go. In this condition, your Sansevieria is rootbound.
A rootbound plant struggles to take up enough water and nutrients from the soil to sustain healthy growth. Without repotting, over time, growth ceases and your Sansevieria eventually dies.
Quick Draining Soil
Soil draining too quickly or water pouring out of the drainage holes almost as soon as you start watering is a sign of poor soil quality. Ideally, you want the water to saturate the soil.
Snake plants don’t need lots of water; in fact, they thrive with a little neglect. However, they will suffer if they are not correctly watered for a while.
Over time, watering and root growth causes the soil to disintegrate, losing its structure. This means that the soil struggles to retain moisture and nutrients, drying out very quickly. As the root system grows and fills the pot it also contributes to soil disintegration.
Allowing your Sansevieria to sit in poor, quick-draining soil leads to it struggling to harvest enough moisture and nutrients to sustain growth. As soon as you notice the soil becoming quick to drain, it is time to start thinking about repotting your snake plant.
As the Sansevieria grows, the roots also spread. If the snake plant is allowed to sit in the same pot for too long, it can take up so much space in the pot that the roots or rhizomes start to push against the edges of the pot, distorting the shape. You may even be able to feel the rhizomes pushing on the sides of the pot.
If allowed to continue in this condition, the pot eventually cracks. The snake plant won’t survive in a cracked pot. Moisture leaves the soil too quickly and the roots will spread out of the soil.
Pups and Shoots
Pups and shoots emerging at the base of the Sansevieria are often a sign that it is time to start repotting your snake plant. Pups look like small versions of the parent plant. When repotting the Sansevieria, you can remove the pups with a sharp knife and repot them into individual pots. Pups can be planted in exactly the same way as a larger Sansevieria.
Your Sansevieria falling over or becoming top-heavy is another sign that it is time to repot. The snake plant produces lots of tall, thick leaves. These, coupled with the Sansevieria’s strong rhizomes, can make it top-heavy.
As the soil disintegrates, the Sansevieria becomes prone to toppling over. This can damage the foliage and rhizomes. It is also another sign that it is time to start repotting.
As Sansevierias grow, they become top-heavy.
Instructions for Repotting a Snake Plant
Done correctly, repotting a healthy Sansevieria is a straightforward process.
You will need the following:
- Potting Mix,
- Garden Scissors,
- Watering Can.
Your new pot should never be more than twice the size of the pot currently holding the snake plant. Remember, while repotting is important, Sansevieria likes things a little on the snug side. Too much space in the pot can cause root rot to develop.
Ceramic or clay pots are best. Terracotta pots can also be used. These are sturdy materials that stand up well against the thick roots of Sansevieria. Pots made from these materials also enable the soil to dry quicker than soil in plastic pots. This helps to prevent root rot from developing.
Terracotta pots are well draining and resilient.
Sansevieria is similar to succulents in that the leaves hold a lot of water. This means that they can cope if you forget to water them once in a while. It also means that Sansevieria needs well-draining soil.
Use a coarse and well-draining soil mix. A houseplant or general-purpose potting mix such as Miracle-Gro Potting Mix is ideal. You can also make your own by combining even amounts of good-quality potting soil and sand. This creates a well-draining, coarse potting material.
Never use soil from the garden. This is usually too dense and compacts easily, meaning that it holds too much water. Allowing Sansevieria to sit in damp soil can lead to root rot developing. Garden soil may also contain pests, diseases or weeds.
If you don’t have a potting bench, lay down a few sheets of old newspaper before you begin. This makes tidying up a lot easier.
Repotting can be messy.
How to Repot
Allow the soil to dry out for a few days before repotting; this makes the process easier.
Begin repotting by removing your Sansevieria from the pot. To do this, squeeze the sides to release the soil; this enables you to slide the Sansevieria out of the pot.
Brush any excess soil off the root system. This is a good time to inspect the roots for signs of bacterial or fungal diseases. If you notice any signs of disease, wash the roots with water and cut away any affected areas. These should be disposed of.
Now that the roots are easily visible, you can also see the rhizomes of the pups. If there are only one or two pups, they can be left to develop around the base. However, you may need to repot and remove the rhizomes the following year.
To remove the pups and their rhizomes, use a sharp, clean knife. Cleanly cut each pup from the parent plant. For a pup to be viable, it should have enough roots to establish itself. If there are no roots, the pups won’t survive when separated from the parent. After removing, the pups can be replanted in small pots filled with well-draining, coarse potting soil.
Fill the pot roughly one-third full with potting soil. If there are large drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, these can be covered with a layer of pebbles or Pot Hole Mesh Pads before adding the soil. Covering the drainage holes with pebbles of mesh pads prevents soil from falling out of the bottom of the pot. Don’t force the soil into the pot; it should be light and airy, not compact.
To repot, position the snake plant in the center of the pot. Hold the Sansevieria in place with one hand while using the other to add more soil to the pot. Fill in all the space around the roots, stopping a few inches below the top of the pot. Don’t cover the crown of the snake plant; this can cause it to rot.
Gently firm down the top layer of soil to secure the snake plant in place. This also gets rid of any air pockets.
Water well. This prevents shock from developing; Sansevieria roots dislike air exposure and dryness.
After watering, return your repotted Sansevieria to its usual position. Don’t water again until the top 2 to 3 inches of soil feel dry.
After repotting, return the Sansevieria to its usual position.
How to Care for Sansevieria
Sansevieria is a low-maintenance, hardy specimen. The following care tips will help to keep your Sansevieria happy. If you want more advice on growing and caring for a snake plant, check out our detailed guide.
While Sansevieria is tolerant of low light, too much shade slows down photosynthesis and stunts growth.
Too little light can also cause the leaves to lose their color. Additionally, too much light causes the leaves to become limp. Exposure to too much direct light can burn the foliage of your Sansevieria.
Aim to place your Sansevieria in a warm, bright light. This can either be 8 to 10 hours of indirect light or 5 to 6 hours of direct light.
The temperature should stay between 70 and 90 ℉. Sansevieria struggles if exposed to temperatures lower than 50 ℉. Humidity levels should be between 30 and 50%.
If you are growing as a houseplant, keep your snake plant away from drafts.
In the right position, this is an easy to care for specimen.
Water when the soil is completely dry to the touch. A soil moisture sensor can also be used to gauge how often your soil needs watering. When you do water, water thoroughly until excess moisture drains from the pot.
In the spring and summer months, most Sansevieria specimens require watering once every 10 to 14 days. In the winter, water once a month.
If the foliage is brittle, water immediately. Yellowing leaves are a sign of overwatering. Cease watering and only resume when the soil has completely dried out. If your Sansevieria is severely overwatered, you may need to repot it.
This is not a heavy-feeding specimen. Fertilize with a balanced, 10-10-10 slow-release natural fertilizer diluted to half its strength once in the spring and again in mid-summer. Don’t fertilize Sansevieria during the later fall and winter months.
Prune your snake plant at any time during the growing season. To control the height of the Sansevieria, use garden scissors to remove the tallest leaves as close to the soil line as possible.
Don’t prune your Sansevieria during the winter months. Pruning at the wrong time of year can stress the Sansevieria leading to leaf drop. The only exception to this rule is diseased or damaged leaves; these can be removed at any time.
Can I Propagate Sansevieria?
You can propagate Sansevieria in the spring or summer by either taking and rooting cuttings or making divisions.
For detailed, step-by-step instructions, check out our how to propagate snake plant guide.
You can propagate offshoots.
How to Overwinter
If your Sansevieria is growing in a pot outside in your garden or on a patio, make sure that you move it inside before temperatures drop below 50 ℉.
The ideal place to overwinter Sansevieria is a warm room away from any cold drafts. After moving inside, reduce the amount of water that you give to your Sansevieria. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
In the spring, as temperatures warm, gradually return your Sansevieria to the outdoors, increasing the amount of time the Sansevieria spends outside by a few hours a week before returning it to its usual position for the summer months.
Can Sansevieria Flower?
In ideal conditions, Sansevieria produces fragrant, white flowers in the spring.
It is rare for Sansevieria to flower if grown indoors or as a houseplant. Additionally, not all types of Sansevieria produce flowers.
To encourage flowering, make sure that your Sansevieria gets lots of light. Allowing it to become slightly rootbound also encourages flower stalks to develop.
Common Sansevieria Problems
As we have already noted, this is an easygoing, almost indestructible houseplant. On the rare occasions that problems do develop, being able to identify the cause and treat the issue quickly helps your snake plant to recover quickly.
Check the foliage regularly for signs of problems.
Yellowing or brown leaves can be a sign of infestation, overwatering or root rot. A foul smell can also be a sign of root rot. If you suspect that your Sansevieria is developing root rot, remove the snake plant from its pot and inspect the root system. Cut away any roots that are brown or mushy. Remember to clean your tools afterwards.
Cut away any brown or diseased leaves before repotting them in a clean pot with fresh soil.
Curling leaves are often caused by infestations. Sansevieria is prone to infestation by a number of pests, including:
- Spider Mites,
Check the leaves for signs of pests. Infestations can be treated with an application of neem oil. Our guide to using neem oil for plants explains how to safely use this solution on your houseplants.
Drooping or falling leaves can be an indication of overwatering, not enough light or poor soil. Adopt a process of trial and error until you can identify the cause.
Our guide to identifying and solving snake plant problems is filled with useful tips.
Easy to grow, learning the skill of repotting a snake plant is a vital part of caring correctly for these houseplants. For novices, learning how to repot Sansevieria is also a great place to start, because the snake plant is so indestructible. Once you can confidently repot Sansevieria, you can start repotting other flowers and succulents in your collection.
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.